I want to start out with the reminder that the close of the general inland fishing season is upon us and that anglers will be required to buy new fishing licenses.
Fishing success has been of the "hit-and-miss" variety this past week, depending on what you're after. With the drastic change in weather conditions, it comes as no surprise that fish in many lakes are showing signs of “lockjaw.” However, some anglers are finding success if they put in the effort.
The anglers that are catching fish are the ones that are doing such things as ice trolling (drilling several holes until fish can be located) and being patient. On previous reports I have mentioned that this time of year fish can show interest but not commit. If that happens it’s important to adapt to what they want. Lately it’s been a matter of slow jigging and downsizing lures. Or in some cases, not jigging at all and dead sticking.
Another tip I will throw out there is many fish have seen the run of the mill lure and bait presentation. And in some area lakes, they have seen it all winter long. So change up and try something different.
There are countless types of soft-plastics and lures on the market. Don't just try something because you saw another person doing it. Find out what works for you, and if you find success, keep the secret to yourself.
Let's dive into this week's report:
Lake Superior in the Twin Ports area received lots of attention recently. Although I did not get down there because of the boat show and guiding obligations, I heard the amount of angler traffic was staggering.
However, it did not last long as the weather warmed up to above freezing and, more importantly, the winds picked up. For the anglers that got out, the bite was in the form of jigging small spoons tipped with wax worms. Catches included coho salmon, herring and lake trout. Like any busy fishery, some caught fish and others struggled.
As of this writing, we still have a sheet of ice out here, but it is deteriorating at a rapid rate. Matter of fact, Lake Superior as a whole is showing less and less ice per day on the satellite imagery. In the areas of the Apostle Islands, ice is also changing fast and some areas are getting pretty dangerous to access. The safest ice in our region continues to be around Ashland in Chequamegon Bay.
The mighty St. Louis River estuary resembles an ice fishing ghost town lately. It’s crazy to think that just a couple of months ago limitless angler hours were spent testing luck.
I must admit, I like the less popular type of fishing, so this week we have actually put in a valiant effort chasing last-minute walleyes. We found some success in the deeper pockets, where we are picking off a cruising fish here and there. Lure presentations have been simple dead stick methods with a live chub, colored hook and bead. It doesn't look like we will get the big kick-in of fish we sometimes experience this time of year, but we will try a couple more times before the season closes.
Inland lakes have been a little less pressured this past week in the immediate Duluth/Superior areas. I am guessing it's because Lake Superior had fishable ice in Duluth. Ice trolling and locating feeding fish has been the challenge. Some days it's easy to find fish, but hard to get them to bite. Best action has been deep basin roaming panfish that can swim through anywhere in the water column. It also continues to be important to try and not spook fish and to downsize presentations.
As the days grow longer, late ice panfishing will get better. We will continue to throw small tungsten and spike and/or maki plastics at them. Inland walleyes have been tough to come by, but pike and bass are still biting the usual stuff. I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to late-season nice days out on the ice without the need for a fish shanty. See you on the water.
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.