Man, what a looonnngg winter 2017-2018 became!! Cold temps and mega snow in March and April. The ice finally cleared Big Maple the afternoon of May 3 rd. It might just be the latest recorded ice out ever. Little Maple opened several days earlier. The “traditional official” Fishing Opener is on May 12th this year. WOW! That is a lot of docks, lifts, boats and shore work to get done in a short time. It will all work out with some nice weather forecast.
I’m sure many local residents have noticed the increased fishing pressure on Little Maple the past several years especially in winter and early spring. Most boats seeking early season pan fish end up there. Bass boats sometime a half dozen at a time fly past our house a couple times a week heading to Little Maple. Maybe they have a bet on who has the fastest boat, but I suspect the bass fishing is also pretty good there. Ice fishermen/women had a small city set up on Little Maple for most of this past winter.
So Why Little Maple ? The simple answer is you can catch a variety of decent fish there at certain times of the year especially early ice and early open water. Little Maple is easy to access. It also freezes over earlier than most lake in the area and the rest of Maple Lake as well. The same is true in spring when it is often ice free for a week or more before most lakes. I’ll try a simplified explanation of the seasonal changes that make Little Maple so attractive to fish and fishermen. Let’s start with spring which just sprung. The fish have just spent four months under the ice in cold water and a dwindling food supply. Once the ice is gone almost all fish move into shallow and warmer water. Little Maple is mostly shallow with a mud bottom which warms quickly. Insects, bloodworms, minnows and other food sources are hatching and concentrated in the warm shallow water. Little Maple also has three areas of deeper water which provides security when needed. Any shallow water with emergent vegetation such as cattails, bulrushes or lily pads which are present in Little Maple are always a good place to start or you can just follow the crowd. Warmer Water + More Food + Emergent Vegetation + Security = Good Fishing. Little Maple Has it all in spring!!!
The fish disperse as the water warms in the rest of the lake. Food is more plentiful, vegetation is growing in most areas and the fish will migrate toward spawning areas throughout the system. Pan fish and bass spawn in shallow water when water temps are between 60 and 70 degrees. Summer through fall warm water period will find most fish in the deeper weeds and along deep weed lines, Little Maple has no advantage in the warmer seasons as the water temps are noticeably higher there and the plant life thick and hard to fish in most areas. Late fall often shows a similar fish migration to early spring. The last place you catch late fall fish is a good place to start early season ice fishing. In Little Maple that is around the three deeper holes
Again, Little Maple shines for early season ice fishing. It is shallow and protected from the wind so it cools down and freezes faster than the rest of Maple Lake. Some years will see a couple weeks difference. It is a very fertile area that provides lots of food, still has the three deeper security holes. For the ice fishing crowd, it is one of the first lakes to allow foot traffic and vehicle access in the area. It is located conveniently close to public access. Follow the crowd to find the general areas to fish sunfish, crappies, bass ,northern and rumor has it some walleyes were caught there for an extended period this past winter. Little Maple –Give it a try sometime.
A busy spring and a somewhat permanent case of forgetfulness makes my original title of this article somewhat redundant. Summer at the Lake officially starts on Memorial Day weekend which has arrived as this is being written. Part of my original intent was to drop a few ideas on getting ready for the upcoming season. Hopefully most of the readers have got their dock, lift and boat in the water and everything is working as planned. Likewise the fishing gear, recreational accessories for the boats and pontoons have been checked and are ready for a busy summer. I personally struggled with what I thought were a few minor repairs on the boat that extended into days rather than hours, but now all is well and I’m ready to GO.
Fishing reports for Maple Lake have been kind of hit and miss so far this open water season much like the weather. Little Maple had a good early season start with panfish, mainly crappies. There were lots of boats at the NE access and on Hwy. 37 for about a week. It has slowed since. Little Maple has become a very popular destination for anglers recently in winter and summer. Part of that is probably due to the draw-down of Pelican Lake which was very popular with area anglers. Also the fishing has been pretty productive. Water levels have been high all Spring and 4″ of rain the week prior to Memorial Day weekend won’t help that much. Surface water temperatures have jumped around from a high in the low 60’s to a low in the mid 50’s. All of these things have an effect on see on Maple Lake.
Here is my guess on where the fish are and what they are doing around June 1:
Northerns: are done spawning and should be found in and along the weedline. They’ll eat dang near anything. Maple Lake has a lot of them and they are usually pretty small, however younger kids really enjoy catching them. A live minnow under a bobber works well for the young ones.
Crappies: are also probably done with the spawn, however the up and down water temps may still have some on the beds. Check the shallows (3-8 ft) and if you don’t find the crappies look to the weedline in 12 – 15 ft. Use a slip bobber and a small light wire hook and crappie minnow or cast with a small jig and plastic lure. Trolling very slowly with a electric motor can also help locate a school of crappies or a spawning bed.
Sunfish: could be on their beds just about anytime now. The red osier dogwood bushes are blooming and that generally matches when sunfish spawn. Look shallow with tiny lure and live bait under a small bobber. Also jigs and plastic trailers will work as well at times. For an added twist try an ultra lite (1 1/2″) crank bait over the beds. The size of the sunfish available on Maple Lake has increased the past few years which is good. Don’t get greedy if you find nice ones on the beds and just keep a meal or keep more mid-size ones.
Bass: generally start to spawn about the same time as crappies, but the duration seems longer. Chances are some are still on the beds, and bass season just opened on Memorial Day weekend. Look shallow regardless. Docks, lifts, rafts, inside and outside weedlines, and right in the weeds will all hold bass. Much like the northern I have caught bass on just about every lure I fish on Maple Lake and on many different presentations. Given the weather patterns recently I would expect early season bass fishing to be good. Use your favorite bait or lure and stay close to or in the weeds.
It is time to GO! Enjoy the summer, good luck fishing, be thoughtful of others and be SAFE.
The ice left Maple Lake on March 15 in 2016. That is a very early ice out and shut down a rather short and lackluster ice fishing season on the lake. As normal, Little Maple provided the earliest ice fishing with crappies and rumor has it some walleye action. The rest of the lake saw very little fishing and almost no vehicle traffic for the year compared with a normal ice fishing season. The Ice Fishing Derby sponsored by the Maple Lake – Lake Property Owners Association had to be cancelled due to unsafe ice conditions. All that aside it was a short, mild winter for those who don’t enjoy outdoor winter activities.
It is late March as I write this and I see several docks are in the water and a few boats have gone past on the lake. It may be a little early for most of us but it is the right time to organize and do a little maintenance on your ice fishing equipment before it is stored for the next 8 months. Also now is the time to get the boats out of storage and ready to launch for another summer season. If you are like me you probably didn’t do a complete job last fall and besides, somehow things have a way of changing over winter. As long as the mice stayed away it is a fun project on a warm spring day or two. Also make sure your fishing rods, reels, tackle box (es) and electronics are ready to go.
As for fishing I would anticipate a couple of consecutive warm days will see the sunfish and crappies move into the shallows on Little Maple. Generally the best early fishing is in shallow water on the north and east shorelines where there is a mud bottom. Two things make this type of habitat preferred by early season pan fish. The water temperature is higher and their natural food supply also congregates and reproduces in these areas. On Little Maple that pretty much means the shallow water on the north side of the channel, sometimes right up against the cattails. Use a small jig with bait under a bobber set about a foot down. Often the best fishing occurs in the afternoon and evening so there is no need to be on the lake early. Not all the fish swim over to Little Maple after ice out so I suspect there are a few other areas like in the shallow bay by the airport or the northeast corner of the Big Bay that hold ice out panfish also.
The fish will disperse as the water temps rise throughout the lake and the food supply is more abundant. Try fishing over the emerging vegetation in about 3 to 8 feet of water. The fish will still prefer the warmer water in a given area. The main spawning period is generally from about May 15 thru June 15 depending again on water temperature. This year may be a bit earlier given the early ice out. Crappies spawn earlier than sunfish and in deeper water. Sunfish beds are easy to see slowly cruising close to shore and looking for groups of dinner size depressions in a couple feet of water. I have found them in all three bays. Crappie beds can be hard to see, but if you catch a couple there is probably more nearby.
Game fish season opens May 14, 2016. Practice up on some pan fish until then and enjoy your summer on Maple Lake. Please note that there are some rule changes proposed for this season on Northern Pike in Minnesota. Make sure to read the 2016 Fishing Regulations before the season opens in May.
Limit note – but your responsible to check
Walleye- 6 (Not more than 1 walleye over 20”)
Northern Pike- 3 (Not more than 1 over 30” in possession)
Large & Small Mouth Bass 6 total combined largemouth bass
Crappie – 10
Sunfish – 20
Note – your daily limit is also your possession limit. You cannot stockpile more than your daily limit in the freezer.
2015 Late Fall and Early Ice Fishing on Maple Lake
The kids are back in school, football season has begun, some hunting seasons are open with more to start soon, fall fishing can be productive and Maple Lake can show spectacular fall colors. What’s not to like about fall on Maple Lake?
For those who still enjoy an evening or day of fishing here is some information that may help you locate and catch some fish before freeze up on Maple Lake this fall:
– As water temperature drops and lake vegetation starts to die most fish become more active and follow their natural food sources into shallower water.
-Not all lake vegetation dies (quits producing oxygen) at the same time. Look to fish around healthy green plants that attract bait and the fish you want to catch. Broadleaf plants like cabbage are best and present in Maple Lake.
-Fish can be hard to pattern in the fall. One day I caught about a dozen nice sunfish on the hump in the eastern part of the big bay in 15-18 ft of water which to my wife’s disappointment I released. No problem. I’d go back the next evening and keep a meal. I was skunked !! I kept a meal of crappies just off the weed-line the next day in the Middle Bay. A couple days later on the same weed-line I only caught one small crappie and a couple small sunfish. Weather conditions can change rapidly in the fall and so can fish location.
-Fish are aggressive this time of year and both live bait and artificial lures will produce fish once you have them located. I use the same bait and gear as I used in summer. Some people use larger lures in fall for these aggressive fish.
- Sunfish will be located from the deep weed-line (about 15′) to shore. Look for healthy looking weeds and fish live bait or small plastics on a small jigs 1/32 to 1/64 oz. under a bobber or just straight line over the side of the boat.
- Bass will also be in the shallower waters inside the weed-line. Again focus on green vegetation and areas near deeper water. Any docks and lifts still in the water after Oct 1st could be a hot spot. Check them out. Use the same gear as in summer and switch lures until you find what they happen to like that day. Your chance for a big bass improves at this time of year.
- Northern can be caught regularly inside the vegetation zone with a variety of baits and lures. They will typically be small fish and always hungry. Any medium action fishing outfit will do the job whether one chooses to cast, troll or float fish. Again, fish around green vegetation if possible.
- Crappies usually bite best in the low light conditions of dusk and dawn. I currently find them just inside the deep weedline out to about 22 ft. in the Middle Bay in areas close to deeper water. This pattern should hold through freeze up. I’ve been using a light weight rod and reel with 4# line and Gulp Alive 1″ minnow on a 1/16 oz. jig with good success. Bigger sunfish also like this setup.
You may want to add frogs to the bait list once you see the frogs start migrating across the roads at night. Bass, Northern, and Walleye all have frogs on the menu once the migration starts. Live hooked and fished shallow near the bottom works well. Fishing is best at night when the frogs are active but few fish will turn down a frog this time of year in the sunshine either.
Ice Fishing usually starts around December 1st and always on Little Maple first. This part of Maple Lake is shallow and sheltered so it freezes over quickly. Prior to ice forming it is wise to spend some time maintaining your rods, reels, electronics, ice shelters, tackle and clothing. It is fun and gets the juices flowing. Safety is a primary concern especially on early ice and that is one reason I stick with the crowd this time of year.
Foot traffic from the public access on Little Maple begins once about three inches of ice cover the three areas of deeper water in this bay. Just follow the crowd. First ice generally produces the most and biggest fish from these areas. Often some permanent fish houses are set on Little Maple with ATV’s before foot traffic starts on the Big Bay using the beach access. Usually by Christmas or New Year’s all areas of the Lake are accessible by motor vehicle. Again I recommend following the crowd and think safety first. Permanent fish houses will be set up in traditional “hot spots” in all three bays.
Winter fishing on Maple Lake is focused on sunfish, crappies and northern. There are a few walleye and bass caught through the ice but generally are not the targeted species.
- Sunfish: are generally sought in shallower water with vegetation early in the ice fishing season. Wax worms or euro larvae are typical live bait choices. Small artificial baits are gaining popularity. Small ultralight rod and reels are sufficient and there are many types to choose from and they will all work. Bobbers, spring bobs or micro tipped rods all work as a strike indicator. Small panfish ice flies are available in untold numbers and colors. Supple 2-4lb. line will work best.
- Crappies:can be found mixed with sunfish early in the season but also like to suspend over deep water and all throughout most of the winter season. Typical live bait includes larvae and small minnows. Small plastics and artificials also work well on suspended crappies. Generally use a slightly larger hook on your ice fly. The same rod and reel used on sunnies will work but many use slightly heavier rod and line for crappies. Shelters near deep water are usually fishing for crappies which bite best early and late in the day.
- Northern: are very abundant in Maple Lake and usually small. They hang out near the weeds most of the year. You don’t need heavy gear for these smaller pike. A medium weight rod or any tip-up spooled with 10# mono or braid with no leader is all you need. A good size minnow on a bare hook under a bobber or tip up will do.
Spearing in a dark house is also an option for northern and Maple Lake is usually quite clear under the ice. Don’t forget to try your luck at the Maple Lake Property Owners Assoc. Fishing Derby on Super Bowl Saturday. Lots of fun, Lots of prizes, and Lots of northern caught. Never forget the Vexilar.
In general early ice fishing takes place from freeze up until cars and trucks can drive all over on the ice around New Year’s. Follow the crowds until all areas of the lake are being driven on, then go exploring new areas. Most serious ice fishermen will have a good supply of ice lures, a shelter of some sort, a fish locator (flasher), a heat source, several fishing rods and reels with different size line and some bait.
Good Luck and Enjoy the Season!
Drop a Line in Maple Lake
It is early June and most of the fish have completed the annual spawning cycle. Water temps are in the upper 60’s and the lake vegetation is growing rapidly in the shallow water areas.
The kids are out of school and full of energy. How about a day on the lake fishing and maybe swimming at the beach?
Here are a few how to and where to try your luck with the common fish caught on Maple Lake at this time of year.
Sunfish are abundant in Maple Lake and some of them are quite nice in size. They started their spawning cycle about the first week of June. I have found most beds in about three feet of water along sandy shore lines.
Slowly motor the shoreline looking for light colored dinner plate size depressions clustered together with fish around them.
Anchor your boat a short cast away and fish with your lure about a foot above the beds. It may take a few minutes for the fish to return if they moved off the beds when your boat went by.
Shore anglers can have the same fun wading the shoreline.
Use a light weight line with a small hook or lure and float about two feet above the hook. Almost any bait will work when sunfish are on their beds including worms, leeches, waxworms and small artificial lures.
Some anglers prefer to use a fly rod. This is a great time to get youngsters interested in fishing. I’m not sure how long the spawning cycle will last, but when it is done just move out into deeper water in the weeds from eight to fifteen feet and try your luck there.
Crappies have pretty much completed their spawning, although I did see a few on their beds this past weekend, but they didn’t want to bite. I have found the crappies scattered in the weeds in 6 to 12 feet of water. You can use the same set up and bait as used for sunfish, but add minnows to the bait list and place the lure about half the depth of water to start. I prefer to use small jigs (1/16 oz.) with plastic curly tail grubs and often tipped with a wax worm. There are times when the crappies will move into the area around docks early and late in the day so that is worth a try also. Eventually as the summer moves on I look for crappies along the outside weed line in about 15 feet of water. They also suspend over deep water, but I’ve not had much luck fishing for them there.
Bass fishing is very popular on Maple Lake. There are still a few bass in shallow water on their beds. I’ve not fished for bass yet this year but most of the action seems to be taking place in the weeds and around docks. That means most angler are using mostly weedless plastic lures, spinner baits or shallow running diving lures (crankbaits) over the top of weeds. If I were taking a new or young angler out and just wanted to catch a bass, I would use a large minnow or small sucker under a float and fish around docks, underwater points and along the weed edges. Use a bit heavier line than used for crappie or sunfish and fish closer to the bottom. I’ve had luck using top water lures early in the morning and it is loads of fun. I’m not a diehard bass fisherman so I stick pretty much to simple basics. There are lots of bass caught when fishing for other species.
Northern Pike are very abundant but run on the small size in Maple Lake. The good news is they a easy to catch, just about any time of the year. All new fisherman eventually want to catch bigger fish and there are none more cooperative than these fish. You can feed them just about any live bait or lure and they will bite. You can use just about any fishing outfit and catch them. You can find them on all parts of the lake. Again you will want to concentrate in and around the weeds. Bobber fishing, casting and trolling will all work to catch them. Last summer a friend of mine who lives in Hawaii brought two young neighbor boys (about 12yrs. old) to Maple Lake just so one could “Catch a Northern”. In about three hours of fishing they had caught 12 northerns and lost several other. They had a blast and saved a meal of fish for an evening fish fry. They were using my favorite way to catch these fish by trolling a size 7 Shad Rap along the weed line. I’m sure you could troll almost any lure that runs about 10ft. deep and catch these fish. Be sure to use a thin wire leader unless you enjoy donated expensive crankbaits to the lake. Ten pound test line on a 6-7ft medium action rod works just fine, but any fishing rod short of an ultralight rod will work. Expect to hook some weeds if you are in the fish zone. Ask any bass fisherman and they will tell you the pike bite on just about any lure or bait they cast for bass. Fish minnows under a float in and around the weeds.
Walley. There are some walleye in Maple Lake, but I’ve never fished just for them in the summer. Those that I’ve caught were along the weed edges when fishing jigs for crappies. I occasionally here about some anglers catching walleyes on purpose in the summer but have no personal experiences to share.
June 8, 2015