It’s safe to say that we’re all feeling like April Fools right now. Old Man Winter is hanging on for dear life across most of the upper mid west, and northern Wisconsin is right in his grasp. Last year at this time boats were starting to troll on Lake Superior and snow was mostly gone from my yard.
Not even close this year, and you have to go back to the winters of 2013 & 2014 for anything close to what’s going on right now. If you remember, in 2013 we missed the fishing opener due to all of our lakes still being iced over. Who could forget? Well, there’s a silver lining with everything.
Ice fishing on Chequamegon Bay and around the Apostle Islands continues to be fantastic, and our inland panfish bite is starting to pick up. Lake Superior tributaries also opened up for the steelhead run, and we’re off and running there as well. You might be tired of winter, but don’t give up on the fishing. There’s some amazing opportunities happening right now to get in on some awesome bites and incredible fish. Hey, open water will be here before you know it. I think… Aron Kastern and Josh Teigen are still getting after it, and here’s what they had to report.
Aron Kastern’s beard is getting as long as this winter, but he’ll tell you it’s been some of the best ice fishing conditions he’s ever experienced. Reluctantly he has pulled his operations from the Apostle Islands and is focusing strictly on Chequamegon Bay for the rest of the ice season. According to him it’s not due to lack of ice but there’s simply not enought time to be in all of the places to catch fish right now. Good problem to have! Ice is around 3′ thick inside the bay with smooth travel by ATV and snowmobile.
The bite is even better. Aron says every species if fish is active from one end of the bay to the other and depth doesn’t seem to matter. Ashland to the light house has been producing everything from burbot to perch to big smallmouth with a few walleyes, trout, and salmon mixed in.
Big schools of smelt are piling in and everyhting that eats them is right behind. Fish are relating to contour breaks as well as flats, and it’s simply a matter of setting up in an area that looks good on paper. If you’re not getting bit, you shouldn’t have to make many moves before finding fish. Slow falling slender spoons tipped with minnow parts and set lines rigged with shiners are all you need to get the job done. A spread of tip ups will also help you locate scattered schools of biters. The area from second landing to Long Island continues to have good ice/travel conditions also, and the weedbeds in 10′ – 20′ are also kicking out the same mixed bag with some big pike starting to show up as they stage to spawn. A frozen smelt on a tip up is always a good idea if you’re looking to hook up on a big gator this time of year.
Let’s not forget about whitefish… That bite is picking up again as well in the area from Long Island to Washburn. Follow contour breaks and burn holes until you find them anywhere in the water column using electronics. Once your on top of them, it doesn’t take long to get fish on the ice using small spoons tipped with minnow heads or waxies. Last but not least, don’t forget about the river mouths between Washburn and Bayfield. Trout and salmon are begining to stage and can be found along shallow breaks. Aron suggests small jigging spoons with hot colors and set lines / tip-ups / automatic fishermen rigged with minnows or spawn bags to connect. According to Captain Aron, the best bite of the year is just about here. WOW! If that report doesn’t get you fired up, I don’t know what will???
Like Aron, Josh Teigen had no lack of positive things to report regarding the fishing across our region right now. He had some time to spend targeting gills and crappies on inland lakes in Northern Wisconsin, and the bite was terrific. 25′ – 35′ main lake basins are kicking out big catches using tungsten jigs tipped with waxies.
Crappie minnows on a small jig will also produce, and hole hopping is essential for staying on the bite. Catch a few and keep moving. There’s still over 3′ of ice on most lakes, but the snow we received over Easter weekend will make travel conditions variable depending on where you are.
The Hayward area received the most with lakes north of there only getting 2 – 3 inches. So, you’ll need to check snow depths and be wary of slush pockets. I’d leave the trucks on shore and stick with ATVs or sleds for venturing out. Digging a truck out of slush is no way to spend a day. I’ve been there! Josh didn’t stop with the inland lakes. He also reports a great Chequamegon Bay bite, and he’s been targeting a mixed bag of browns, splake, whitefish, and lakers along the north shoreline and Bayfield Penninsula. Focus your efforts in 10′ – 20′ of water using jigging spoons tipped with shiners along with a spread of tip ups with shiners. Usually Josh will suggest moving around a lot to stay on fish, but the approach is different now. With everything on the move, stay put. Find a likely travel corridor along a contour line or in front of a river mouth and sit tight. Sooner or later you’re going to get bit. Even though ice conditions are still great throughout Chequamegon Bay in many respects, this is no time to let your guard down. Solar energy from longer days is eroding ice near shorelines despite the continued cold temperatures, and things can change quickly. Current areas will be the first to be compromised, and big winds also take a toll. Check as you go, and never assume. If that’s not enough for you, Josh didn’t stop there… He participated in the annual steelhead opener on Lake Superior tributaries.
Water levels are low and temps are cold so the bite is a bit slow, but Josh was able to connect on several fish using yarn and spawn bags. We still have lots of snow in the woods, and snowshoes are recommended to find unpressured waters. These fabulous fish are earned right now, but those willing to put in the extra effort will be rewarded with a very cool experience. Snowshoes, waders, and yarn. That’s about as pure as fishing gets. Hayward panfish, Chequamegon Bay trout, and tributary steelhead. I’d say that about covers it Josh!
Holy smokes! If the weather has you down, you don’t have to look far to find a solution for your fishing fix. It’s happening, and it’s happening now. What are you waiting for!?
Northern Wisconsin guide Jeff Evans