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Jarrid Houston column: Ice conditions unsafe in some places for even snowmobiles

Lake Superior will be a popular choice for early-spring open-water fishing.

Jarrid Houston
Jarrid Houston

Greetings, anglers. Ice fishing has got to be very challenging, and will only get worse, before getting better. In a typical year, we have some steady snowmelt that leaves ice caps on lakes bare and very accessible. This year, not so much. I am worried we will have a very aggressive melt that will crush ice conditions, and in some select water, jeopardize safety.

We will see and monitor, so make sure to tune in to our fresh reports as we navigate through the start of spring solstice. As we stand, ice conditions are already incompatible to vehicle traffic. Even snowmachine travel has been hairy depending on where you are trying to get to. If you are still out chasing panfish and other legal fish, make sure to have a shovel handy.

Next week will be very interesting indeed. I forecast we should have about another three weeks of ice fishing opportunities, but as usual, who knows?

OK, let's talk about what's up:

Lake Superior will be a popular choice for early-spring open-water fishing as soon as we get past this next snowstorm and launches get plowed out. Areas north near Two Harbors will start to see a few vessels take to the water, as well as some shorelanding anglers casting long lines into the drink. These next several weeks hold an opportunity to tag some near-shore trout and salmon. Breakwall fishing can be a fun little way to try something different.


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Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report for the week of March 13.
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For the ice anglers, Chequamegon Bay has been and will be even a bigger mess after this weekend. For the die-hard "in-shape" anglers that are getting out, a few trout, salmon, burbot, pike and perch have been going. Depths of 20-30 feet of water have been best.

The perch bite has been the better of choices for action, but per usual, not every day is the same. Mixing up a recipe of spoons tipped with meat and dead sticks will continue to be the best bet. We don't anticipate seeing much angling pressure these last few weeks of Gitch ice season. Most will now start to get ready for first-crack stream fishing. It's hard to believe, but we are only days away from the official stream fishing opening on the Wisconsin side.

St. Louis River Estuary has continued to be a ghost town now that gamefish season is behind us. Last night, we attended the regular monthly Twin Port Walleye Association meeting and learned of the current status of walleye populations, both in the river and in Lake Superior. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the current status of the walleye population is in good shape. Many of us (including myself) do question this, but statistics, science and math does show positive information.

The association also made a case to continue and try to push for new regulations to better protect our home fish factory. Interesting to see what the future holds for St. Louis River walleye fishing.

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Inland lakes of both Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin have slowed down for angling pressure as well. A few are getting out and looking for late-season panfish. As I mentioned before, in a typical year, we are wearing rubber boots and trampling through ice puddles, but this year is different. Hopefully, we will have a chance to do that still, but as of now, I am not holding my breath. The increase in snow thickness will darken up some of the spring momentum as far as what is happening under the ice.

Further meaning, this next week, the fishing may be on the slower side. Again, like I mentioned, it will be worse before it gets better. Best bet is to continue to use your electronics and use smaller tear-drop profiled jigs and spikes. Don't be surprised to run into some big, cruising "fish with teeth" as they are putting on the feed bag and getting ready to do the early spawn thing (we are talking pike, by the way).

Lastly, thanks to everyone that stopped by and said “hi” at the big Northwest Sport Show in Minneapolis. I am humbled and honored to represent our community among the big names in the industry.

Looking ahead, we are excited to end the sports show season with one more fun event: the Douglas County Fish and Game League Sports Show at the Wessman Arena on March 24, 25 and 26. We will be hosting some good seminars alongside some very reputable names in our community and in the industry. More on that next week.

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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