The countdown begins for the closure of general sport ice fishing seasons on many lakes and rivers. If you need to get your last fix of walleye/sauger, pike and bass, now is the time. See your state fishing regulations, but for the most part inland sport fishing will be closing at the end of February.
It’s a good thing we are putting this polar vortex cold blast behind us and the forecast calls for some comfortable days ahead. It's crazy how our bodies adapt to weather and now 20 degrees feels like a heat wave. Fishing has been on the slower side again this past week, on account of cold temperatures, but some anglers are getting a few.
It's no secret that the most popular fishing lately has been on Lake Superior ice.
Let's dive into what's happening: Lake Superior grew a substantial amount of ice in recent days with the polar blast. That doesn't mean anglers should go blazing saddles to newly formed ice areas. With that said, some areas have been approachable. One thing we can’t stress enough when fishing on Lake Superior is that every angler should check their own ice as they go. Do not rely on someone else's report or go trotting out to an area just because you see other anglers.
As any experienced Gitch ice fishermen will tell you, things can change in the snap of a finger. Wind can blow ice around in minutes. To be clear, we are not encouraging anyone to ice fish Lake Superior in the Twin Ports. However, it is my job to do fishing reports, so I will share with you that the anglers that are getting out are getting a few lake trout, coho salmon and herring. Best baits have been flashy silver and/or gold spoons tipped with wax worms.
Let's talk a minute about Chequamegon Bay and the Apostle Islands. The areas around Ashland and Washburn have much more stable ice. Bayfield and Red Cliff also have some areas of safe ice, but as always, caution should be a constant. Bigger fish have recently moved off into deeper waters of 30-70 feet, so make sure you utilize a bigger profile bait to pick up on your Vexilar. Fishing these areas has also been on the “a few” level. However, with the warmup coming, we should see a nice bite start to reestablish itself.
St. Louis River anglers have been pretty much nonexistent with the big freeze. Our report is pretty scarce when it comes to fishing success, but I will say the sturgeon have been actively feeding. It doesn't hurt to go out and try for some walleyes as you will probably have a run-in with a dinosaur sturgeon. They like the dead sticks tipped with a live minnow right on the bottom.
Inland lakes have actually been the only fisheries that produced some patterns recently. Panfish adapted to the temperature change and, even though the weather has been extremely cold, it has been consistent, which fish love. Downsized teardrop jigs like Northland doodle bugs and forage minnows tipped with spikes have been best using a dead stick technique. Use your Vexilar to locate fish, then sit over them and turn off your graph.
Fish have been extremely pressured lately, so not having sonar bouncing off their bodies can trigger them into biting patterns. For walleyes, pike and bass, anglers should continue to rely on setlines on an outside perimeter. Bass and pike can be common, but walleyes most likely won't bite unless it is a low light period.
Side note: If you're in the neighborhood, stop into RJs Sport and Cycle (4918 Miller Trunk Highway in Hermantown) and catch a seminar and/or chat fishing with a few Lund pros (Grant Sorensen, Billy Rosner and myself). COVID-19 safety protocols will be in effect. Here is the schedule: Thursday, Feb. 18, 5 p.m., Jarrid Houston; Friday, Feb. 19, 2 p.m., Bill Rosner; Friday, Feb. 19, 5 p.m., Jarrid Houston; Saturday, Feb. 20, noon, Jarrid Houston; Saturday, Feb. 20, 3 p.m., Bill Rosner.
Jarrid Houston of South Range is a fishing guide (houstonsguideservice.com) on Minnesota and Wisconsin inland waters, the St. Louis River and, in winter, on Lake Superior.