Northern Wisconsin Fishing Report – December 11th, 2015
There’s too much ice to get a boat in and not enough to walk on throughout most lakes. Depending on the weather, some of the area’s small lakes and bays could be safe enough for foot travel this weekend, but caution is advised throughout the area.
Lucky Baits (715) 268-6231
On the Ashland side of Chequamegon Bay fishing has been pretty good again for those who did venture out, with walleyes, brown trout, and coho salmon still being caught in the bay. There have been reports of some splake and steelhead showing up in the Sioux and Onion rivers. Trout and salmon can also be found in that same vicinity.
Smallmouth bass are moving into their wintering areas around Ashland and are schooling up. The bass seem to be hanging out on the west end of the bay now by the rock pile or near the ore dock. The most significant catches of smallmouths have been off the marina and throughout that area. In addition, there has been decent walleye activity along the Ashland shoreline with folks jigging, dragging crankbaits, mostly Rapalas, for those and using suckers.
As for the inland lakes, folks are enjoying the crappie fishing. There has been some skim ice forming on the inland lakes and close to shore in Chequamegon Bay, but the big freeze is yet to come.
Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.
River Rock, (715) 682-3232.
It hasn’t been cold enough for walkable ice to take hold. As of last week, most of the big lakes still remained wide open and only a little bit of skim ice had set up on the small lakes in the area. It is going to take some colder weather to bring on better ice conditions. The good news is that these lakes are ready to go.
Indianhead Sport Shop, (715) 822-2164
EAGLE RIVER AREA
Some very cold nights have frozen up many of our small and mid-sized lakes. It won’t be long before guys are out there testing the ice thickness. As usual, we caution people to monitor that thickness as they go out for the first time. It would be nice to get some more cold weather before we get a load of snow, but that has been an iffy proposition for the last three years.
There is still some open water on the large lakes, but we get the feeling that this won’t last long. There were a few muskie nuts still trying for that big trophy the last couple of days of November and a very few walleye guys are still trying for that last gasp of luck. That’ll end quickly, and all boats will be put away for the winter.
Ice fishing starts with a few guys trying the ice on some shallow lakes like Thunder every year. This has already happened and reports are about 3 inches of ice out there. You really have to spud your way out everywhere. The main attraction of the early ice is walleye fishing in the evening, but some guys also try for perch as well as walleyes at this time.
For walleyes, setting up tip-ups in the evenings to intercept walleyes as they move into the shallows from deeper water is the main effort of most anglers. With this thin ice, it’s important to remain quiet and on the shore while waiting for hits. Shiners are usually the bait of choice for most anglers, because they also work for northerns during daylight hours. Try to set off the weeds, but still somewhat shallow for northerns and walleyes.
For panfish, most anglers remain shallower over the weeds, which allows you to also set some tip-ups for northerns. Perch are going to hit on waxies and spikes right from the start in those weeds. It seems to be a little harder to find bluegills at the very start of the year, but they will start hitting soon. Waxies work well for them in those weeds. Crappies will stay in deeper water for the winter, and most anglers are sensible enough to wait for thicker ice before they venture out to those deep spots. It’s simply too early for that, and we’ve got a long winter for them.
Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.
Some small lakes and bays have up to 4 inches of ice and a few people have walked out, but fishing reports have been limited. With the warm weather, most big lakes remained ice-free and those areas already capped need to be approached with caution. Muskie action was inconsistent right up to the Nov. 30 closing date. Walleye fishing has been erratic, but is improving. Look for fish in deeper water, holding near bottom along breaklines, weed edges, and humps. For the best success, use suckers and fatheads on jigs, slip bobbers, and plain hooks. Northern pike are active around weeds and weedlines in depths to 12 feet. Suckers, spinnerbaits, spoons, and artificials producing flash and noise will all get their attention. Few, if any anglers, are concentrating on largemouths at this time; however, if you feel the urge to try one more time for largemouths before freeze-up, anglers fishing walleyes were catching a few in the weeds with live bait. Crappie fishing remains reasonably good, with fish continuing to suspend over deeper water. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, waxies, small plastics, and Gulp! baits. There is still a good bluegill bite when you can locate them – fish mid-depth (6 to 16 feet) weedlines and rock piles with waxies, leaf worms, small plastics, and Gulp! baits. Small minnows are nearly always a good bet for large bluegills.
Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.
MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/ LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA
Most of the locals are hunting deer with bow or muzzleloader right now, but a few diehards started venturing out for fish.
Crappies: Good action. Crappies get the nod over walleyes right now, as good numbers and big fish (14-plus inches) have been reported along deep gravel and mud transition areas and drowned wood.
Walleyes: Fair to good. A few anglers are picking up deep-water fish. A return to the shallows is starting to show up as the lakes started to ice up.
Temps in the low single digits last week closed up the pond behind the shop and added ice to some bays and small lakes. Lows in the 20s with highs in the low 30s won’t lose ice, but won’t build much ice very quickly. A were a few options for ice fishing last week and we’re hoping for more soon.
Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.
J and J Sports, (715) 277-2616.
PRICE COUNTY AREA
Most lakes across the northwoods became ice covered in the last week, BUT ice thickness is real variable and only in the 1- to 3-inch range. In addition, much of the area received an inch or two of heavy wet snow just after the ice formed – the ice has been slow to firm up with the mild temperatures of late. As such, ice conditions are extremely variable and generally unsafe for any kind of ice travel. Most ice anglers wait for a solid 4 inches of ice before venturing out on foot, and with the current warm spell it may take a while yet to reach that thickness.
And with that said, there have been the first sightings of early season ice fishermen venturing out and these anglers seemed to be staying in shallow water and close to shore where the ice thickness was in the 2- to 3-inch range. This early season fishing is often quite erratic, and the first reports indicate minimal success with just a few eater size walleyes being caught.
Bridge Bait and Tackle, Park Falls, (715) 762-4108.
Ross’s Sport Shop, Phillips, (715) 339-3625.
You’ll find open water on some lakes and up to 5 inches of ice on others. Although some anglers have started to venture on the ice, you need to check it before heading out since ice depths vary and it hasn’t been that cold.
AAA Sports Shop, (715) 635-3011.