Lake Vermilion Fishing Report- Week of January 3, 2024
Jake Hyppa of Hyppa’s Guide Service: https://www.hyppaguideservice.com/
It is finally starting to look like winter in the Lake Vermilion area. After a drawn out past month of marginal ice conditions on the lake, the cold has finally taken it’s foothold and we have safe fishable ice most places and the fish are biting! Good numbers of walleyes have been being caught along with a plethora of other species Vermilion has to offer. There is roughly 8” of ice in most basins on the east and west ends of the lake, however this amount is varying from 6” to 10” with some spots having less than that. Checking ice conditions is necessary anywhere you go right now. There is around an inch of snow on the ice making the use of four wheelers great to get around. Travel is not recommended through historic poor ice areas such as Oak Narrows as there is still large amounts of water moving through Vermilion from the rain the area got around a week ago. The staked snowmobile trailing spanning from the east to west end of the lake is not currently up. Looking ahead to the upcoming week, temperatures are forecasted to be warmer than expected for January, but still below freezing. A great time for anglers to get out on Vermilion and enjoy some ice fishing.
Numbers of walleyes being caught remain strong; however, the size of fish being iced has decreased since early ice particularly on the east end of Vermilion. Quality walleyes are still being caught on the west end of Vermilion. Most walleyes being caught on the east end are in the 10”-14” range with several eater and slot fish being mixed in. Walleyes being caught in the Niles, Head O’ Lakes, and Wake-em-up bay areas are in the 12”-17” range with slot fish being mixed in. The majority of walleyes being caught on both ends of the lake are from 18’ to 24’ of water over gravel or mud bottoms right now. The rock to mud transition is producing fish and will likely improve as winter carries on. Looking for your typical underwater troughs, gravel humps, sandbars, or shallow flats adjacent to deep water where walleyes drive baitfish in low light hours have been productive for the two-hour window around dawn and dusk. During mid-day, fish will push out into deeper water in the 26’ to 32’ range. Finding the deepest hole in an area that bottoms out in this range can yield success along with the rock to mud transition on the edge of deep basins. Jigging with ¼ oz. buckshot spoons tipped with a minnow head or a whole minnow is the go-to bait for producing wintertime walleyes. Jig aggressively until a fish is marked and then slow down the presentation to get them to commit. Typically swoops that get the buckshot to rattle and the bait to flutter is the best way to convince cruising walleyes. If you have trouble getting fish to commit, try a #5 Rapala jigging rap in perch or purple descent color to trigger a reaction bite. Success was also found on dead sticks tipped with a large rainbow or small sucker minnows on a #2 red hook with ¼ ounce split shot 8” to 10” above the bait and bobber.
Most northern pike are still relating to vegetation that is left from the summer months. Focusing on large cabbage beds in 8’ to 13’ of water where forage and baitfish are present has been most productive for good numbers of pike. Look for the deeper edges of a weed beds, natural points, bays, or pockets inside the weed beds will yield the most success. Soaking large sucker minnows under tip ups on a treble hook and steel leader or dark house spearing has been most productive for northern pike. Several larger pike are being caught in deeper basins in 25’ plus of water foraging on whitefish and tullibee.
The jumbo perch fishing has been marginal so far this winter season. Several healthy year classes of yellow perch are making up size ranges of 9” to 14”. Jumbo perch have pushed out into deeper water of 22’ to 28’ over mud bottoms. Using a 1/8 oz. or ¼ oz. spoon tipped with several wax worms or a minnow head has been most productive, but perch are also being caught on 1/16 th ounce jigging raps. Jigging raps provide a great way to trigger a reaction bite, even in jumbo perch. Crappies are being found on the edges of deep-water basins and deep holes within these basins. Success can be found working the edges of these deep holes in depths 3’ to 5’ shallower than what the maximum depth of the deep hole is. Crappies are being found over mud bottoms right now. When jigging for crappies ensure that you always keep your bait above the school, jig aggressively until you can get one to separate and rise up to your bait. A few whitefish and tullibee are being caught along with crappies in deep basins. These can be caught on the same baits that are used to fish walleyes and crappies alike.
Found in locations where typical weed growth occurs in the summer months in 8’ to 11’ of water. Using a 1/16 oz. tungsten tipped with wax worms has been most productive.
MN DNR Need-to-Knows
Please refer to MN DNR safe ice recommendations for walking and driving. Please note Lake Vermilion’s walleye limit differs from the statewide limit. Lake Vermilion’s walleye limit is 4 fish, with all walleyes 20” to 26” having to be immediately released. Special northern pike regulations are in place for Lake Vermilion as it is in the northeast zone for pike. The limit for pike is two, with only one allowed over 40” and every fish from 30” to 40” having to be immediately released. Dark house spearing regulations differ. Lake trout season is now open on adjacent Trout Lake. Lake trout season for lakes outside or partially outside the BWCA will open on January 13 th. Please refer to the MN DNR Fishing Regulations for a full set of rules and regulations for Lake Vermilion and the surrounding area.