Report from the Dock
While recent warm daytime temperatures were a welcomed change, the sun and spring-like mercury readings really did a number on the shorelines and accesses throughout central and southern Wisconsin. Anglers were driving trucks on some lakes recently in these areas, but after the warm weather, walking out or using ATVs quickly became the only travel options. Although the ice firmed up a bit again since then, and main lake ice remains solid, don’t plan on driving a truck on most lakes across the southern half of the state any longer. To the north, the snow finally melted enough to allow better access opportunities for trucks and ATVs – lake and access conditions have actually improved on most fisheries throughout the northern part of the state. While the number of people venturing out continues to drop as we head toward the end of the ice-fishing season, panfish and crappie reports aren’t bad and there was a definite slide into shallower water since last week. Anglers are now finding panfish suspended just below the ice, and even over shallow water.
Hit the 8- to 15-foot weeds on Bear Trap Lake and Balsam Lake for bluegills. Big Round Lake and Deer Lake are producing crappies and bluegills in 8 to 15 feet. You’ll also find suspended crappies over 15 to 20 feet on Upper Turtle and 22 to 32 feet on Moon lakes. ATVs are now the best travel options due to deteriorating access areas.
Country Store, (715) 268-7482.
Most anglers have stopped going to the Apostle Islands now due to deteriorating ice. At this point some anglers are still going out, but the shorelines are starting to soften up. Be especially careful as the pressure cracks are starting to open up. Always bring an ice bar, ice cleats and flotation. The ice off of Second Landing has produced some nice catches of perch, walleyes, northerns, whitefish and trout. There are anglers fishing the Sioux and the Onion and walking out, but check your way at all times. Permanent shacks must be off the ice by March 15.
Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.
River Rock, (715) 682-3232.
Crappies and sunfish are suspended on Staples Lake over 13 feet, while bluegills are being caught from the 8-foot weeds on Bear Lake. Most accesses remain intact and truck use is still an option throughout the area.
Indianhead Sport Shop, (715) 822-2164.
DOOR PENINSULA AND ALGOMA/KEWAUNEE AREA
With a bit of a warming trend going on the ice is starting to dwindle. With that said, there is still ice to fish on and there are fish being caught, but fishermen do have to use caution. Whitefish fishing continues to rock and roll, as it has all winter. Along with whitefish numbers, the size has been exceptional. There are many areas to fish, but a few include Sherwood Point, Larsen’s Reef, Riley’s Point, Henderson’s Point and the Sugar Creek area. Use jigs and plastics, spoons and hard-bodied jigging lures tipped with waxies, spikes, minnow pieces and plastics.
Perch closes March 15. Overall, the perch fishing was exceptional once again and that may continue with the high water levels that seem to have really helped the spawning. We are seeing good numbers of all year classes now, including some 2-pounders. Pike fishing has also been good and will continue to be good as the leaves and open water arrives. Pike numbers also seem to be on the rise, probably due to high water that seems to help the spawn. Areas that have been good include downtown Sturgeon Bay, including the flats and Potawatomi State Park shoreline, Sawyer Harbor, Riley’s Bay and Little Sturgeon. Best baits have been suckers under tip-ups.
The walleye fishing is heating up as it usually does this time of year as those fish stage for their spawn. Areas to fish include Henderson’s Point, Riley’s Bay, Sherwood Point and the Sawyer Harbor area. Oddball jigs, Rapala jigs and Shiver minnows tipped with minnows area always a good bet.
There are some folks starting to troll the lake side of the peninsula now with relatively mild temperatures and the launches opening up. Look for warm water pockets and dirty-to-clean water transitions and troll or cast those areas with spoons and crankbaits and or rip-style baits.
The rivers are also starting to blow open and another good steelhead run should be starting very soon. Drifting spawn sacs and casting spinners are the most effective ways to catch the spring-run steelies
Howie’s Tackle, (920) 746-9916.
Algoma Chamber of Commerce, (920) 487-3090.
EAGLE RIVER AREA
Ice conditions remain good and fishermen have been moving around easily in search of crappies, bluegills and perch. The crappies are leading the way, but perch will soon be easier to find as them move towards the shallows from deeper water.
Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.
GREEN BAY/APPLETON AREA
The Fox River is open. Lots of walleyes are being caught by the dam in De Pere, launching out of Fox Point and Brown County fairgrounds. There are a lot of boats. It takes on average an hour to launch and retrieve your boat. We have lots of fishermen launching at metro landing. It is only a 40-minute boat ride to the dam; troll or jig on the way down. Jigs, minnows and soft plastics are working great. The mouth of the Fox River has had a big bite on golden shiners for walleyes and nice pike. Ice conditions are getting sketchy on the bay with the warmer air temperatures; use cautions while venturing out.
Smokey’s on the Bay Bait, Tackle and Guide Service, (920) 436-0600.
There has been a lot of sunshine, but expect some flurries – and getting out just before or after these fronts can pay dividends for putting fish on the ice. Panfish fishing is open and going strong. As we near the early spring transition, you might notice subtle differences in fishing depths and presentations. From now until ice-out, oxygen levels can be quite low and fish suspend higher or move shallower to find oxygen. Crappies are in basins and 30-foot holes, but might also be on transition points such as bay edges. Minnows work well, but might not last due to low oxygen. Lead, tungsten, hair, and marabou jigs, and small spoons such as Kastmasters are all good choices. Bigger crappies tend to suspend higher, so you do not need to fish on the bottom. Bluegills, on the other hand, still hold close to bottom, though you might find fish in 15 to 20 feet. If you can find them, work weed edges next to sandy bottoms or muck flats. Silver Demon, Chicken Jigs, and Kender K-Rip jigs tipped with waxies and spikes are good options. Perch are full of eggs, waiting for ice-out so they can spawn, and should start moving shallower. Working the bottom to disturb sediment can get some on the ice.
Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.
IRON COUNTY AREA
The ice conditions have changed quickly with the warm weather. Many lakes have significant standing water on them, which makes navigation tough. A few customers did really well on crappies, catching their limit two days in a row using small jigs and minnows/grubs. The crappies were suspended slightly off bottom and over weeds and brush in 18 to 25 feet of water. The forecast is for above normal daytime temps for the next two weeks so be vigilant inspecting ice conditions as we go into the spring conditions.
Flambeau Flowage Sports, (715) 476-2526.
LAKE WINNEBAGO AREA
Things were right in between times as of March 11. There was still some ice left on Lake Poygan and guys were walking out for a few white bass and walleyes. At the same time, there were a few guys in boats on the river where they were trying to catch some early-moving walleyes. Things will soon move more toward river walleyes than ice white bass. Hopefully.
Critter’s, (920) 582-0471.
Fox River Bait, (920) 233-7409.
Dutch’s, (920) 922-0311.
Guys are heading to the Wisconsin, Mississippi and Rock rivers for walleyes, but those sticking closer to the Madison chain were still fishing panfish on Cherokee Marsh and lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa and Kegonsa. Lake Mendota perch were hitting, but they were not attracting a crowd. The best action was on the west side of lake over 60 to 65 feet, but those fish will be moving shallower soon. The Lake Monona bluegill bit in the Triangles was not as good as it had been, but there are still times when the fish cooperate. It’s still a good area to fish.
D&S Bait and Tackle, (608) 244-3474.
Dorn Hardware, (608) 244-5403.
MARATHON COUNTY AREA
Spring is right around the corner. Reports are coming in of walleyes below the Dubay dam. Yes, walleyes already. Warmer than usual temperatures have helped spur the walleye run, with small males taking over the show right now, but warm weather is in the forecast with chances of rain. Fatheads on leadhead jigs and floaters are doing the job. The fishing calendar for March shows kind of a sluggish start through March 12, with increasingly better fishing March 13 through March 20 and excellent fishing to round out the month. As ice conditions melt and spring runoff increases, use caution as waterways can flood easily this time of year.
Riverside Rentals & Bait Shop, (715) 574-1771.
MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA
Nice, warm weather with plenty of ice to go around greeted anglers over recent days. Unfortunately, so did some stiff wind! Following a very good weekend prior, fishing slowed during mid-week but picked up somewhat by the weekend. While crappies are usually the favorite target in March, it was perch that seemed to provide the most consistent action.
Yellow perch: Poor to good. After a slow mid-week, action over the mud picked up for those in 16 to 24 feet using wigglers or red spikes on Kastmasters, Halis or Pimples. Tip-downs with rosies also popped some nice perch.
Crappies: Poor to good. Following a frustratingly terrible mid-week, anglers started finding active fish very early (dawn) and again just an hour or so before and after sundown. Try K-rips, No. 2 Jigging Raps and No. 2 Swedish Pimples for crappies in 17 to 28 feet. Anglers finding crappies in weeds of 10 to 14 feet used Lethal Cecils or No. 8 Rockers to present pink, white or silver plastics or waxies.
Bluegills: Poor to good. Action improved for anglers using waxies, mousies or beaver tails on Kenders, jig flies and No. 3 Fiskas. Wind made slow dropping tough so while plastics normally do well, the live bait outperformed due to conditions.
The warm temps and wind have taken the snow cover off the lakes, holes are staying open and there were signs of water running down holes. Access is still good with 21 to 24 inches of ice. There has been truck travel but no one advises it.
Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.
J and J Sports, (715) 277-2616.
PRICE COUNTY AREA
Lakes are still in very decent shape as far as ice travel goes. Some guys are still using trucks when they shouldn’t be, but otherwise access has been good for foot and ATV travel. Anglers should be careful in current areas, but otherwise things were in decent shape as of March 11. Crappies were the most active of the three main panfish species and were being found on all area lakes, but bluegills and perch action started picking up last week.
Ross’s Sport Shop, Phillips, (715) 339-3625.