Welcome to our first Northern Wisconsin fishing report for 2019! The holidays are behind us, and we’ve had some crazy weather swings since our last report that included some ice making weather followed by a warm up with a bunch of heavy and wet snow.
Needless to say, ice conditions have been a moving target on both our inland lakes and Chequamegon Bay as well. The good news is the bay now has decent ice conditions in some areas with a good mixed bag bite happening, and our inland lakes continue to produce as well.
Here’s what Aron Kastern, Erik Thue, and Josh Teigen had to say about the latest conditions along with the results from a really cool fishing tournament that was held in our area.
Aron Kastern has been spending the majority of his time on Chequamegon Bay lately, and he says the Ashland side is locked in with 8″ – 12″ of good ice from the head of the bay to inside the lighthouse.
It’s really a mixed bag bite right now working shallow to mid range depths in 10′ – 20′ of water looking for channel edges, weed beds, or humps. Aron says every spot is a roll of the dice with trout, pike, walleyes, whitefish, or perch all possibilities. Jig flashy spoons tipped with minnow heads or waxies, and always have a couple of set lines or tip-ups rigged with sucker minnows or shiners. Aron says that if you head east of the lighthouse, ice conditions are much more “iffy” with 5″ – 8″ in some spots and only 3″ in others. Until we get some colder conditions, you’re better off not taking any chances right now.
The Washburn side of the bay has a 5″ – 6″ sheet of ice in the Bono Creek area with trout and whitefish being caught in 15′ – 25′ depths. Again, jigging spoons, set lines, and tip-ups are all standard procedure. Move until you find fish, and stay for a couple of current changes before you get ants in your pants. Any ice north of Bono Creek should not be considered safe right now and not worth the risk of venturing out there.
Aron’s sleeper shacks will start going out next week, so give us a call if you’d like to reserve some accommodations on the ice. Stay on ’em Aron. Nice work!
Erik Thue continues to take advantage of excellent ice conditions in the Hayward Area and reports 12″ – 14″ of ice on most of the lakes. Some ice heaves are starting to pop up though, so you’ll want to keep your head up for those if traveling by ATV or snowmobile.
The walleye bite in northern Wisconsin has been limited to low light windows around sunset, and a nice spread of tip-ups rigged with a sucker or shiner will work. Erik suggests using fluorocarbon leaders to tempt finicky fish and to focus on weedlines, steep breaks, and humps in 15′ – 25′. Jigging Raps, Slab Raps, and Hyper Glydes will also work for those that want to do some jigging. The panfish bite has been “solid” according to Erik with good bluegill and crappie action.
He’s been focusing on deep basin areas using tungsten jigs tipped with plastics, spikes, waxies, or all of the above. You definitely need to be mobile though, and it pays to drill plenty of holes trying to stay on top of moving schools of fish. If you catch a few and the bite slows, start drilling until you find them again. Always excellent and useful information coming from Erik!
Josh Teigen hasn’t made it to Chequamegon Bay yet but has continued to focus on the really good inland bite he’s had dialed in since ice up. He says the bite was great for most species until the storms rolled in after Christmas. Even thought things have slowed a bit, he says that his groups are still catching good numbers of pike and panfish during the day with a few walleyes usually hitting the ice just before dark.
Pike and panfish are in the green weeds in 10′ – 15′ of water, and he’s using small spoons tipped with waxies for panfish along with tip-ups rigged with shiners to target pike and walleyes. The walleyes have been roaming in anywhere from 8′ – 25′ depending on the lake and the spot. Spread out those tip-ups until you dial them in.
Josh reports that travel conditions in Northern Wisconsin were terrible right after the storms with ankle high slush everywhere you went, but things have firmed up over the last few days. There are still a few slushy areas to look out for, but ATV and snowmobile travel is decent again. Ice depths on the lakes he’s fishing are ranging from 8″ – 12″. Nice looking walleye Josh. Way to go.
I had the honor and pleasure of helping out with the Wisconsin Youth Anglers – Chequamegon Bay ice fishing tournament in Iron River over the weekend sponsored by Bait Rigs Tackle Company and The River Rock Inn. It was part of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association tournament series that are held throughout the state.
There were Youth and High School divisions with 5 high schools, 26 teams, and around 108 anglers participating. Catch and release was promoted with total inches used to determine overall and largest fish categories for walleye, pike, perch, crappie, bluegill, and bass. I was completely impressed with all aspects of the tournament.
From the adults volunteering to make it happen to all of the kids participating, it was an amazing day with lots of fish caught, lots of smiles, and lots of fun. There’s been a lot said over recent years about the declining number of kids participating in outdoor activities, and this day certainly gave me hope that there’s a strong generation of kids to pass along the torch. Congratulations to everyone that participated, and big thanks to the Wisconsin Youth Anglers, Bait Rigs, and River Rock Inn for putting on a first class event. By the way, my alma mater Ashland High School walked away with the top honors. Way to go Oredockers!!!
We’ve got lots of winter left, and many more reports on the way. Good luck on the ice, and stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted!
Northern Wisconsin Guide: Jeff Evans