If you didn’t get the memo, it’s been a bit chilly in northwest Wisconsin and across the entire mid-west for that matter. This is excellent news for ice fishermen on Lake Superior who have been patiently waiting to reach areas around the Apostle Islands to target lake trout. All of Chequamegon Bay is finally locked in with ice, and typical mid winter fishing patterns have set up on the Hayward Area lakes. Opportunities are abundant right now depending on how you want to fish, where you want to go, and what you want to fish for. Aron Kastern and Erik Thue have checked in with their latest reports, and here’s what they had to say.
CHEQUAMEGON BAY – APOSTLE ISLANDS
Aron Kastern from Unlimited Trophy Outfitters reports that his crew has spent a lot of time around the Apostle Islands over the past several days with 8″ – 12″ of ice near the inner islands. Lake trout can be found in as shallow as 40′ or as deep as 250′. To narrow it down carefully study topographical maps looking for any pinch points or reefs close to deep water. Inside turns and extended points can also hold fish. Traditional bobbing hoops with wire line can be used or a stout rod/baitcaster combo. Aggressively work heavy bucktail jigs, tube jigs, or beetles tipped with shiners or cut bait such as herring working near bottom. Once you’ve got their attention raise up with more subtle movement to get hit and hold on! Fish approaching 30 lbs. can be caught, and they definitely have a bad attitude. It’s also a good idea to have a smaller set up ready to go in case you have a school of high flying whitefish come through just under the ice. Wintertime sight fishing at its best. Always remember that deep water and currents around the islands can create unpredictable ice conditions. It’s not a place to explore without someone experienced that’s out there on a daily basis checking ice thickness, etc. If you’re looking for current information or need to get set up with the right gear, check in with my friends at The River Rock Inn & Bait Shop in Ashland. They’ll take good care of you! Check out this monster 44″ laker landed by Paul Borawick after a 45 minute battle. Aron said it almost spooled him four separate times before he landed it. What a fish!
As for the interior of Chequamegon Bay, Aron is seeing 16″ – 20″ of ice from one end to the other. Travel is excellent with 4″ – 6″ of snow. There’s a few drifts but nothing to really worry about. The mid winter bite is usually predicatble on the bay. You can move and hole hop throughout the day until you land on them or park on a likely spot and grind it out. Whitefish, trout, cohos, perch, smelt, pike, and walleyes are possibilities with no real go to depth or presentation. Fish are really spread out, and you can find them just about anywhere. Focus on any bottom changes you might see in the flats or along the shipping channel between Ashland and Washburn. Whitefish have provided the most consistent action using small spoons or vibrating lures tipped with waxies or minnow heads. Don’t forget to put out a couple of set lines or tip ups with smelt or large shiners to get the bigger fish that wander through.
Aron currently has three sleeper shacks available for rent on the bay. They’re a fun way to spend a weekend or a little vacation to cure cabin fever that starts to set in this time of year. Give us a shout if you’re interested, and we’ll get you connected. Look at this massive pike landed by Joel Rossing. Now that’s a gator!
HAYWARD AREA LAKES
Erik Thue from Catch & Capture Guide Service has been getting after it all winter long, and he is reporting 12″ – 14″ of ice on most lakes around Hayward. He has seen a few guys driving vehicles on the lakes, but he doesn’t recommend it. With the recent snow there are a few pockets of slush to watch out for, but travel conditions are still pretty smooth for snow machines or ATV’s with tracks. If you need a little excercise, slap on the snow shoes. Panfish are the “go to” right now for the most consistent action, and he’s seeing some quality catches of gills and crappies. Target main lake basins usually in 20′ – 30′ of water, and use small tungsten jigs tipped with a plastic, waxie, or spike. If the fish get stubborn, switch to a lead jig like a Bait Rigs Panfish Cobra for a softer cadence. Erik says hole hopping is important to stay on biters, but a wet line is the most important factor. Good advice! Dawn and dusk are providing the most predictable action, but you will get a few feeding windows throughout daylight hours. If you’re after big fish, pike have continued to be active with plenty of tip up action to keep you busy during the day. With the freezing cold temperatures we’re having, Erik recommends using tip up covers to keep holes from freezing over. Stagger your flags along and over weed beds, breaklines, or extended points. Some of the largest pike of the season have been coming in areas where breaklines meet the flats. Large shiners, suckers, and dead bait are all producing good fish. When using dead bait, Erik suggests using 8″ – 10″ smelt, cisco, or herring and setting just off bottom or even laying them directly on bottom. I love this picture of Erik and his customer with a mid winter pike caught during the recent snow storm. Gotta love the “Guide Life”!
You may have seen the news report this week about several ice anglers needing to be rescued from Lake Superior when the sheet of ice they were on blew off shore near Duluth/Superior. NOT worth it! There are plenty of safer options right now, and there’s no reason to take chances that put you and others at risk. If you’re looking to check out new territory and a different adventure, get together with someone experienced or hire a guide. PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Valentine’s Day is this weekend fellas. Take care of business so you can keep on fishing. Stay safe & stay warm!