Don’t be dismayed. There are some bright spots in March if you know where to look. If you enjoy ice fishing for perch or crappie, March is the month you’ve been waiting all winter for. With the exception of first ice, there is no better time for big panfish and big numbers of panfish. Perch seem to have an undeserved bad reputation. During the warm months, they’re the rascals that interfere with our attempts to catch other more sought-after species. However, in March, jumbo perch seem to rocket from the bottom of many lists to the very top. It’s not surprising. There is nothing better than fresh jumbo perch, fried up in your favorite fish batter, and served with a big pile of seasoned waffle fries. Suspend the heart-healthy diet for a day and just enjoy this!
Perch are easy to catch, too. Point your truck to the north with a destination of Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish, or Leech Lake, to name a few, and within a few hours you’ll be catching some. Small flashy jigs with crappie minnows or wax worms are all that’s needed. The key to getting on fish is to keep moving until you find them. Be prepared to drill lots of holes. You’ll know when you’re in the right spot. They’ll bite before the jig hits bottom. Another point to remember is that they school by size. If you’re not happy with the size you’re catching, move again.
If panfish are not your thing or you’re looking to try something different, the season for stream trout in lakes is still open until March 31. This includes rainbows, browns, brook trout, and splake that are stocked in lakes. This is not to be confused with stream trout in streams, which is currently closed. Trout are coldwater species and are not affected by the cold like many other fish. That makes them a blast to catch through the ice. The hits are aggressive and the battles are epic. They’re beautiful fish, and good eating, too! In 2015, the MN DNR has opened a handful of lakes to winter trout fishing that have historically been closed to ice fisherman. You may want to take advantage of that. Check the regulations and read them thoroughly, because the trout regulations can be a little convoluted to say the least.
Again, hang in there. Sort your tackle one more time. Re-analyze your kayak rigging. Rod holders, locators, tackle storage, lighting for night fishing, camera mounts, anchoring, fish measuring… get it all just right. Open water is just around the corner!