The inland water season for many fish species have closed in Minnesota and Wisconsin. There are still panfish to be caught and fish in rivers, both Lake Superior tributaries and more distant destinations like the Rainy River, Mississippi Pools and Lake Michigan.
We've been busy organizing our inventory and packing away ice gear. For the diehard ice-heads out there, we still have lots of fishable waters, but can't stress this enough: Safety should be practiced with every step. We do encourage you check in with bait shops, guides and/or resorts before venturing out onto late ice.
A refresher on a couple of quick "summerizing" ice gear tips: Charge electronics every 8 weeks throughout off-season, use fuel stabilizer in gas in augers before storage, air-out and disinfect portable shacks., and throw in mothballs and dryer sheets to keep rodents away. Last, but not least, organize all rods, tackle and other equipment for smooth transition into the next ice season. Doing the work now will save time later.
Small to midsize lakes are still fishable with about 20 inches of ice, but it's going fast. We are now parking off the lakes with our trucks and venturing out by walking. We are still several weeks from complete ice-out on most inland waters. Anglers should still be looking toward transitional areas near shorelines for opportunities to catch some pan fish. Don't be afraid to stick it out on the basins though. I prefer to set up on the edge of a mud basin to intercept passing schools of crappies. Small tungsten jigs tipped with spikes or simple jig/minnow combinations continue to be a good option. As mentioned last week, be cautious of shorelines, and as always, check as you go. Try and avoid clouded, dark or soft ice.
The St Louis River is still in the early stages of transitioning into open water. We now have ships coming and going, helping with opening up the lower sections of St. Louis and Superior bays. Angling pressure on back Wisconsin bays has been light with not a lot to report.
Stream Trout has been a good at the Brule River in Wisconsin. Drifting flys with indicators has been a good tactic. Look for deeper holes, bends and structure. Steelhead will hang out in numbers in these areas. Moving around the river can pay off, but honestly, holding in one area can often intercept a passing fish as well. The soft and muddy trails has made walking tricky, but there are many paths to utilize. Be courteous of other anglers. Water clarity has been decent and as long as we don't have a dramatic increase in temperatures, things should stay steady and fishable.
Lake Superior is now seeing North Shore shoremen trying luck at Kamloops using long rods, spawn or wax worms and weighted bobbers. We still do not have any reports of open water boats, but that will change in the very near future.
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.