Lake of the Woods has been nothing short of phenomenal. Last winter, anglers logged just over 2 million hours of ice-fishing on the sprawling border lake. They caught nearly 350,000 pounds of walleyes and 325,000 pounds of saugers. Winter fishing pressure on the lake far outstrips summer pressure.
Several resorts cater to the big lake's ice anglers, ferrying them onto the ice to pre-heated fish houses where drilled holes await them. The fishing pressure is intense, but the lake is big enough to handle it. At peak season, houses are lined up on the ice like tiny homes in some frozen subdivision.
"It's really good fishing because of that stained water," said Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism. "You get action during the day. You don't have to be out there at midnight."
While some angling groups prefer a resort's full services, lots of anglers come up self-contained, Henry says, with the kind of gear Francisco is talking about.
"All the new technology -- the flip-over shelters and pop-ups, insulated fishing shelters, more-efficient heaters, the new flashers -- all of that has made ice-fishing more efficient," Henry said. "And it's not really expensive to go ice-fishing compared to buying $50,000 boats."
It's hard to say where the ice-fishing boom will top out, on Lake of the Woods and elsewhere.
"I said this couple years ago: It's as big as summer fishing north of Hinckley," Francisco said. "It's starting to grow faster than summer fishing."
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