What was setting up as the first really good ice conditions we’ve had around the Apostle Islands in several years changed in a hurry last week when warm temps and strong northeast winds broke up much of the ice that had been made. Such is life on Lake Superior, and another good reminder of how quickly things can happen out there. Two months worth of ice making gone in one day… The bummer of it is that the guys were really close to moving in on some big lake trout water. In fact Josh even got a little taste before things got real. The big lakers might have to wait for a while, but there’s hope with cold temps moving back in. No worries though. Whitefish and trout are still dominating the scene on Chequamegon Bay, and there’s plenty to get after on our inland lakes in the Hayward area. Here’s what Josh and Aron had to say about their week in northwest Wisconsin.
Aron Kastern spent some time back in the Hayward area targeting crappies and found a good stack of them along a weed edge in 15′ – 18′ of water adjacent to a main lake basin. Small tungsten jigs tipped with plastics and hole hopping put a bunch of fish up to 11″ on the ice for Aron’s crew. Ice conditions on the inland lakes range from 12″ – 16″ with a few slushy spots due to the warm weather last week. Snowmobile travel is decent, but you should definitely scout out your course to avoid wet spots. After beating up on the crappies, Aron was back on Chequamegon Bay, and ice conditions on the Ashland side are holding steady to previous reports with a mix of smelt, perch, trout, and salmon being caught around the lighthouse. 15′ – 25′ of water is the general rule with schools of fish randomly scattered throughout the area. For those of you interested in ugly fish, eelpout are also starting to show up during the evening hours. Hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder! The second landing bite has been more a roll of the dice lately for perch, walleyes, and pike. 10′ – 20′ weedbeds continue to hold fish, but you really have to be aggressive and mobile to get bit. Basic approaches and tactics continue to be effective. Set lines with shiners and jigging small rattling or flutter spoons tipped with minnow heads or waxies are the most consistent producers. Aron reports that whitefish and trout around Long Island are starting to spread out a bit and are being found in smaller schools in 30′ – 70′ of water. There’s no magic depth or area, and it’s really a run and gun game right now. Make sure those auger blades are sharp! Small spoons tipped with waxies and set lines with shiners are the way to go, and always be ready for the high flyers cruising right under the ice. Along with the bay, Aron also spent some time around the Apostle Islands last week and reports that we did lose a lot of ice that was pushing into deeper lake trout water. Ice from the inner islands toward the Bayfield Peninsula is running from 7″ – 10″ with some slush pockets. The trout bite is definitely slowing down, but those that put in a good days work will still be rewarded with nice browns, splake, and even a few steelhead being caught. Set up along points, humps, and edges in anywhere from 10′ – 60′ and work jigging spoons with a good tip up spread to cover water. I’d say that covers all the bases Aron. No stone left unturned!
Josh Teigen had an interesting week as well. He was able to get on a stable sheet of ice in the Apostle Islands that pushed out to deep water and was rewarded with one heck of a day catching big lakers in over 100′. It was an incredible day with several big fish up to the mid 30″ range landed, and those lake trout were definitely waiting for someone to drop a line in front of them. Unfortunately, that scenario was short lived when strong northeast winds broke up and blew that sheet of ice out. There’s no doubt that chasing these amazing fish is a true adventure, but it’s also not a game of risk that should be played with marginal ice conditions. That bite is done for now, and we’ll have to see if the cold temperatures this week will firm things back up. Josh also spent some time in Chequamegon Bay and reports catching whitefish in 25′ – 45′ and browns in 15′ – 30′ using a combination of Hyper Rattles, Kastmasters, and a spread of tip-ups. Moving inland for one trip last week, Josh had a decent evening walleye bite in 15′ – 25′ of water with tip-ups and shiners. Monster lakers to inland walleyes. That’s one heck of a week Josh!
A lot of ground was covered this week, and it’s a pretty typical scenario for this time of year. Much like the “dog days” of summer, the mid winter ice fishing bite rewards those that are willing to be flexible and take what conditions give you. More ice is being made as we speak, and more opportunities will follow. Thanks to Aron and Josh for another great report, and good luck to all of our friends in Minnesota surviving the Super Bowl crowd. Good reason to find a lake and go fishing!