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Jarrid Houston Column: Big dump of snow makes mess of some lakes

Look for panfish over deeper mud basins — if you can get out there.

Jarrid Houston
Jarrid Houston
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We are finally getting back to our normal fishing routine after a couple of back-to-back weeks of sports shows. We want to thank everyone that stopped at our Houston's Guide Service booth, attended a fishing seminar or chatted with me in the RJs Sport and Cycle Lund Boats area. Your kind words and appreciation for this weekly fishing column keeps us inspired. Fish on, my friends.

In case you didn't notice, we received a booming snow storm that took a lot of us by surprise. As we are continuing to shovel out, we are now enduring some very cold temperatures. That means fishing will be somewhat of a challenge the next several days. Hopefully by this weekend's guide trips, we will be back to some rod-bending action. One thing is for sure, we are getting closer to springtime and late ice fishing adventures. The sun is definitely migrating toward higher angles which is allowing for much more warmth and longer days. With these changes, fish are sure to be changing a few habits as well.

Let's dive into what is happening:

Conditions on Lake Superior ice (much like all areas waters) are now treacherous. Massive amounts of snow and drifting snow is making travel very challenging. If you don't have a snowmobile, I would not encourage you to try and navigate any area of Chequamegon Bay. The new snow in and around the Bayfield Peninsula topped 30 inches in some areas. Hopefully by this weekend, we will see some areas get plowed out. At this time the ice road from Bayfield to La Pointe is open. But it is narrow and does get drifted-over throughout the day, so be careful. In the Ashland area of Chequamegon Bay, some anglers are slowly getting back to fishing. This weekend will be busy with the annual Neighborly Bar Ice Fishing Contest, so be prepared. As far as fishing success goes, things have certainly slowed down this last week with far fewer people out fishing, but a few trout, salmon and whitefish can be caught on the steep breaks with jigging spoons like a blue/chrome Kastmaster tipped with a lake shiner head. Pike, bass and the occasional walleye and burbot are also being caught jigging lures over the 20' flats. Spreading out away from other anglers continues to be crucial.

The St. Louis River estuary will close March 1st to all walleye, pike and other game fish angling. Some big ones have been reported. But with the recent weather change, the bite has slowed. Jigging a puppet minnow near a dead stick is still my go-to. It is also still important to concentrate your timing in the early mornings or later afternoons. Of course, you can catch fish during the day, and the more time you spend fishing , the better your odds. A fresh roaming migratory walleye will likely not ignore your presentation. The back-bays have been on the slower side for panfish success.

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Inland lakes in Minnesota will also be closing to game fish this weekend. As mentioned last week, chasing tipup flags is a fun way to watch the clock rub out for the winter season. According to the upcoming forecast, conditions will be good for this type of fishing. I prefer a mix of golden shiners and pike sized sucker minnows on my rigs. It is also important to spread out the tip-ups. If you are after the last-minute walleyes or pike, I would still concentrate efforts on areas close to spring spawning habitats. Panfish have been on the move hovering over deeper mud basins. Drilling out holes and locating fish will be the name of the game for the next several weeks. It obviously pays to be the hardest working angler when it comes to "ice trolling."

Good luck out there and be careful. One last thing, as we are starting the beginning of the end of ice season, bring an extra trash bag with you to help clean up any litter on the ice or at the boat launch areas. Also, don't forget to bring along a shovel for all this new snow. 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.

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