The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 24, 2014

Searching for spring -- and open water

We all can agree: It’s been a long, long winter.

If you’re an ice angler, then maybe you’re quite happy that that your knuckles are scraping by the time your auger breaks through the thick mantel of ice.

But the rest of us?

Winter weary, we pine for the sound of waves lapping against the boat, the pleasant aroma of a burbling outboard, sunlight glinting off of a lake kissed with warm breezes.

So what the heck.

Kick aside that portable ice shelter taking up space in the garage, clear off a winter’s worth of stuff that somehow has accumulated on that boat on your side of the garage, hitch up and head south.

Someplace down there, there has to be some open water.

First stop is Clear Lake, Iowa, about 110 miles southeast of Mankato as the crow flies.

The good news, says Mike Platts at the Crazy Minnow located on Highway 18, is that the crappie fishing has been pretty good, particularly in the small lake on the west end of the big lake.

Ditto for the feisty-but-tasty yellow bass.

The bad news?

You’ll still need your ice-fishing gear.

“We’ve still got 27 inches of ice out there,” he said. “It’s mostly foot traffic though because the lake entrances are pretty rough to get through.”

What’s more, even if it was easy to get a vehicle on the lake, he wouldn’t recommend it, explaining that aeration systems in operation on the lake and wind make vehicle traffic risky business at such a late date.

His best estimate for ice-out? “Depending on the weather we have, probably mid- to late-April.”

So southward we continue, a straight shot down I-35 and then to Johnston Bait and Tackle near the Saylorville Reservoir, where Michael Olson has been selling plenty of bait to anglers coming through the door in recent days.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • mfp sports-jc outdoor column-7-27 Singing the praises of the prairie When pioneers first traveled through Minnesota, they marveled at the seemingly endless, inland sea of tall grass prairie that greeted them.It is estimated more than 18 million acres of grasslands stretched from the southeast to the northwest corners

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • mfp sports jcross outdoor column 7-20 Chasing walleyes in South Dakota nice We slowed to a crawl the other day on the dusty Day County township road in northeast South Dakota, a courtesy to the farmer who was baling ditch hay south of Webster.Otherwise, we would have enveloped him as he drove his open tractor in the choking

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing report Outlook on area lakes

    July 6, 2014

  • Cross column: No wake, no fish ... no problems on the water Patience is always a virtue when fishing.

    July 6, 2014

  • Know Your Lakes: Series maps

    Missed out on the weekly lake preview Wednesday's in the print edition? That's ok, we have you covered here. View the series thus far and download a printable PDF.

    May 24, 2011

  • Cross column: Where does the buck stop in your home?

    Displaying your trophy catch can be debatable

    June 29, 2014

  • Storms came at horrible time for pheasants For pheasants and pheasant hunters, there were no silver linings to be found in the storm clouds that inundated the countryside with heavy rains this week.A foot of rain falling in just a week is never good, but for pheasants, it came at precisely th

    June 22, 2014

  • Early morning is beautifully lonely Benjamin Franklin was on to something when he extolled the benefits of "early to bed, early to rise." While I can't vouch for its effect on health, wealth or wisdom, rolling out of the sack certainly seems to pay dividends for outdoor activities. The

    June 15, 2014

  • mfp sports cross column 6-1 Cross: Take a kid fishing, no license needed A few years ago, while cruising with a co-worker through an area community on a steamy summer day, we passed a vacant lot. There, oblivious to the heat and humidity, a group of kids were playing a game of pick-up baseball, racing down well-worn paths

    June 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cross: Once upon a time, when fishing was simple... Once upon a time, fishing was a pretty simple affair. A rod-and-reel, some bait and tackle, perhaps a rowboat if you were lucky, and you were in business. While the basic premise of angling -- to catch fish -- remains, it sure seems to have grown mor

    May 25, 2014