Anglers are fishing on smaller lakes. They also were fishing at Second Landing on Nov. 18. There was only 2 inches of ice then, but they were fishing. The bay had been frozen from Anglers All to the lighthouse for two days as of Nov. 19, so people will be out on that soon. On inland lakes, guys are not pushing it too hard; they are catching bluegills near shore.
A lot of guys are pulling the pin on deer hunting this year because of snow and low deer numbers. License sales are considerably behind last year’s pace at the shop – unless they all show up the day before the opener. Up in the barrens there was 2 to 3 feet of snow last week.
Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.
River Rock, (715) 682-3232.
BOULDER JUNCTION AREA
A few guys were out fishing on the smaller lakes last week, but the big lakes, like Trout Lake, were still open. One guy was fishing on 5 inches of ice on a smaller lake. Some anglers are still trying to go muskie fishing, but they can’t get to most of the landings because of the deep snow. Luckily, all of the lakes were still open when the bulk of the snow came, so lakes that have covered over since then have good, clear ice. Guys are buying snowshoes to get to their deer stands. A few guys aren’t going deer hunting because of the snow.
Northern Highland Sports Shop, (715) 385-2134.
CHIPPEWA FALLS / EAU CLAIRE / MENOMONIE AREA
There is ice on some of the smaller lakes, ponds, and bays from Cadott to Menomonie. Anglers were walking on Half Moon on 3 inches of ice last week, on the east bay on Lake Altoona, on the “cut-off” in Menomonie, and on Glen Loch Flowage in Chippewa Falls. The ice that is out there is good and should improve quickly, but still use caution. There have been a few reports of decent bluegill action.
Buroker’s Taxidermy and Bait, Eau Claire, (715) 835-0847.
Big Mama’s Bait Shop, (715) 231-0839, Menomonie.
Bill’s Sport Shop, Chippewa Falls, (715) 723-9033.
EAGLE RIVER AREA
What a difference a few weeks can make. We were anticipating several more weeks of great fall open-water fishing when we were rudely interrupted by that huge snow and the cold weather that followed it. That has turned our attention to ice fishing, as lake after lake has frozen completely. To say that this was unexpected is an understatement. We now have all but the biggest lakes in the area with ice on them, and the smaller lakes are safe to get out on. There is 3 to 5 inches of ice on many lakes, and the guys are starting to get out there. We really received an unexpected benefit of this early snow – it came before the lakes had started to freeze. Had the lakes frozen first, and then the snow came, we would have had the same conditions we had last year. Slush. We got lucky this year, and perhaps that is an omen for the rest of the year. Early walleye fishing can be very good. Tip-up anglers will set those rigs on the mouths of bays and on the edges of weeds to intercept the walleye as they come into the shallower water to feed in the evening and they’ll move shallower after dark to get these early walleyes. Large fatheads or shiners work best. It’s also a fine time to get perch by using the same pattern. The darker, smaller lakes seem to be best right at the start of the season. Many anglers will use medium shiners to avoid those pesky perch, but more and more we see guys setting up for perch with the fatheads. It seems to take a while for the northerns to get going after the ice forms. After several weeks, the fish seem to settle down and we start to get a lot of guys fishing for them in the weeds with larger shiners. Since this is a daytime activity, you can fish for northerns and then move to those walleye spots in the late afternoon and evenings.
A word about the muskie season: It seemed to be spotty during those warm fronts, but they were short and the fishing recovered each time as the temps dropped. It was a season of very good numbers and a few trophies. In retrospect, the most pervasive aspect was the abundance of action on suckers and the lack of heavy action on lures. Looking through records from September on, my boat recorded only three fish on artificials. Unbelievably, we had only five follow-ups all fall. This has never happened before and was pretty frustrating. The good thing is that the sucker action on quick-sets was so good all fall.
Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.
Heavy snow and cold weather quickly shut down open-water fishing in the northwoods. The 2014 season was not a bad one, but a bit abbreviated since it started late with the spring game fish opener frozen out for the second straight year. The sudden end is not all that early, however, as traditionally many anglers ice-fished during the regular gun deer season. It looks to be a long ice-fishing season, so do not push the limits by taking chances on early ice. Lake Hayward officially froze over the night of Nov. 11. Many other smaller lakes froze over, as well. Anglers really need to use caution and be sure to take along flotation and ice picks.
Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.
There was some ice, 1 to 3 inches, on some areas of Lake Noquebay last week. A few guys were fishing the lake from Maple Beach Road. They were creeping out over 5 feet of water for walleyes. High Falls Flowage had a few guys working the shorelines around Chocolate Drop on 4 inches of ice. Be very aware of how much ice you have. Extreme caution is required.
Hook, Line and Sinker, (715) 854-2073.
MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/ LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA
While it has been plenty cold enough, with temps in the single digits and below, the wind has been the biggest reason that we don’t have more ice. Smaller lakes, certain bays that have been protected from wind, and portions of the Willow and Rainbow flowages had 2-plus inches (some small lakes had up to 5 inches), enough for walking on, but extreme caution is still advised.
Luckily for those of Arbor Vitae and south, we received just a dusting of new snow overnight. Farther north, snow accumulation will hamper ice building. Boat launches are almost all shut off as of now, limiting access for the final two weeks of the muskie season. Guide Russ Smith led an angler to another heavy 48-incher during the past couple of days out.
Things looked good for deer hunters and ice fishermen last weekend. The forecast is for mild temps in the low 30s, a bit more snow than most would like (14 to 24 inches in the woods), and 2 to 5 inches of solid ice.
Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.
J & J Sports, (715) 277-2616.
PRICE COUNTY AREA
With upwards of 12 inches of snow falling in early November, nearly all boat landings quickly became inaccessible, meaning that the open-water fishing season came to an abrupt end. A few small, shallow lakes developed a thin layer of ice cover last week, but the majority of lakes were still open, though with a bit of fringe ice around the shorelines. Most of the lakes in the Phillips area had at least 4 inches of ice as of Nov. 20. Guys have been out for a week and many of them are catching some walleyes. Most anglers are sneaking out close to shore for walleyes and northern pike. Grouse hunting has been decent, but deer numbers appear to be down. It’s kind of dismal looking for deer, really.
Bridge Bait & Tackle, Park Falls, (715) 762-4108.
Ross’s Sport Shop, Phillips, (715) 339-3625.
Just about all of the lakes had 2 to 4 inches of ice last week and anglers were getting out on most of the lakes. A walleye bite on Yellow Lake was just starting to get a little bit of attention last week.
Big Mike’s Outdoor Sports, (715) 349-2400.
Fur, Fin and Feathers Sports, (715) 349-8445.
UPPER PENINSULA REPORT
We have gotten snow. And more snow. The smaller lakes and Lake Gogebic’s bays had some ice on them about two weeks ago, followed by heavy snow. That equals poor first-ice conditions. Gogebic’s main body froze over Nov. 17 following heavy snow, so the lake surface was slushy when it froze. Once again, a poor recipe for a solid start to the winter season. Warning: First ice is dangerous. This report is only to advise anglers of conditions.
Deer-hunting season is here, but with very little activity. Hunters have been hampered by heavy snows. The only travel is by snowshoes and snowmobile. Even snowmobile travel is very difficult. We have received well over 60 inches of snow already, and it is still snowing hard.
Bear’s Nine Pines Resort, (906) 842-3361.