Report from the Dock
There was a definite uptick in ice fishing action across the northern part of the state. It got cold enough on two recent nights to button up some of the open water in the northern tier of counties. Yes, there’s still pockets of open water on many large, deep lakes, but anglers have started walking out with some level of comfort in some locations. Look to those small, shallow lakes – many of those traditional first ice spots – to be ready for foot travel soon. As always, check the ice as you go and know the lake you’re venturing onto at this time of year. It is still early and ice conditions can change a lot for the good and bad at this point. Call ahead, use the phone numbers provided in this report for up-to-the-minute ice conditions, and use caution as you head out this time of year.
With the sunshine and – as of Dec. 2 – no snow, the area is for sure in between fishing seasons. However, it’s been reported that there are brown trout closer to shore, so casting from shore could be a possibility right now. The fish are biting there. It has been cold at night, so ice is starting to form. Some of the smaller inland lakes are sheeted with ice, but the desired thickness has yet to arrive. The good news is it won’t be long now.
Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.
River Rock, (715) 682-3232.
CHIPPEWA COUNTY AREA
There was very little “walkable” ice as of Dec. 3, but the Miller Dam Flowage’s Beaver Creek area – usually one of the first areas to sheet over – has some ice, as do backwaters on other flowages. Lake Wissota was ice-ccovered Dec. 2, but it was just enough ice to hold up a goose. That was about it. Otter Lake was also ice-covered at that time. The area had 7 degrees for a low on Dec. 2, so lakes are making ice despite daytime highs that have been running above freezing – odd for December. In the Cornell area, Brunet Island State Park backwaters on the Chippewa River had frozen over and there were a few guys fishing out there. A crazy number of deer shot with bow and crossbow during the early season, including some whopper bucks, but the gun season was about average.
Oemig’s Sports Shop, Stanley, (715) 644-5242.
There were still people fishing from boats or from shore last weekend, but that has likely come to an end. Anglers have started walking on a few small lakes or bays early last week, but ice depths vary. For the most part, people are checking ice depths and there might be some ice fishing options by this weekend. Muzzleloader hunters are offering mixed reports
Indianhead Sport Shop, (715) 822-2164
DOOR PENINSULA AND ALGOMA/KEWAUNEE AREA
Perch fishing by boat is paying off when anglers can get out there. The perch fishing from shore has been super and that will continue to stay good right up until good ice comes on. Little Sturgeon, Riley’s Bay, and Sawyer Harbor are all really good spots right now. Fishing in less than 12 feet of water has been good when using fathead minnows for bait. The walleye fishing is also on fire if and when anglers can get out there due to the fall winds. The night bite is really where it is at in the fall as those fishing are putting on the feedbag. Trolling shoreline drop-offs with crankbaits like Rogues, Husky Jerks, and Bandits has been working. There is also a bit of a daytime jig/casting bite going on, too, just not as good as the night bite. Sherwood Point, Henderson’s Point, and Larsen’s Reef all are good spots right now.
Pike fishing has been really good for the few fishermen who have been chasing them. Try suckers, large crankbaits, large plastics, and spoons. Bass fishing is going well with 25 to 40 feet being the magic depth, but we do highly recommend when fishing those depths to use extreme caution when bringing those fish up.
Howie’s Tackle, (920) 746-9916.
Algoma Chamber of Commerce, (920) 487-3090.
EAGLE RIVER AREA
Area fishermen are reporting 3 to 5 inches of ice on most of the smaller lakes that don’t have current and are protected a bit from the wind. Most of those who are getting out are setting tip-ups with live bait for walleyes and northern pike – and doing so with some success. The good news is that so far there has been no snow to hinder the formation of good, solid ice. Call in for updates on the fishing scene.
Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.
FLORENCE COUNTY AREA
Some decent ice is starting to set up throughout the county, with a good 3 to 4 inches leading the way on most small lakes and bays of larger lakes. Of course, anglers should use caution when frogging about, but with single-digit overnight lows, there should be plenty of choices for fishing destinations available soon.
Whisler Outdoors, Florence, (715) 528-4411.
GREEN BAY/APPLETON AREA
The walleye and muskie fishing on the Fox River is still going strong. During the day try jigging below the dam or trolling the Hwy. 172 flats for walleyes. That’s been working well. At night try fishing below the dam and at the metro warm-water discharge for some nice fish. The most popular nighttime lure has been the P-10 by Smithwick. Muskies are being caught by trollers in front of Fort Howard near the warm-water discharge where crankbaits are working the best.
Smokey’s on the Bay Bait, Tackle and Guide Service, (920) 436-0600.
Anglers are reporting 3 to 4 inches of ice on a few small lakes and bays and they’ve started fishing on a few of these small, shallow areas. With the exception of some shoreline ice, the big lakes such as Lac Courte Oreilles, Round, and Grindstone were wide open early last week. Walleyes are on humps and ledges and early ice is a good time to jig spoons such as Lindy glow spoons and Tinglers tipped with fatheads. Using tip-ups rigged with small shiners and suckers will allow you time to jig for panfish. If open water is available, walleyes are in a wide range of depths, with some inside 12 feet and some in 30 to 40 feet. The open water smallmouth bass bite remains good, with anglers catching fish shallow, in 9 to 12 feet, and often around river channel mouths. Suckers on jigs are the favorite bait and presentation. The front end of the muzzleloader season has been somewhat slow, although hunters are still seeing some rutting activity.
Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.
IRON COUNTY AREA
There is skim ice on most lakes, but there was still open water in some areas, as well, as of Dec. 3. With cold overnight lows, decent ice should be setting up soon – perhaps even by this weekend. The overall gun hunting season seemed quite slow for folks in the Mercer area – not many shots were heard and deer movement seemed minimal for most camps that reported on the Deer Hunters Round-Up. Warm weather continues through this weekend, not making a lot of ice, so be careful with fishing ventures.
Flambeau Flowage Sports, (715) 476-2526.
LAKE MICHIGAN/METRO AREA LAKES
Some of the smaller inland lakes have ice, but not “walkable” ice. There are a number of anglers who were still fishing open water on Pewaukee, Okauchee and Oconomowoc lakes for muskies as of Dec. 3. Guys were also catching walleyes and white bass on the Rock River and brown trout from the breakwalls in Port Washington and Milwaukee. Most trout anglers were using spoons and jointed crankbaits.
DNR hotline, (414) 382-7920.
Dick Smith’s Bait, (262) 646 2218.
There was no ice yet on most of the Madison area waters as of Nov. 3, but Cherokee Marsh had started skimming over at that point. The area needs more cold overnight lows to get some ice forming. The muskie fishermen are stilling working at it on open water, but reports of success have been light.
D&S Bait and Tackle, (608) 244-3474.
Dorn Hardware, (608) 274-2511 ext. 2.
There is some ice accumulating on smaller inland lakes and backwater areas of the Menominee River, but otherwise there was still open water yet as of Dec. 3. Fishing has been really quiet around here. Everyone is just waiting for ice.
MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA
Following days of temperatures in the 40s with plenty of wind, on a few nights last week things laid down enough for many area lakes to skim over. A few bays and shallow lakes had 1 to 3 inches of ices as of Dec. 1. That ice should thicken based on night, early morning and late afternoon temps that look to be running high teens to upper 20s, with the periods of above-freezing temperatures lasting not more than four to six hours each day. That may be enough to melt snow cover on older ice and let a more solid freeze continue. The dry conditions in the forecast should also help. While not advocating everyone rush out and jump on the ice, a few anglers have had good success on walleyes, northern pike and yellow Perch where conditions have permitted some ice travel. Be very careful, spud your way out and carry rope, flotation, and spikes if traveling on ice.
Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.
J and J Sports, (715) 277-2616.
PRICE COUNTY AREA
Most lakes in the Price County area had about 4 inches of ice last week and a lot of anglers are now setting tip-ups along shorelines for walleyes and pike. Guys have also started moving out over deeper water in search of crappies, but that could be a little sketchy until the ice gets a little thicker. Cold overnight lows have been building ice even though daytime highs push into above-freezing temperatures. Price County was way down for gun deer registration from even the very weak 2019 numbers. Gun deer hunter numbers seemed light. During the week between opening weekend and final weekend (Thanksgiving week) the shop saw more fishing traffic than hunting traffic. On a different note, Price County was overrun with ruffed grouse hunters in October and early November. Grouse guides traveled to neighboring counties to find birds and hunter-free areas.
Ross’s Sport Shop, Phillips, (715) 339-3625.