Houston Column: Walleyes, pike, bass hitting in shallow waters on shallow lakes
We are in the midst of the Duluth ice fishing show and are excited to get back the water on a regular basis. As we've had more time to check more ice we're finding that conditions are getting safer in some areas. As always, use best judgment and utilize proper safety when venturing out on the ice. Smaller lakes, shallower areas and back bays of larger waters have walkable/fishable ice.
We are still not at a point of 100 percent total confidence and do not encourage people to go out, unless they have complete understanding of the conditions. Ice thickness varies from 4-8 inches depending on body of water. Lakes to the north have more ice. As we climb further into December, ice conditions will only get better. Now is a good time to do some organizing of sorts, and visit retailers to restock and try new lures, etc. The Duluth Ice show is a great opportunity to see the latest trends and gain valuable information to be a better angler. Hopefully you have has a chance to stop by and see us, or attend one of our panel discussions. Today is the last day.
There is no safe ice on Lake Superior and the St. Louis River made headline last week when 35 anglers became stranded on Superior Bay in the harbor. Thank goodness no one was hurt. What we learned was we need to stay glued to the weather and winds. Lake Superior conditions directly dictate the estuary system conditions. In this scenario, we had strong East and North East winds that blew into the Twin Ports and built up a large volume of incoming water. This caused the early sheet of ice that had developed, to buckle. We already had dangerous ice and some areas of the harbor are best suited to leave alone. Mother Nature can wreak havoc on ice, especially on rivers — especially on our St. Louis River. Anglers should always make sure to tune into everything that weather can do to impact your waters. A fish is never worth risking your life, or the lives that may be out to save you.
As of right now, inland lakes are best for safe ice fishing. We've been targeting shallower areas near shore and finding mixed success. Tip-ups with shiners or small suckers in 3-5' feet of water have been producing a mix of walleyes, pike and bass. The size of your minnow should reflect the size of the fish you are after. Look for vegetation that are holding on to summer life. Panfish are nearby as well, and we have been getting a nice mix of sunfish on small tear drop type jigs tipped with soft plastics or live wax worms in and around 10 feet. It is important to try and stay quiet so you do not spook fish. If you are able to sight fish, that is the way to go. If not, utilizing a low power mode on your electronics will dumb down the transducer noise in shallow water. This is important, especially in shallower, high pressured fish. Best bite has been late afternoons just before dark.
Be safe out there ice anglers and don't forget to check in with bait shops, resorts and/or guides before venturing out.
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.