The fishing and weather were both awesome over the past week. We had temperatures approach 60 degrees in select areas this past weekend and, although we still have a lot of snow on the ground, it does seem to be melting away nicely.
Lake travel continues to be good on most area waters. The only thing that is starting to wear is the access points. It is encouraged to not drive any large vehicles on the waters from now on. If you have an ATV or snowmobile, that would be best for lake travel.
With the change to Daylight Saving Time, we now have later afternoons, which will be awesome for this late ice fishing season.
Most rivers are opening up across the Northland. To the north, the Rainy River now has moving water that continues to grow west each day. Same goes for Wisconsin in the area of Green Bay where the Fox River is now ice free and even has some boat traffic.
Things are moving along rapidly and nicely for an early spring. Lake Superior fishing pressure increased this last weekend with anglers taking to the North Shore in hopes of locking up with early spring fish.
Most anglers report mostly slow to some moderate success, but everyone seems to be happy to get out on open water. Lots of anglers will continue to launch boats on the North Shore the next several weeks, so if you plan to get out, best to be there early.
Tactics will be near-shore trolling with stickbaits. If you don't have a boat or are not ready for boating yet this season, don't be afraid to test out some lucky shore casting.
For ice anglers, Chequamegon Bay hardwater can still be had. Most the areas north of Washburn are getting very dangerous so the safest bet is to stick toward the Ashland side of the bay. Most are catching a nice mixed bag of trout, burbot, sturgeon, pike, whitefish, perch and the occasional salmon. Tactics continue to be setlines covering all depths of water column and aggressively jigging flashy spoons.
Usually fishing late ice on the Gitch can be worth it, let’s hope we finish the season on a high note. Also, don't forget to bring a spud bar, rope, spikes and floatation device(s) as ice conditions are changing in a hurry.
The lower St. Louis River now has the Coast Guard Cutter Alder hard at work opening up shipping lanes. Day by day, the open water grows into the harbor from the entries. The only real safe ice is the back bay areas in Wisconsin waters. Unfortunately, the fishing is nothing to write home about lately.
Meanwhile, inland waters have a hot bite going on depending on where and when you are fishing. Most panfish bites are coming in the shallower back bays of 6-15 feet of water. Best bait has been tungsten jigs tipped with soft plastics or waxies. We have found some success jigging small crappie minnow heads as well, the best route to success if putting in the hard work.
Drilling many holes to locate moving schools of fish is the best tactic. Last week bait selection was not as important as finding fish with the right attitude. As always, trust your electronics.
As we climb closer toward end of ice season, things will only get better. Also, don't be surprised to lock up with bonus catch and release fish like bass, pike or walleyes.
Be safe, have fun and see you on the water!
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.