Minnesota guide Brad Hawthorne shares his two cents on the early season bite windows on Mille Lacs and Red Lake, two lakes he’s spent plenty of time guiding on.
When it comes to Red Lake I feel like everyone knows that it is a great early ice destination. I guided up there for a few years and had a ton of success.
The nice thing about Red is that it is usually one of the first lakes to freeze up. Anglers are able to get out there early and get on the fish.
Something I think people forget about, is that early ice bites start across the state at different times. If you time it right you can start at the Northern part of the state and work your way down over a three to four week period catching those aggressive early ice walleyes.
The one of the big differences between Red Lake and Mille Lacs is the amount of structure out on Mille Lacs.
You have shoreline breaks, mud flats, rock piles, weeds and more. There are so many places to fish and often the early ice bite last longer out on Mille Lacs.
A have a few rules I follow for early ice on Mille Lacs and that is bring your set lines. Set lines can really help you cover water and increase the amount of fish you pull topside.
Make sure to remain mobile and don’t fish dead water. If you drill ten holes and don’t mark a fish, move. Keep moving until you find active fish.
The third thing I would recommend on Mille Lacs is bring both suckers and shiners. One may out perform the other one day and it could be flipped the next. Give yourself options.
As far as baits go I really like Jigging Raps early season. I generally use size 5 up to size 9.