Ice-out is officially here in North Central Wisconsin. Most of our small and mid-size lakes are free of ice at this time. A few larger deeper lakes still have some scattered ice cover but I anticipate that that will be gone within a few days. Open water means new opportunities for fishing here in the north country.
Crappies, perch and bluegills are open and have no closed season. These fish can be difficult to catch the first two weeks after ice out but begin to become more active as they acclimate to open water. Finesse is the key to catching these early-season panfish. Suspending small jig and plastic or live bait combination below a float is a great way to target these fish. Suspend your bait a couple feet off the bottom and use small twitches to keep it just barely moving. As surface temperatures reach into the upper 40s and lower 50s look for panfish sunning themselves in the warm surface water on calm sunny days. You can often see their dorsal fins actually sticking above the water. These fish are spooky but can be caught with light finesse jigs and freelined live baits. Long casts are key and stealth is at a premium when targeting these nervous schools of panfish.
Trout offer many opportunities in the early springtime. The steelhead run is in full swing on many Great Lakes tributaries and the inland catch-and-release trout season can also be very good at this time of year as water temperatures rise. Steelhead can be caught on egg imitations like beads, spawn and yarn flies. Don’t overlook nymphs either. Steelhead have a hard time passing up an easy insect meal. Inland stream trout can be caught using a variety of methods including spinners jig/ plastic combos and flies. One bit of advice is to keep moving until you find water that holds fish. Don’t fish unproductive water for more than a few minutes before moving.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass also become more active as the water starts to reach the mid to upper 40s. They may even start making forays into shallow water during the afternoon when the water is the warmest. Suspending jerk baits, ned rigs and drop shot rigs are the preferred cold water bass tactics. Don’t overlook very small swim baits either on drop shot rigs or small jig heads either.
Get out here in North Central Wisconsin and enjoy the early spring and get hooked up!
Caleb Wistad – Hookedupwi