If you've been following our latest reports, not a whole lot has changed over the past week in regard to fishing and ice conditions. A good shot of snow is hitting northern Wisconsin as I write this however, and some significant accumulations may pile up in some areas. That's welcome news for anyone interested in the American Birkebeiner, North America's cross country ski race that will be held this coming weekend in Hayward. After the disappointing cancellation last year I'd expect there to be one heck of a crowd coming into our area. It's a great event with tons of festivities, and I highly recommend you check it out. As for fishing, the biggest questions will be how travel conditions will change after the snow totals are in. Here's what Josh Teigen, Aron Kastern, and Erik Thue had to say.
At the risk of sounding boring, Josh Teigen says it's been more of the same. That's not all bad though. He continues to concentrate on the mixed bag bite that's been steadily producing all winter in Chequamegon Bay and more recently in the Apostle Islands. The bite hasn't been fast by any means, but you'll still pick up some good fish throughout the course of a day if you stick with it. Status quo on the methods as well. Tip-ups rigged with shiners along with jigging Hyper Rattles & Kastmasters in 10' – 45' of water continue to produce whitefish and trout including the occasional mega brown. I still have to get one of those brutes! Ice conditions haven't changed at all with up to 2' of ice with smooth travel inside the bay and around 1' around the inner Islands near Bayfield. The snow and strong winds may affect the ice around the islands, so you'll have to stay tuned to our next report for any developments. Josh was also able to get an inland trip in on the Hayward lakes and reports terrific ice conditions with over 2' of ice in many areas, very little slush, and smooth travel by ATV or snowmobile. He emphasized that finding green weeds is critical right now. Once weeds were located, in 10' – 15' of water, Josh got into some good pike and walleye fishing using tip-ups with shiners. When the right stuff is found, it really doesn't have to be complicated. Keeping it simple is never a bad thing. Save one of those big browns for me Josh. I still gotta scratch that itch!
Aron Kastern has been strictly focusing his efforts around the Apostle Islands lately. He says that ice from Bayfield to Red Cliff is in great shape with 7" – 15" depending on how far out you travel. If you are new to the area or to this program, do not attempt to venture past the inner ring of islands, Madeline, Stockton, Basswood, etc. Aron and his crew spend a lot of time scouting safe routes, checking ice conditions, and making sure they are always on good ice. The islands are a beautiful place to be this time of year, but they're no place to be experimenting. Aron echoed Josh's thoughts on our current weather situation and says to stay tuned to any changes caused by the wind and snow. Lake trout have been the target species for his gang over the past week finding them from in anywhere from 50' – 260'. Bigger fish can be found at just about any depth, and it's really a matter of where you're locating schools of bait fish on any given day. When the current is light, you can downsize lures for fussy fish, but heavy current days require 2 oz – 3 oz jigs baited with cut herring to hold bottom. When you get into one of these lakers, hang on. They'll give your one heck of a struggle, and you never know what kind of dinosaur you might connect with. The stories of lost fish that couldn't be moved are endless… Stop in at the River Rock Inn & Bait Shop if you're looking for some ideas on what kind of jigs to use. They've got a wide selection and will get you on the right track. Bobbing hoops with wire line or stiff jigging rods with baitcast reels are usually the way to go for equipment. If you don't want to hassle with ice conditions, bait, equipment, etc., give us a call. That's what we're here for! One of my favorite fishing families even made it out on the ice. Looking good Custers!!! I'll see you when it's a little warmer… Good stuff as always Aron, and congratulations on that beast of a laker Rob!
Erik Thue checked in with his report from the past week in the Hayward Lakes area. He's dialed in to a much overlooked bite on our inland lakes, and it's something more people should take advantage of. You don't have to travel to the great lakes to catch whitefish! Many of our clear lakes have them and they're a valuable part of those ecosystems for a variety of reasons. Aside from being valuable forage fish for predatory fish, they're also a blast to catch and good to eat. Erik has been locating fish in 50' – 65' of water along steep breaks and points. Flat areas near these locations are key to holding fish, and small spoons or jigs commonly used for panfish will work. Tip them with a waxie, spike, or your favorite plastic, and you're off to the races! If the bite is tough, tie a small hook above your jig/spoon and tip with a waxie. That will seal the deal! Very cool opportunity to take advantage of a fun bite. The panfish situation continues to be focused on main lake basins. Search 20' – 30' of water popping holes and use electronics to find giils and crappies. Don't stop drilling until the screen lights up. Small tungsten jigs and spoons tipped with plastics, waxies, and spikes will all produce. Experiment on marked fish until you crack the code. Excellent information and awsome pictures Erik. Don't be afraid to drop off a few of those whitefish fillets at my place!
There you have it! Inland whitefish, monster lakers, and ski races. There's no reason to be bored, and no lack of opportnunities. Good luck to everyone in the Birkie!!!