El Nino is back, and that’s no joke! Our crazy winter weather continues as we’ve swung from below zero temps. and snow to 40 degree temps., thunderstorms, and rain within a one week period. As I write this, our ice conditions are rapidly deteriorating and must be taken into account if your planning any trips in the upcoming week. The extended forecast is calling for the rain to quit along with a cool down. We’ll still have plenty of ice to fish on inland lakes and the interior of Chequamegon Bay, but outlying areas of the bay and Apostle Islands should probably be avoided.
I was finally able to hit the ice this week myself along with good friends Greg Miller from The Hunt and Nate Berg from Nate Berg Fishing Guides. Better late than never… Nate and I have been fishing partners for a long time, and he runs a top notch guide operation in the Brainerd Lakes area of Minnesota. He’s an ice fishing junkie, and there’s nobody better at finding big mid winter panfish. Nate was kind enough to invite Greg and I to join him for a couple of days in his neck of the woods, and he didn’t have to ask twice. We knew the bite would be tough when we arrived as Nate reported a typical mid February slump had taken hold, but that didn’t keep us from putting some really good fish on the ice during our short trip. We fished the afternoon of day #1, and our first lake produced very little results. Small perch were all that would cooperate, so we moved to another nearby lake. There’s no lack of water in the Brainerd area… Our first spot on the new lake was the same story, so Nate went on the prowl. Not long after, we were into some really good crappies. I mean really good! It wasn’t an easy bite by any means, but these were quality fish running from 12″ – 14 1/2″. Nate had drilled at least 20 holes in a 20′ – 25′ basin, and we hopped from hole to hole looking for fish on our electronics. Fish on bottom were completely inactive, but the fish holding 5′ – 10′ off bottom were interested. Small unbaited spoons held in their face and barely moved triggered strikes. Our best activity was right before dark, with a late day flurry of super slabs. Fun!
We planned to fish until noon on the final day of our trip, and lake #1 was a struggle. We iced a few small gills, perch, and crappies right after sunrise, but it was far from happening. I snapped off on a larger fish (probably a pike) after tightening my drag when I should have been loosening it. Rookie… Off to lake #2 with time running out. Our second spot of the morning didn’t disappoint and was well worth the move. Nate found some really good gills up to 9″ with a few crappies mixed in holding tight to the bottom in 18′ – 20′ of water. Again, we hole hopped until we marked fish and used small tungsten jigs tipped with waxies or plastics to trigger strikes. A few holes provided steady action with multiple fish climbing on the jig as soon as it approached bottom. What a great way to wrap up our trip! It was a testament to Nate’s knowledge of the lakes he fishes and his persistence in drilling holes until he locates active schools. I expected nothing less and assure you Greg and I will be returning to fish with our friend sooner than later. Ice and fishing conditions in the Branierd, MN and Hayward, WI are close to identical at the time of this report. We had a solid 12″ of ice on the lakes we fished in Brainerd with smooth travel in our trucks. In Hayward however, I’m still recommending ATV or snowmobile travel as we do have lakes with less than a foot of ice. Again, conditions are deteriorating as I write this so extreme caution will be needed over the next week until we’re able to assess the damage. Thanks again to Nate Berg for the great trip and great time. See you soon buddy!
Josh Teigen spent a few days on Chequamegon Bay this week staying on top of the mixed bag action we’ve had recently. The bite had slowed considerably though. A half day early in the week with his customer Dwayne produced a couple of big splake up to 21″, 2 whitefish, a small laker, and a small brown. They worked bladebaits and set tip ups with shiners in 15′ – 45′ of water. With off shore opportunities non existent, the near shore bite will still produce some nice catches at this time of year, even on a slow day!
Later in the week, Josh fished with Dick Anderson and his friend David from Hayward, WI. Again, the bite was slow. The guys iced five splake during the outing, but they were all super nice fish ranging between 18″ – 21″. Jigging spoons and tip ups with shiners in 15′ – 30′ of water worked best. Josh reports that ice conditions are very spotty in the Chequamegon Bay area right now and stresses extreme caution to anyone venturing out. He had a good 12″ of ice close to Washburn but much less from Houghton Pt. to Bayfield at the time of this report. We’ll keep you posted on ice conditions once our weather stabilizes, and feel free to reach out to us if your looking for current inland or Lake Superior ice conditions. Thanks for the report Josh, and nice work by your crew dialing up some good fish in tough conditions! As I wrap this up, the rain is turning to snow. And so it begins…