Two weeks of snow has clogged up entry points to local lakes and access and travel continues to be a problem, with drifts and slush hampering anglers.
ATVs are out, as are most vehicles, so foot travel and snowmobiles are the best options, although even some sledheads report getting stuck in deep snow. Best to access on foot or light snowmobile. Ice fishing is a game of effort and stamina at this time.
On the reservoir lakes north of Duluth, permanent ice houses are getting stuck in flooded areas and are inaccessible. Some resorts are even encouraging anglers to remove their permanent shelters. Bring along a shovel as you will need one, and pack on the lighter side. As far as fishing success goes, anglers that are putting forth the effort are being rewarded.
Lake Superior continues to host a good number of anglers. As always, be very careful. Last week, anglers reported a break-through on the North Shore. Luckily the angler was able to get himself back on top of the ice and walk away. Salmon, trout and herring are still being caught on Lake Superior off the Duluth shore, but time on the water is the biggest key to success. With the amount of angling pressure, even Lake Superior fish can slow down. Just like last week, smaller spoons, tubes, and hair jigs are taking salmon in the shallower water. And lakers are coming in deeper water. Chequamegon Bay and the Apostle Islands region continues to grow ice. The ice road from Bayfield to Madeline Island was still not ready for vehicle travel Feb. 15. Fishing near shore in waters of 10-30 feet is still turning a mixed bag of splake, browns, whitefish and the occasional coho. Anglers that are getting to deeper waters are finding some laker success.
The St. Louis River has been putting out a few nice panfish in the back bays on the Wisconsin side. Accessing these hard to get to spots can be rewarding. Best tactic is to utilize small rattling blade spoons tipped with a few spikes or wax worms. Keep a float and a minnow nearby though, just in case. As this bite continues to get better, be mindful of harvesting. Some of these crappies are of the best prime spawning size and there genetics are very important to the resource. The walleye bite continues to pick up as well. Best time for these roaming fish is sunup and sundown.
Inland lake fishing is seeing some nice catches of both predators and panfish. Again, putting in time will be the biggest key to success. Look toward the deeper drop-offs near vegetation. Soft bottom mud is home to a plethora of bug hatches (yes, even in the winter). These are prime feeding areas for panfish. As the daylight keeps getting longer, we will start to see more and more changes. We are getting closer to the end of the general fishing season, so if you haven’t had a chance to chase pike, bass or walleyes, now is the time.
Jarrid Houston of South Range is a fishing guide (houstonsguideservice.com) on Minnesota and Wisconsin inland waters, the St. Louis River and, in winter, on Lake Superior.