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Jarrid Houston column: Late-fall brawl on until ice arrives

Ice fishing tactics and hotspots are paying off during the last open-water days of fishing.

Jarrid Houston
Jarrid Houston
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Just like that, it’s a fast climb into a new bite. We call this bite “the late fall brawl.” Fish have already started staging for the cold season.

As mentioned in previous reports, it is definitely a good time to start fishing in your best early-ice spots. As far as the weather goes, obviously we've swung in a new direction. I think most of us will agree we probably will not be seeing 60 degrees anytime soon. So "bye, bye" warm fall and "hello" late-fall brawl. The open-water fishing season is almost done. Almost.

Here is our weekly breakdown:

Lake Superior's only news really is still coming from Chequamegon Bay as a few anglers are still taking cracks at smallmouth. Not much pressure from here on out, but on the weekends you may find a boat or two. Rip jigging swim baits is a way to go, as well as slow-drifting sucker rigs. As usual, don’t be surprised to run into a big pike or occasional walleye. You’ll even have a crack at a rogue trout or salmon as water temperatures are decreasing rapidly.

The St. Louis River Estuary saw good fishing this past week, especially in the middle of the day in the cold wind and rain. We have actually been getting fish using ice fishing tactics. We are talking ice fishing lures like Northland Buckshots spoons tipped with minnow heads. Of course, you can go with a simple jig and minnow tactic, but we have found most any tactic has been working.


We are still concentrating on channel edges and mid channel humps. The most fun has been getting fish hooked up using Vexilar technology, which we often do in the spring and fall. For muskies and big pike, anglers are still trolling these same edges and getting “a few” sightings. Upstream angling remains strong. Word of caution: Almost all the boat launch docks are now out.

Inland lake fishing also remains strong, and, like the river, launch docks are out of the water. Walleyes and crappies continue to be located around old weed edges. Water temperatures are now into the 40s and fish continue to put in the feed bag. Most die-hards who are still getting out are getting fish.

It’s no secret this is the best time of year to get some of the biggest fish you’ll see. Especially for you muskie anglers! Dress warm and wear your life jacket if you get out. As mentioned, we are almost done, but not yet.. Stay tuned for last late-fall brawl news.

Be courteous to each other and good luck to the deer hunters. Sounds like the rut is on.

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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After a generally quiet January for most of the region we'll see a surge of bitter cold temperatures returning this weekend.
Editor’s note: Some events may have been canceled after the time of publication. Please check with local organizers. Email events to outdoors@duluthnews.com.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report for the week of Jan 23.