Saturday, March 26, 2022

The "NEW" Clear Lake

This past ice fishing season was one of the best in recent years for me.  I was able to explore four new areas that I have never iced fished and came away with some good days on those bodies of water.  If you have followed me at all during ice fishing season you know that Clear Lake is not new to me, I have fished up there for a decade or so, but until recently it seems like a new lake to me and many ice anglers around the state.

Clear Lake has gone through a biological shift in the past couple of years.  There are not days of 100's of yellow bass being caught and harvested anymore.  Going to Clear Lake to chase down Yellow Bass on the snowmachine was my favorite thing to do just a few years ago, this year and last were quite different.  I did chase the Yellow Bass for one weekend, during the annual Yellow Bass Bonanza tournament, and David Gissel and I ended up winning that event, however things were not like they were in the past.  Clear Lake has changed and if anglers change their modes and tactics they can still love to fish Clear Lake too.  

I took two more trips to Clear Lake after the tournament, however it wasn't to chase down a bucket of Yellow Bass.  The biosphere, or makeup of the lake is transforming, and has been for a few years.  Does this make it a bad place to fish?  No, if you are willing to change with the times and broaden your scope of the lake, you can have some awesome days of pulling in fish too.  Crappies, white bass, and walleyes now rule the lake and are well worth the trip.  With the new lineup of species to fish ,tactics and baits have become a total over haul for me.  Spikes and minnow heads now rule the bait selection, as well as larger jigs and spoons for all three of the above mentioned species.  Yellow bass still provide some cut bait on the spoons when available.  I am not a biologist, however the biggest change to this lake seems to be the weed growth in the "Big Lake".  Weeds are a fishes friend for so many reasons; cover for young, ambush points, cover for adults, and a constant food source.  The crappies and walleyes have thrived with this new addition to Clear Lake.  To be successful you must fish the weeds, in the weeds, around the weeds and above the weeds will have aggressive fish chasing down your bait.

Each time when visiting Clear Lake after the Yellow Bass Bonanza I had 3-5 other people fishing with me.  I am a huge proponent in "party" fishing at this lake, the flats are vast and even the steep drop-offs are huge.  Covering water is so important at this lake, and there is no doubt that the more Vexilars you have down the holes the more fish you will find and catch.  Party Fishing is a great way to hunt down the "new" roaming species that now dominate Clear Lake.  While chasing Yellow Bass the last couple of years we have stumbled across some great crappies, white bass, and walleyes.  Never did I think I would visit Clear Lake to catch these species but the time is now, and next winter will only be better for these three species.  

If you were disappointed with Clear Lake or saw way too many negative posts on social media about the lake this winter...put it on your list for next winter.  Do not fish it like you have in the past for yellow bass, yet go at it with a fresh look for Crappies, Walleyes and White Bass, all three make great table fare and will have your drag singing!

Several 13+ inch crappies were found and released back to Clear Lake.
Keep the lake great by doing the same and following the DNR walleye slot law.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

New Fish Taco Recipe

Fish Tacos are a great way to enjoy the fish you caught.  It is one of my favorite way to prepare them for sure.  Recently I tried a small batch of fillets for my son and I differently from previous times.  Most people will fry the fillets in batter and oil, then place them in the taco and top them with your favorite toppings.  I did not want to fry just a few fillets in the house on this particular day so I tried something new, and it has become a new favorite.  

As you will see, this is very simple to do and is a great way to enjoy tacos with the fish you have caught.  I really enjoyed this way of eating the fish and it had the same consistency of a chicken taco or burrito.  I used walleye fillets this time around, but I know from previous recipes that bluegills and crappies would be great too.


Take about a pound of fish fillets and bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Place fillets in a mixing bowl, with two forks stir the fillets so that they flake apart into small pieces. 

Add your favorite Taco seasoning packet and required water, just as you would do with beef or chicken.

Scoop onto a taco shell/burrito and top with your typical taco dressings.

The baked fillets mixed with your favorite taco seasoning

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

We WON the 2022 Clear Lake Yellow Bass Bonanza

 This annual event is one that has lasted the test of time.  In the world of ice fishing, tournaments come and go just as the ice freezes and melts away in the spring, this one has stood the test of time.  I believe this was the 10th year in existence of the event held by the folks at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle and owner Kevan Paul.  The past couple of years attendance at this event has dwindled for numerous reasons, however the competition of the event has not faltered.   This year 41 teams put up the entry fee for an all-out Yellow Bass brawl on Clear Lake.  

My partner, David Gissel and I took off to Clear Lake early Saturday morning to look over the vast area of Clear Lake for the first time this year.  We immediately started to find a few yellow bass in the "big lake" area.  We quickly searched the water column from 5 feet deep out to about 9 feet deep.  We marked four good areas, some holding the giant 11+ inch yellow bass that Clear Lake grows.  One of those areas had a swarm of fish on it, we knew we had found something special because the other 3 areas did not have many fish, but the quality was much better.  We ended the day on the "little lake" searching areas that had fish in the previous years.  To my surprise we never saw anything that sparked our attention.  As 3pm rolled around we were off the lake per the tournament rules.  We prepared our rods, reels and baits for the next morning and made sure we had everything charging before we grabbed some dinner.

The morning of the tournament is always a little nerve-racking, the juices were flowing and the both of us could not wait to get our baits in the water at our first spot that contained the most numbers of yellow bass we found on Saturday.  As we drove to our first spot I was pleasantly surprised with no other team being there and nobody following behind us.  It was ours for the taking.  David quickly popped about a dozen holes as I grabbed the Vexilar FLX30 and Jason Mitchell DeadMeat Rod/Quantum Drive reel to begin fishing.  After looking at the first three holes and seeing no movement, I got a little nervous.  However, it was the forth hole that the Vexilar was alive with fish.  I quickly settled in and started to put some yellows on the ice.  The fish were hungry and a jigging spoon was what they wanted.  The both of us spent the next two hours catching fish and drilling more holes to stay on top of fresh fish.  On this particular weekend the yellows were buried in the weeds.  Having the Vexilar FLX30 turned to Medium power at the 180 frequency made all the difference in seeing the fish.  The medium power cut enough of the clutter to show me the active fish and how they were reacting to my jigging cadence.  We ended up with over 30 yellow bass at this first stop, most over the 9-inch mark with a few giants well over 10 inches.  We decided to go try our other areas that had some bigger fish, but not as plentiful.  Over the next hour or so we picked up a few bigger yellow bass to make our limit of 25 a good one.  

I have fished this event eight times, all the way back to when there were over 300 teams at the event.  I knew that today would be another top five finish.  I was a bit surprised that when everyone was done at the scales that we ended up on top with 13.64 pounds of yellow bass.  Friends Chad Angell and Josh Sansgaard were right behind us with 11.58 pounds.  The third place team of Minor/Gavin brought in a total of 5.94 pounds.  It was quite a surprise to end up on top, it was also quite a payday; including prizes valuing around $3,000 for us.  It was one of those rare tournaments that the plan that we had actually came together better than we had hoped.  

The event organizer is probably going to take this event in another direction for 2023.  I hope it isn't the last Yellow Bass tournament at Clear Lake, but if it is, myself and my two partners have had a heck of ride the past eight years.  We have tallied seven top 20 finishes and three in the top 5.  It was awesome to share this event with two great anglers and two great friends; Jacy Large and David Gissel.