Jarrid Houston column: Chequamegon Bay ice, and the fishing, getting better
Less fishing pressure on the St. Louis River has meant more walleyes biting.
Ice continues to grow diligently in our area of the world despite the recent snowfalls. Last weekend, we had strong winds that helped push a lot of the snow off the ice, reducing the insulation and allowing the big chill to make more ice earlier this week. Every lake is now fishable in our region, except for the open waters of Lake Superior, and we can now use snowmobiles in most areas.
As far as fishing success goes, we are in a decent enough bite and things should heat up with the consistent weather pattern we are slipping into. With that said, here we go:
Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior now has good ice, although we still recommend reaching out to guides, resorts and bait stores for up to date information. As of this report, ice thickness varies greatly (typical for Lake Superior) from 3-10 inches. Some areas are spoiled enough for ATVs and snowmobiles, especially near Ashland, but less so farther up the Bayfield Peninsula toward Washburn.
The good news is that, north of Houghton Point and into the islands, snow was not a factor and that ice is on its way to great things if we can get more cold days and no big snows or wind. Let's cross our fingers.
As far as fishing goes, we have been catching a diverse basket of fish using simple early ice techniques. Gold spoons jigged aggressively in waters of 10-25 feet have been taking perch, walleye, pike, splake, coho, herring and the occasional brown trout and whitefish. We are also getting some fish to go on Beaver Dam tip-ups rigged with either a golden shiner or a lake shiner.
As a reminder, Wisconsin allows three lines per person, so we like to set out two setlines and jig with one.
We have not been finding the numbers of brown trout we are used to seeing and we are hoping it is just a lull. However, with the increased pressure of anglers the last several years, we hope conservation minds will help keep our fisheries sustainable. Please consider releasing big brown trout.
The St. Louis River estuary and harbor had a nice little uptick of fishing success this last week. I firmly believe it has a lot to do with far less angling pressure than we saw last month. Look toward areas that have some small humps over the flats. I like setting up right off of a shallow hump. Currently, my magic number has been 7.5 feet of water.
Of course, primetime bites will continue to be a thing, but in case you haven't noticed our daylight is lasting a little longer into the afternoon. This is a good thing!
Northland Buckshot Coffin Spoons in the color of sneeze have been my go-to this last week, but really any spoon with rattling noise will work. I do elect to tip with two minnow heads so, if I lose a minnow head and I am marking a fish, I still have a chance to keep it interested.
Sturgeon also seem to be active lately, so be aware. You can easily kind of mess your walleye bite by locking horns and fighting a big sturgeon. They are pretty easy to identify on the Vexilar as they usually mark big and don't really move off the bottom. If you do get one, remember to get a good photo and quickly release the beast back to the water as they are illegal to keep.
On inland lakes, pike have been going good during the day on setlines. They have also been pesky to the panfish anglers as the toothy critters are notorious for snapping off tungsten jigs.
Walleyes continue to hit mostly during low-light periods and have certainly slowed down as winter goes on. Best bet is to utilize a spoon that has UV glow and tip it with a fathead minnow.
Crappies are starting to relocate toward deeper basins in some lakes. With that said, I will still take my chances in the 10-20 foot weed patches using bright colored tungsten jigs tipped with soft plastics or meat.
On a side note, this weekend is free fishing weekend for both Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, if you want to take advantage of the Minnesota free fishing, you have to have a kid with you. Make sure to check the regulations. All the best hooksets and we will see you on the ice!
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.