By Steve Weisman
When you enter the month of January in the Iowa Great Lakes, all attention seems to point toward the annual University of Okoboji Winter Games. What began as just a little idea for something to do 30 years ago has grown into the Winter Games held for an entire weekend that now include a wide array of indoor and outdoor events.
There are so many activities that I won’t waste your time listing them. For a complete listing of the games, go to www.uofowintergames.com.
With thousands of people attending, it’s quite an effort to get everything organized. Each year brings with it some issues. In 2012, if you will remember, it was such a mild winter that most of the activities that usually occur in Smith’s Bay were moved off of the ice because of the thin ice. Still, the games went on and were a huge success.
This year the ice is better and with this week’s “deep freeze” sub-zero temperatures, the ice will be in much better shape. Luckily, a little skiff of ice is now on the lakes, which will help take care of the slippery conditions of a week or so ago.
Even though thousands will be part of the activities, there will be another group of people simply looking to ice fish in the area. So, here is a quick update on ice fishing.
Big Spirit continues to produce walleyes early morning and late. Most of the action is coming deep with the most concentrated areas being deep off of Reeds Run and Marble Beach. Anglers are accessing Reeds Run from Sunset Park access on the southeast side of the lake. I’ve heard of some 20 fish days with slots and keeper fish, 20 fish days with nothing but sub-13 inchers and then days of nothing.
Be careful on the west side, because there have been seam issues there. As a matter of fact, the Iowa DNR last week recommended no vehicles on the lake, except for snowmobiles and 4-wheelers. However, there are still people driving.
Perch fishing has been slow with one here and there mixed in with the walleyes. People report seeing fish on their cameras, but the bite is tough. It appears that the perch (and walleyes) are feeding on bloodworms right on the bottom.
Lake Minneswashta has been producing fish, but they are small. Most people are accessing the lake from the south boat ramp. Expect a smorgasbord of white bass, yellow bass, bluegills and crappies.
West Okoboji is probably the best bet for action. Perch are being taken in the deep waters out in the middle on the north end (way out from Pike’s Point). The trouble is getting a consistent bite. I visited with one angler who said eight of them had been out there and a huge school of perch was milling through. He could get them to come up off the bottom several feet but couldn’t get them to go. Still, that is an area to think about.
Little Emerson has been the best for bluegills. Pretty murky most of the winter, it has been clearing up, and you can see down and sight fish now. Lots of small gills, but a good mixture of big 8-9 inch gills, along with some huge largemouth bass. A few fish are coming off of the bar between Eagle and Poky points, but it’s tough going.
I did hear a report of some really nice crappies coming out of Miller’s Bay this past weekend. Not sure where, but I know they are in there. It’s been slow there for bluegills, but they were there early ice, and they usually come back around during late ice.
If you are interested in catching trout, consider trying Scharnberg Park east of Everly. It was stocked in early January, and anglers have been having great success. The water’s pretty clear, so you can actually see the trout come through. Don’t forget: you need a trout stamp!
Great Lakes Marine Service Winter Games Boat Show
If you are looking to warm up and have a chance to look at some new fishing rigs, you might want to check out the Great Lakes Marine Service (www.greatlakesmarineservice.biz) Winter Games Boat Show. It will be held on Saturday, January 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Owners Shane and Christa Kendall will have a fire pit (complete with S’mores) in the parking lot, along with games. Hot dogs and beverages are free. It’s a great opportunity to warm up and see what’s new for 2013 for Premier Pontoons, Skeeter Boats and Alumacrafts.
Anyway, good luck to all those who come to the lakes this weekend!