Floating Jigheads

I try and do most of my fishing on Lake Mille Lacs during the week for obvious reasons but every now and then I will do a Saturday or Sunday just for a change of pace. My strategies are completely different on a busy Saturday versus a weekday mainly because of the activity and fishing pressure. This holds true during open water fishing as well.

I made a recent Saturday run to Mille Lacs targeting perch and tullibees mainly but managed a bunch of "excuse me" walleyes along the way. Here are some strategies I employ especially for busy weekend fishing on this awesome body of water with an emphasis on the midlake mudflats.


Once you arrive on the ice you'll see the "hardcore's" already staking out their territory and set up on just about every possible inside turn, tip and hot break on most of the cliche mudflats. I choose the midlake mud during weekends mainly because there is a ton of room out there and they are easy to "read" by just watching the ice houses as they set up. Because of GPS technology, every good spot on a particular mudflat is obvious and every angler with a handheld has the ability to stake out the best spots. When I arrived on a past Saturday I perused the main flats out from Terry's Boat Harbor Marina on the west side and noticed how every good spot on Sherman's, 8 Mile and 7 Mile was filled with portable shacks and wheelhouses with all of them set up on the best edges and tips of these flats prior to my arrival. That's the weekend for you..first come first serve.

That's OK because there is plenty of room to check out the lesser quality spots on the same flats by using a little ingenuity and legwork. My strategy was to get away from the main roads and the crowded community spots and hit the sides of the flats that weren't occupied by anglers. Normally I wouldn't fish these lesser quality spots in the summer but in the wintertime you can still catch fish by working the less pressured areas with some aggressiveness.


Think deep on these flats at this time of the year for perch and tullibees. I really like the areas from 31 to 36 feet during this time of the winter as almost every specie is hanging out in deeper water mainly because their food sources are also deep and the road traffic on the tops of the flats scatters these fish off the flat tops and edges. In the summer the perch and walleyes will have a tendency to move shallow during lowlight conditions but my experience in the winter is that these fish are deep all the time no matter what the conditions are. If you stick within these depth parameters of 31 to 36 you'll be in the mix.


When I start working my deep water at this time of the year I pay close attention to what the perch are barfing up as they are brought up thru the hole. If you are on a hot food source the perch will be upchucking insect larvae and this is a telltale sign you are on to something. If I don't see food evidence with my perch I keep moving from hole to hole until I find that evidence. Tullibees also frequent these areas and are feeding on the same source. These mudlfats are surrounded by huge expanses of mud and some areas have hatching food sources and others do not. It's up to you to search out these hotspots.


We are all conditioned to fish the inside turns, tips and fast breaks on the midlake mud but in the wintertime fish can be had by working the nondescript edges where most anglers are absent. I drill holes along the fast breaking, straight edges and hole hop along the flat until I make contact. This strategy paid off this recent Saturday as I caught nice walleyes up to 19 inches, lots of perch and many tullibees. Although the perch size was average I never did make contact with the jumbo's but the tullibees and walleyes made up for that. This goes to show you don't have to be on a special spot on a flat to catch fish. By working 15 minutes per hole and staying at the prescribed depths you will catch fish throughout the day no matter what side of any flat you choose.

Every trip to Mille Lacs this year has been quite successful. I am very impressed with the quality of the walleye numbers and size and every trip has featured at least 1 or 2 trophy walleyes over 22 inches. My best fishing has also been right smack in the middle of the day with the lowlight periods being unusually mediocre all season. That's alright as long as they are cooperating I can live with midday action. I'm lovin' this lake !

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