What a strange ice fishing season it’s been. When we posted our last report, ice conditions were improving around the region with slushy areas freezing up on inland lakes and new ice forming on Chequamegon Bay. Another warm up and some snow quickly reversed all of that and it wasn’t long before we were back in the slop. And then… We are in the middle of another cold snap that’s making ice again. Wow! Bottom line is that our ice conditions have been a moving target throughout the winter, and it’s a good thing we’ve got some friends out there every day to keep us up to speed. Here’s what Aron Kastern, Josh Teigen, and Kyle Sorensen have to report from Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior, and the Hayward area lakes.
Aron Kastern has had his work cut out for him this winter between constantly changing ice conditions and keeping customers on fish. The Ashland side of the bay is no problem with 13″ – 17″ of solid ice and 3″ – 6″ of snow in drifted spots. Travel conditions are great for sleds and ATV’s with the mixed bag bite continuing to be steady in the flats between the marina and lighthouse. You have to stay portable though to keep lines tight with fish scattered and constantly moving. Follow contours and look for any slight breaks or humps to concentrate fish. Smelt, perch, pike, splake, walleyes, and even sturgeon are all possibilities. Check out this giant landed by Paul Borawick. That had to be a crazy battle! From the lighthouse to second landing, search for weedbeds in 12′ – 25′ of water for perch, pike, whitefish, and the occasional trout. Ripping flashy spoons and loud spoons/lures that rattle or vibrate to attract fish along with set lines or tip ups are always the best approach. Tip those set lines with shiners or fatheads for smaller fish and golden shiners for the larger predators. On the other side of the bay, travel conditions from Washburn to Houghton Point are good with the exception of a few cracks and heaves. Make sure to inspect any pressure cracks closely before crossing them. Steep breaks and flats in this stretch are producing smelt, perch, pike, trout, whitefish, and burbot. Man those burbot are some good looking critters! Current is key to the bite on the north side of the bay, and you’ll have to jump around quite a bit on some days to stay on moving schools of fish. Houghton to Van Tassels Point has 6″ – 9″ of clear ice near shore but nasty pack ice on the outside edge. Some new ice has been forming near Bayfield, but it’s definitely not recommended for travel at this point.
HAYWARD AREA LAKES
Super slushy is the report from Josh Teigen, as most of our inland lakes have turned back into a mess. The recent cold snap will certainly help out, but you’ll definitely want to use caution wherever you go. Using packed down snowmobile trails are the best bet for exploring, but venturing off the trails can get interesting. Running and gunning has been tough this winter. Slow and steady is definitely the best approach to staying out of trouble and keeping from spending your day digging out your machine. Sleds are really the only way to go other than traveling by foot or snowshoes. By the way, there’s no better exercise than strapping on the snowshoes and hiking out to your fishing spots. Not a bad approach to get your fishing fix in while avoiding those winter trips to the gym! Regardless of species, the daytime bite is generally focused on basins right now. Crappies, bluegills, and perch will be found in mud basins in anywhere from 15′ – 30′ depending on the lake. Pike and bass will be found along weed edges adjacent to those same basins with low light periods providing the best chance for a walleye bite. Panfish can get a bit stubborn at this time of year, and you might have to experiment with various sizes/colors of spoons and jigs. Don’t be afraid to get super aggressive with larger spoons to trigger active fish. Tip-Up spreads along the weed edges using shiners and suckers is the most efficient way to put a few larger fish on the ice.
For those of you already getting the itch for open water fishing, there’s a very overlooked opportunity at this time of year. Many of our rivers are open to trout fishing, and you can find some really cool fish in amazing surroundings. Kyle Sorensen is staying on top of the river bite, and he’s been sending us some fantastic pictures of the fish he’s been getting into. Kyle suggests drifting size 16 Hares Ear nymphs or small woolly buggers under an indicator. Every fish will be earned, and that’s what makes it such a fun experience. Open water, beautiful fish, and no crowds. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me!
Congratulations to the Ashland High School ice fishing team on their tremendous start to the season. They’ve already notched two first place finishes in the Wisconsin Youth Anglers tournaments, and I couldn’t be prouder of this group of young men and their coaches from my Alma Mater. Way to go Oredockers!
Take a look at this monster 21″ bass landed by Kyan Kroll from Lake Nebagamon, WI. Kyan battled that bucketmouth while fishing with his dad and brothers. That’s about as big as a north woods largemouth gets and a true trophy. Thanks to our friend Brody Moreland for sending in the picture. Way to go Kyan, and congratulations!
Keep sending us those pictures everyone. We love seeing them, and enjoy the stories behind the fish. There’s plenty of winter left and plenty of fish to be caught. Get off that couch, and get after it. Stay tuned, and we’ll keep you posted!