Happy Belated New Year! It’s been awhile since we’ve posted a fishing report and for good reason. Ice conditions have been just plain tough over the last couple of months. Northern Wisconsin received LOTS of heavy wet snow early this winter, and it really never got cold enough for long enough to firm things up. The result has been lots of slush on our inland lakes with constantly changing conditions on Chequamegon Bay. Things seem to be finally turning in the right direction however. Erik Thue checked in from the Hayward Area Lakes, and Aron Kastern sent us his report from Chequamegon Bay. Here’s what they had to say!
HAYWARD AREA LAKES
Guide Erik Thue reports up to 10″ of ice on most lakes with some having 12″ – 14″ with a lot of slush. He highly recommends staying on established trails with snowmobiles, and error on the side of caution. ATV travel is not recommended, and trucks should not be considered an option. If heading out by foot, a pair of snowshoes would be a good idea to help keep from punching through the slush.
The panfish bite has been productive in main lake basins with a few fish still cruising deep weed edges. You’ll want to concentrate your efforts in 15′ – 30′ of water on most lakes. Small tungsten jigs tipped with plastics and a waxie or spike are a good option, but don’t be afraid to switch to a lead jig if fish get finicky.
The pike bite has been a bit more inconsistent. It tends to vary by the day, and Erik suggests bringing extra minnows as you never know when they might put on the feed bag. Set tip-ups and open bail rod sets over weed beds and along edges rigged with suckers or shiners. Make sure to keep a few close to those basin panfish where the big girls will be looking for an easy meal. Cover as much of the water column as you can setting baits anywhere from 6″ off bottom to 2′ below the ice. If the bite is tough, you’ll want to concentrate closer to bottom and lightening up your hooks, leader, line, etc.
With sketchy ice conditions north of Washburn, Aron Kastern has been focusing his efforts on the interior of Chequamegon Bay. He says travel is ok right now for snowmobiles and tracked rigs but ATV’s are not an option. There are several bad slush pockets, and he highly recommends staying on established paths. Most of the slushy areas tend to be around new or old cracks. There is currently 8′ – 10″ of ice between Ashland and Washburn with less around high current areas like the breakwall, docks, etc. There’s still hope that ice conditions around the Apostle Islands will improve over the next few weeks, and hopefully we’ll get some lake trout trips in later this winter.
Most of the recent bite on the bay has consisted of perch, smelt, burbot, pike and walleye in 15′ – 30′ on the Ashland side around mud flats and weed beds with a few trout and whitefish being caught in deeper water near Washburn. Mix up your tactics between jigging medium to small spoons tipped with minnow heads or waxies along with set lines and tip ups rigged with shiners. If targeting trout and whitefish, make sure to cover the entire water column from top to bottom always ready for a school of high flyers coming through just under the ice. The perch bite has been best using set lines with fatheads and shiners. Stay mobile and flexible to give yourself the best odds of getting on fish.
Big Thanks to Erik and Aron for checking in! If you’re willing to get out and get after it, there’s definitely opportunities to get on some fish right now. Stay tuned, and we’ll keep you updated as the ice season progresses. Stay safe, be smart, and have fun out there!