Ice, ice and more ice! The recent cold snap has really increased the depth of the ice on the inland Northwest Wisconsin lakes as well as coverage on Lake Superior. There isn’t any need for an auger extension yet, but we are approaching a solid 24”+ of ice on many of our inland lakes. Lake Superior is finally seeing fishable ice expanding out into the Apostle Islands and around Bayfield and Red Cliff.
Inland in Northwest Wisconsin, the bite has been fairly consistent on basin panfish, but fish have become less aggressive during the recent high-pressure cold snap. Finesse presentations, and fishing prime-time windows, are the name of the game for both panfish and walleyes now with the latter getting very difficult to catch other than morning and evening.
Pike fishing has slowed a bit as well, especially in community areas due to high fishing pressure this year. Finding isolated weed beds or deeper structures that haven’t been fished as hard is the key to finding nice pike during the last couple weeks of the season. Once you find them, downsizing bait size can be a real game changer for mid-winter pike with leaner appetites. Another great winter pattern can arise with thickening ice as smaller lakes start to become oxygen depleted.
Pike and panfish in smaller lakes tend to move upward, concentrating in the upper 5’ of the water column to tap into the higher oxygen found there. Using finesse presentations can produce great catches of fish in these conditions. All in all, fishing is still decent despite the frigid weather but with the forecasted warm-up coming I would guess the last 2 weeks of February could really kick off some good late-ice fishing!
Lake Superior is another story entirely. Trout, salmon, burbot, whitefish and herring don’t seem to mind the frigid cold weather like their warm-water cousins. The only thing that the ultra-cold seems to effect is angling pressure, which has lightened considerably. Small spoons tipped with minnows have been working best.
For the anglers willing to brave the cold, good multi-species fishing has been available all over the Chequamegon Bay area. The ice coverage has increased significantly, allowing anglers access to some deeper lake trout water and some very nice fish are being caught. There is ice near Duluth that there have been folks fishing on, but it is not safe yet.
As many of you know, nearly 30 anglers had to be rescued off of a sheet of ice that broke off in a 20mph wind last weekend just in front of the city of Duluth. I don’t recommend ever venturing out anywhere in that area unless you are highly experienced and well prepared. There is lots of ice to be explored in other places still so get out there, stay warm and get hooked up!!