Southeast Wisconsin ice conditions improving, but caution is needed
Some cold temps in November found some people out ice fishing before gun-deer season was over, but then warm days and lots of rain put a halt to fishing on early hard water. If you are an ice angler, don’t fret, there is fishable ice out there now because of some cold nights. A person just has to use some caution and common sense.
Mike Smith, who owns Dick Smith’s Live Bait and Tackle in Delafield with his sister Becky, said they are keeping tabs on ice thickness so customers have up-to-date intel on ice conditions in the area.
“Most of the lakes around here have spots that can be fished with reasonable safety,” he said. “A person just has to not assume that an entire lake is safe to fish just because one spot is safe.”
Smith said that the east end of Pewaukee Lake has up to 8inches of good ice, but out in front of Mugshotz Bar on the southwest end of the lake there is still open water.
“The problem occurs when a spot like that has a cold night and it ices over in one evening,” he said. “If a person doesn’t know it, they could be in trouble, especially if a thin ice spot like that happens and the snow gets on top it. Right now, we’re lucky in that we don’t have snow on the ice, so new ice is being created each night.”
Speaking of Pewaukee Lake, Smith said he caught a 23-inch walleye out there last week and the fishing has been good.
“All that walleye stocking is looking to be paying off,” he said. “We’re getting pretty good reports with some people catching 10 a night. Now those fish are not all keepers with the 18-inch size limit, but they’re getting a few keeper fish, too. A lot of people practice catch-and-release around here anyway.”
Smith said a few walleyes were also being caught on Upper Nemahbin Lake.
Current ice thickness on a few poplar area lakes are as follows: Beaver, Lac La Belle, and the Genesee lakes were around 6 inches while Silver, Moose, Pike, Okauchee, and Lower Nemahbin were around 5 inches.
“I was out on ‘The Kettle’ on Nagawicka this last weekend and there was a solid 6 inches of ice,” he said. “Even the inlet on the way in to The Kettle was pretty solid. Again, just be careful and try to fish spots that look to have had traffic before.”
Smith said that he caught a really nice 12-inch crappie in The Kettle that was in 30 feet of water, but suspended about 15 feet below the ice.
“The bluegills, keeper-sized ones anyway, were on the bottom in 32 feet of water,” he said. “We did pretty well on them. I’m hearing the same from Beaver and Silver, that the bigger bluegills are out in deeper water. The crappie bite is pretty tough right now.”
Smith said that even though we are now getting good, fishable ice thickness, we are later in the season than normal for “early” ice fishing period. So, people should consider the fishing patterns of later ice than early. While bigger panfish are deep, there are game fish like northern pike and walleyes that will be on deeper edges during the day, but around shallow weeds at night.
“Northerns have been pretty active on the Genesee lakes, Fowler, Pretty, and Okauchee,” he said. “A medium to large shiner has been working well.”