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Jarrid Houston column: Panfish action heating up on inland lakes

Chequamegon Bay bite still happening, but be careful of ice conditions.

Jarrid Houston
Jarrid Houston

Just like that, the general inland fishing season for game fish is over.

For most of northern Minnesota (except for Ontario border waters) and now northern Wisconsin, we have to leave walleyes, bass and pike alone. This is very important as it gives fish a chance to get ready for spawning when the water warms up in spring. Of course we can still fish, but we can only target fish that are continuously open like crappies, sunnies and rough-fish.

For our team, we will now be finishing up the sports show season (this weekend in Minneapolis at the Northwest Sports Show and, the last weekend of March, at the Douglas County Fish and Game Show in Superior). We also will be chasing late season panfish before packing our bags and gear to head for the early shot walleye spots like the Rainy River or Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Let’s get into our weekly report:

Lake Superior ice anglers continue to chase a few pike, perch, trout, salmon and whitefish in and around Chequamegon Bay. Jigging bright, shiny spoons tipped with meat has been best. Kastmaster spoons or Leech Flutter spoons have been good. What is more important is to continue to spread out to find low-pressure fishing spots. Set lines are still important. A few burbot are starting to show up in many areas as well. Low-light periods are best when targeting eelpout. Ice conditions are spotty and will quickly deteriorate as we move farther through March. Make sure to check in with locals and as always check ice for yourself.


Lake Superior's North Shore is seeing more boats trolling on warm days.
Opening day saw thigh-deep snow in places along the river but otherwise decent conditions.
Titled “Mink Sink, Swim on Burbot Catch,” the 1954 article featured commercial fishermen who were netting the “voracious predatory monsters” through the ice on Lake of the Woods for use as mink food.
Compiling information for the book required untold amounts of windshield time traveling across the state and hours of research tracking down duck camp members or descendants.
Studies are probing steelhead and brook trout genetics, as well as all fish diets during a lake herring boom.
Check out Jarrid's seminars at the Douglas County Fish & Game League Sports Show this weekend.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report for the week of March 20.
Last fall's steelhead run was down a bit from 2021 and from the long-term average.
Based on DNR creel surveys, anglers landed an estimated 15,000 crappies this winter on Upper Red, compared with about 900 crappies, on average, over the previous 10 winters or more.
Lake Superior will be a popular choice for early-spring open-water fishing.

The St. Louis River Estuary went from full-throttle angling pressure this last week to lonely and empty. Except for areas that harbor some perch, crappies and a few sunfish, anglers have more or less moved on and started to put away any river chasing plans.

Inland lakes continue to be challenging for ice travel. Snow track machines are necessary. Before the close of Wisconsin’s game fish season this past weekend, pike, bass and walleyes were going gangbusters in weedy drop-off areas. Some big, fat-bellied fish were chewing on smaller prey-sized panfish. The anglers that are still getting out are finding lots of these said panfish. Tungsten jigs tipped with meat have been great, but soft plastics from Northland Fishing Tackle, Clam or Panfish Plastics have been dynamite. Panfish have been in a few locations. Some locations in and around the 6-15 foot vegetation, as well as mud basin areas are holding good fish. Word of caution, if you elect to fish deep holes, you will kill fish! Barotrauma is a real thing.

Lastly, come visit the big Northwest Sports Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend (Match 9-12). So many boats, resorts, gear, and big stage names in the industry under one roof. Yours truly will be conducting real life fishing demonstrations on the big fish tank and helping promote great fishing brands like Northland Fish Tackle, Blackfish and Lund Boats. When not on the tank, I’ll be with our Northland brothers and sisters at the Marine General area. Be safe out there.

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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