It is undoubtedly very rare to have ice fishing opportunities this early in the season, but it’s time to play it safe. The bigger bodied and deeper waters still do not have safe ice and no one should attempt to even walk on those lakes. Locally, the smaller, shallower lakes have locked up ice. But even some of them can be sketchy, so please be very careful if and when you're heading out. Checking ice as you go is very important, and don't be afraid to stick to shallower water.
Ice conditions have set up nice on the these small acreage lakes we speak of. However, with the return of more mild temperatures and rain/snow mix, approach with extreme caution. Shorelines can now be softened up and some areas may have weakened ice, so be careful. With that said, we have found ice thickness up to 9 inches on select waters.
Lake Superior is still open water and any St Louis River ice remains unsafe. Hang tight for these fisheries; we will eventually get there. Also, as reported last week, stream fishing has come to a close.
On the small, shallow waters that we found safe ice, we have been finding decent bites close to shorelines on mini-breaks. The most fun continues to be chasing tip-up flags for northern pike, bass and walleyes. Mostly pike and bass during the day and the chance at a walleye after dark.
I like to set up the ice shack and sight fish shallower water for panfish during the daytime, then move out a little deeper as dark approaches this time of year. At the same time, have a tip-up rig in near proximity for a cruising predator fish.
Don't forget some tip-up lights for the low light times of late afternoon, when walleyes will approach the shallower waters feeding on baitfish. In conjunction with that, don't forget a headlamp as well.
Best depths having success have been anywhere from 5-15 feet of water. Electronics are certainly important, but it is also very important to practice sound control. Being silent and not spooking fish is a big deal.
Everyone be safe and enjoy yourselves. Happy Thanksgiving!
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.