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Jarrrid Houston column: Northern Wisconsin lakes starting to lose ice

Anglers may need to do some homework to find fishable water on the May 7 Wisconsin opener.

Jarrid Houston
Jarrid Houston

With just a little over a week to go before the Wisconsin regular season fishing opener, many are wondering if we will have fishable open waters in our neck of the woods. The answer is "yes," but you may have to look for it.

Truth be told, our future forecast will both help and hurt our open-water progress on inland waters. As of midweek, lakes south of Spooner were opening up. Closer to home, most of our inland lakes are still locked up, but are showing progress. On the waters of St. Croix in Solon Springs, shorelines are well on their way with open water showing. Same to the north and north east toward Iron River.

The inland lakes north of Duluth, beyond and to the west, tell a different story with as much as up to 20 inches of hard ice. The good news is the forecast is calling for more rain. However, we still are not getting a good warm-up in temperatures, so it will continue to be slow progress. As mentioned earlier, we will have open-water fishing opportunities, you just may have to take a ride to get to it. As in fishing all the time, a little homework can go a long way.

Lake Superior anglers continue to find a few fish trolling the North Shore. Cohos continue to be a popular bite. Depths of 40-80 feet of water have been best this last week, but with the cold temperatures and the spring culture of the Gitch, you can't be too shallow. Tactics continue to be simple off-shore planer boards with stick baits. Don't be surprised to run into rainbow trout and/or other bonus fish as smelt are drawing near shorelines and river mouths this time of year.

Speaking of smelt, we are finally starting to see reports of smelt runs from our friends from other areas of the Great Lakes (mostly to the south). We are not in the smelt window yet on lake Superior, but we are certainly getting closer.

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In the areas of Chequamegon Bay, we are finally starting to see fishable waters. We have not heard of any success as of yet, but the ice is certainly receding at a good pace and Ashland, Washburn and Bayfield/Red Cliff will soon accommodate open-water anglers.

Stream fishing continues to be more the same with challenging conditions with cold and fast river flows. A few fish are coming top-side, but we really need a warm-up in temperatures and a slowdown of current velocity to help us out. The good news is the pressure from other anglers has slowed, so if you get out, you shouldn't have much of a problem finding some fishable real estate. Casting small spinners or drifting a series of different flies under floats can have some success. With the high and dirty water, working your baits very slowly will be best.

The St. Louis River Estuary still has not seen any angling activity, but we can report that most of the ice is now off. The only remaining ice is in the back bays and areas not associated with any current. Same goes for inland waters. We are now at a "hurry up and wait" point. It is nothing short of frustrating, but as they say, "it is what it is."

In a typical year, we have already been out many times in search of open-water panfish. At this point, we don't have a solid game plan, but I am sure we will be heading a little south and fishing a lake that has water coming in and going out.

At any rate, we are almost to our favorite holiday — fishing opener — so let's all cross our weathered fingers and hope for open waters. At this point, I really don't care if I don't catch anything on the opener, I just want to be in a boat. Who are we kidding — of course I want to catch fish. I'm sure you all can relate. Soon, my friends, soon.

Jarrid Houston of South Range is a fishing guide (h oustonsguideservice.com ) on Minnesota and Wisconsin inland waters, the St. Louis River and, in winter, on Lake Superior.

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