Report from the Dock
Anglers continue to battle through deep snow and slush across lakes in many parts of northern Wisconsin, but conditions have generally improved some since last week. The relatively mild weather seemed to have brought more anglers out. People were fishing, even in those areas where getting off a main trail or road is still an issue. You still can’t go just anywhere on lakes in the northern part of the state, but more anglers are venturing out by plowing roads, using snowmobiles or tracked ATVs, or simply walking to areas they want to fish. Throughout the central and southern parts of the state, lake and ice conditions have improved somewhat, but ice travel should still be approached with caution. Crappie and bluegill reports have been the most consistent, but that seems to be what the majority of anglers are targeting. Walleye action is limited to low-light periods and most good bites involve tip-ups and minnows rather than jigging spoons. The first cisco and whitefish bites of the season have been reported on the lakes that harbor those species.
Bluegills are hitting during the day in 12 to 15 feet on Balsam Lake, Lake Wapogasset, and Big Round Lake. Northern pike are hitting suckers on the 8- to 15-foot weeds of White Ash, East Balsam, and Big Round lakes. Look for suspended crappies during the evening over 14 to 20 feet on Big Round, Bear Trap, and Staples lakes.
Country Store, (715) 268-7482.
Reports from the Ashland side of the bay say there is more than a foot of ice. Anglers are using ATVs and snowmobiles, or are walking out. The ice off of Second Landing has produced some nice catches of perch, walleyes, northerns, whitefish and trout. The water clarity is pretty good right now. The Ashland side of the bay is great to bring the kids where they can just walk out. Shoreline fishing is good right now and lots of perch are being caught. The Washburn side of the bay has 10-12 inches of ice, however, there are more pressure cracks to deal with. Brown trout, whitefish and splake are being caught on the Washburn side. There are anglers fishing the Bayfield, Onion River, and Red Cliff area but bring an ice bar and check your way.
Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.
River Rock, (715) 682-3232.
Panfish and crappies are being caught on Upper Turtle Lake and Big Round Lake in 10 to 12 feet or Bear Lake in 6 to 8 feet. Tip-ups and suckers are producing pike in the weeds of most lakes. There are pockets of slush, but trucks are being used on most lakes.
Indianhead Sport Shop, (715) 822-2164
DOOR PENINSULA AND ALGOMA/KEWAUNEE AREA
Ice conditions really vary throughout the county. Fishermen should do some homework before heading out. Ice thickness ranges from 4 to 11 inches and even less around certain shove lines and deeper water areas. The near-shore whitefish action has been very good, especially for folks who stay away from the high traffic areas and away from the larger groups of fishermen. The best depths have been ranging from as shallow as 8 feet out to the 50-foot range, but still relatively near to shore. Try jigs tipped with minnow pieces, wax worms, spikes, and/or soft plastics. Perch fishing has been good – again better if staying away from other fishermen. Most of the perch fishing is being done in the shallow bays like Little Sturgeon, Riley’s Bay, and Sawyer Harbor where the ice is the most safe. The walleye fishing has actually been going pretty good, with reports coming from the southern bay down around the Bayshore Park area up to Henderson’s Point, the Riley’s Bay area, and around Sherwood Point. Pike fishing has been very good throughout the county. Try downtown Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer Harbor, Riley’s Bay, and the Little Sturgeon area.
Howie’s Tackle, (920) 746-9916.
Algoma Chamber of Commerce, (920) 487-3090.
EAGLE RIVER AREA
Once again, relentless snow has made ice travel more difficult. What a winter this year! Depth on the ice varies from a few inches in current areas on the Eagle River Chain to a good solid 10 to 12 inches on a few lakes. You just can’t trust it, though. Already a number of vehicles have gone through the ice. We can say that most, but not all, lakes are safe for ATVs and snowmobiles.
Walleye fishing remains good for this time of year. The evening bite has been good all year. Reports are that action in general starts a few hours before dark and goes into the night. Tip-ups baited with shiners or suckers remains the best tactic. There has been some of that deep water jigging success on the big lakes, also. This is the time of year to give that a try with jigs tipped with minnow heads. Water depth can vary from 20 to 35 feet in the vicinity of deep rock bars.
Northern pike fishing remains good on all lakes. Tip-ups set in weed areas with larger shiners is the best tactic. Look for green weeds if you can find them, as these weeds will also hold a good number of panfish. And, panfish action has been good, with perch leading the way. There has been a good perch bite on Scattering Rice and Eagle lakes on the chain.
Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.
FLORENCE COUNTY AREA
Ice fishing, in terms of action and participation, has been steadily picking up even after the heavy, wet snow that received last week. It has created slush and hindered vehicle travel again in some areas, but fishermen are still determined to get out and enjoy themselves. Crappie action has been slow. Jigs tipped with rosy reds have been producing the best bite. Perch action has been lagging, as well. Anglers having the best luck were jigging with wigglers. Fishermen are reporting decent northern pike catches using suckers under tip-ups. Only small bluegills are being reported and a few walleyes are showing up here and there.
Whisler Outdoors, (715)528-4411.
GREEN BAY/APPLETON AREA
Ice fishing on the lower bay has picked up in the last week. Perch, pike and some walleyes are being caught on the west shore from Green Bay to Oconto. Whitefish and walleyes are doing very good on the east shore from Joliet Park up to Door County.
Smokey’s on the Bay Bait, Tackle and Guide Service, (920) 436-0600.
With more snow last week and warmer temperatures, slush is again accumulating on the ice, but only a few inches. The trend seems to be that most fish are pushing toward deeper structure and vegetation, though depths on where these fish locate changes from lake to lake. Anglers also report fish are becoming finicky and it is a light bite. Walleyes have become less active during the day and are hitting better at night. Downsizing minnows and lures can sometimes trigger finicky walleyes. Northern pike anglers are still catching fish on large shiners and suckers under tip-ups. Some anglers are using panfish jig poles and gear to catch smaller pike that are the perfect size for pickling. Crappies and bluegills are getting a bit picky, as well. Perhaps the best option is fishing an area of a lake that does not get much pressure – or finding a lake receiving low angling pressure. Work baits 2 to 3 feet off the bottom during the day, but in mornings and evenings, when fish suspend higher, raise the baits a bit.
Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.
IRON COUNTY AREA
The ice appears to be safe in most areas; however, the slush is real and the snow is relentless and slowing the bite (minimal light penetration and few sunny days). The fishing reports in the area includes crappies being caught on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in 15 to 18 feet of water on small fatheads while jig fishing. The walleye bite is most effective right at dark on tip-ups using large fatheads or shiners when setting up along sand or rock bars in 4 to 8 feet of water. Local snowmobile clubs have marked lake trails; however, they insist riders stay on marked trails, for safety and as a reminder that private property supports these trails.
Flambeau Flowage Sports, (715) 476-2526.
LAKE MICHIGAN/METRO AREA LAKES
Recent colder evening temperatures have improved ice conditions on the area lakes. Most of the smaller lakes and bays have between 6 to 8 inches of ice. The deeper basins on Nagawicka, Oconomomoc, Pine, Okauchee, Mendota, and Delavan have 2 to 5 inches. The slush on the top of the ice has hardened in most places, making for easier foot travel. Maybe consider a good set of creepers for foot travel. Bluegill action is best around green weeds in 5 to 14 feet of water. There are some lakes where the bluegills were found in 20 to 30 feet of water. A flasher is needed to catch these fish, as often they suspend off the bottom. Crappies are most active during early morning hours or just before dusk. Look for them suspended above weeds or wood in 8 to 15 feet of water or suspended over 20 to 30 feet, often just a few feet below the ice. Walleye fishing was best when fishing shallow during dark hours and deeper during daylight hours.
DNR hotline, (414) 382-7920.
Smokey’s Bait Shop, (262) 691-0360.
Dick Smith’s Bait, (262) 646 2218.
LAKE WINNEBAGO AREA
Ice conditions are still about the same on Lake Winnebago. The only places where fishermen are getting out are on the bays and channels. Lake Winnebago is now mostly ice covered, but the ice was still too thin as of Jan. 30 for even foot traffic. Call ahead for ice reports. The upriver lakes do have ice and have been supporting some decent fishing action for pike, walleyes and panfish.
Critter’s, (920) 582-0471.
Fox River Bait, (920) 233-7409.
Dutch’s, (920) 922-0311.
There is now ice coverage on all of the area lakes, with some good perch catches being made on the west side of Lake Mendota. Some legal walleyes and bigger pike have also come out of Mendota. There has been an improved bluegill bites on Lake Monona and Mud Lake. Mud Lake has also produced some crappies and pike. Lake Waubesa’s deeper water has produced some crappies. There is some slush on the lakes now because of a recent heavy, wet snow.
D&S Bait and Tackle, (608) 244-3474.
Dorn Hardware, (608) 244-5403.
MARATHON COUNTY AREA
Reports throughout the county have been good. Small lakes like Mayflower, Pike and Norrie have been yielding nice catches of bluegills on jigs of bright colors tipped with a waxie or spike. Crappies are hitting on small minnows in a little deeper water – as are ”just” undersized walleyes of 143⁄4 inches. Nice northerns are more than common on Lake Wausau with large goldens being the bait of choice.
Hook, Line and Sinker, (715) 854-2073.
MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA
Two and a half days of continuous, light, warm snow (yes, it was) have added a new layer of messy slush to the lakes, making travel not so fun! With some lakes experiencing 4 to 8 inches or more of water to the ice surface, slush is causing issues for snowmobiles, ATVs and UTVs. It looks like any hope of enough good ice for truck travel will be out of the question this year.
Northern pike: Good to very good with nice fish up to 34 inches caught recently on big shiners or suckers.
Walleyes: Good to very good, but not everywhere nor all the time. When the window opens up, there have been good reports of anglers icing lots of walleyes to 28 inches using suckers on tip-ups on the top of ledges.
Bites lasting only 45 minutes to an hour; by most accounts from 4:30-5:30 p.m. the flags are flying. One group reporting fish in as little as 7 feet using Slender Spoons and minnow heads.
Crappies: Good to very good, but like the walleye bite it is very time and location oriented. Tip-downs with minnows have worked best as warm temps seemed to “heat up” the bite.
We need very warm (mid 40s plus) or very cold (-20 or below) and neither is on the horizon. Be prepared to walk to most areas, though lighter snowmobiles and tracked ATVs/UTVs are still getting around. It was definitely worse in February last year, but not nearly as nice as conditions just last week.
Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.
J and J Sports, (715) 277-2616.