The Minnesota season on walleye, northern pike, and large mouth bass closed on Sunday. Minnesota’s panfishing continues however, and in Otter Tail Lakes Country there are over 1,000 lakes to keeping fishing at this winter! There’s a panfish lake literally around every corner and while the lakes share the common Otter Tail Lakes Country landscape, they are diverse in depth, structure, weed growth, mass and volume. It’s a panfish fishermen’s paradise up here. For late winter and spring fishing, try to locate flat areas that are 7′ to 12′ deep with vegetation, both standing and decaying. If the flats seem vacant of fish, then try closer to drop off edges, if those fail to produce, then try “basin” locations where you’re essentially looking for panfish in the deepest portion of the lake. Most of the time, when the sunfish and crappies are using the basin, they will be easy to locate on electronics. Drill a lot of holes and if you catch a bass or pike by accident, than you’re close. If you find a good spot, the fish should respond to most modest presentations immediately. If they are pokey and unwilling, it’s usually because there’s not a lot of fish in the area, large predators are close and/or you’re fishing them at the wrong time. Many lakes give great panfishing in the evening, just at sunset. If the lake you’re interested in works that way, there will not be day time feeding. As spring draws near and the lakes begin to thaw, crappies and sunnies usually feed very actively and will change their feeding times. But, it’s not thawing yet so you should adhere to mid-winter type techniques and theory. If you haven’t been to Otter Tail Lakes Country lately, be prepared for extra thick ice. If you don’t have an auger extension,you should probably buy one. Otherwise you’ll be drilling to the gear case on your auger and/or not making it through the ice at all. Panfishing is a great sport and catching large crappie and sunfish is awesome, however, all too often those “plate sized” panfish are kept. Please consider letting the biggest ones go. Large bull sunfish and slab crappies are the future of our panfish lakes–the mid-sized panfish are just as tasty, so keep those. It’s rewarding to release large panfish and I think it’s a mark of just how good an angler a person can be. Good luck in Otter Tail Lakes Country.