Happy New Year everyone! Remember when the term "Polar Vortex" was included with every weather forecast back in 2013? Well, I'm pretty sure the weather we've had over the past couple of weeks qualifies… It's been downright frigid in the mid-west and especially in northern Wisconsin. This crazy stretch of sub zero weather has been a bit tough to deal with on a lot of levels, but it's also produced some of the best ice we've seen in quite awhile. It looks like a bit of a warm up is on the way, and I'd suspect lots of eager fishermen will be taking advantage of the fantastic conditions and excellent bite we've got going right now.
Aron Kastern and his crew have been taking full advantage of the cozy interiors of their Sno Bears while putting together excellent mixed bag catches on Chequamegon Bay. I'm telling you, those things look like the way to go in this weather! Aron says that it's been good across the board on the bay, and you just have to pick your poison. On the Ashland side of the bay he reports 10" – 12" of solid ice in most areas with a healthy mix of perch, walleyes, whitefish, trout, and cohos. Basic approaches using small jigging spoons along with tip ups rigged with lake shiners and golden shiners will set you up to have a crack at whatever swims through. Weed beds in 8' – 15' of water to the east of Ashland are still holding a lot of fish. On the Washburn side, Aron has been on a hot whitefish bite, and he recommends bouncing around in 20' – 60' of water until you land on schools of active fish. Small spoons tipped with wax worms work best when targeting whitefish, and there's also plenty of trout to be caught in between schools as well. You better hold on though when a shool comes through. It's fast and furious with the potential to ice quite a few fish in a short period of time. Pay attention to your electronics and watch for high flyers coming through just under the ice. They're definitely fun to catch and can provide a ton of exciting action. Aron has seen up to 15" of ice from Washburn to Long Island, but hasn't ventured any further north than that yet. Patchy snow and no slush have made for great ATV and snowmobile travel. With the Madeline Island ferry shutting down, Aron thinks he'll be in lake trout country by next weekend. We're looking forward to that report!
As usual, Josh Teigen has been covering all of the bases from inland lakes near Hayward to Chequamegon Bay, and has found good fish activity on both. As he predicted last week, the cold snap has firmed up ice conditions on area lakes. He's finding 9" – 15" of solid ice with very little slush. We still haven't had a big dump of snow, so ATV and Snowmobile travel are both options. Gills and crappies continue to produce consistent action during the day, and Josh has been targeting weeds and weed edges in 8' – 15' of water. Hole hoping with small jigs and plastics for panfish while setting out a good tip up spread with shiners is always a good way to cover your bases and produce some nice bonus pike and walleye catches throughout the day. Josh got in on the Chequamegon Bay trout bite as well, and put some really good fish on the ice in 22' – 55'. Jigging Kastmasters and Hyper Rattles along with setting tip ups with shiners was the way to go, but don't forget to vary depths of tip ups to cover the water column as fish can be anywhere at any time. Josh found good ice on the Washburn side of the bay as well but also cautions that anything north of Houghton Point is still sketchy with anywhere from 2" – 5". Always remember that water at the mouth of the bay is constantly moving and ice conditions can be extremely variable even with the cold temperatures we've had. Give it another week or so before moving in that direction, and always check as you go when venturing onto new ice. It's good to see Josh's buddy Acorn back in the report. Stay warm boys!
Good stuff once again from the guys. They've certainly started the ice season on a positive note with more to come. There's lots of options and opportunities right now, and you don't have the Packers as an excuse to keep you inside… The Badger Orange Bowl victory will have to get us through until next season ;). Have a great weekend everyone. Get out there, and get after it!