Well, its official, ice fishing looks like it’s here to stay for the rest of 2019. Most have put their open water gear away for the year, while others stare at it in the garage hoping spring comes early and not in July again.
Anglers were getting the itch and are out in full force this weekend on the ice with pretty good catches being reported. The number one question…how’s the ice thickness? Well first off, not all lakes are the same. Ice varies from lake to lake with open water in spots on some lakes, to up to 6 inches on others. Smaller, shallow lakes will have better ice than the larger, deep lakes. Anglers are getting out on bigger lakes in small bays isolated from the wind. Sunday brought us an inch or so of snow with a bit of drizzle mixed in. High temps this week look to be in the mid 30’s, this will make it a little sloppy on top of the ice. As always use caution with early ice, bring a spud and check the ice thickness frequently, bring a buddy along, rope, and ice picks. Ice can be good in one spot and thin only a few feet away, use the spud regularly to check the thickness!
Northern Pike: Good – These predators have been cruising the shallow weeds looking for food. Sucker minnows, chubs or shiners are all you need under a flag to get these toothy critters to bite.
Walleye: Good – Evening bite seems to be the best, followed by pre-dawn. Jigging and tip-ups are both producing fish. Jigging Raps, Slab Raps, Rippin Raps are all getting active fish to bite, as well as jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head for scent. Tip-ups are a great way to cover water and locate fish. Shiners, suckers and chubs are all working well. If you’re fishing the weeds, shiners and chubs seem to be working the best, where as if you’re targeting Walleye in rocky or gravel areas, suckers seem to be doing better. Also, if you’re fishing some of the clear lakes, a flourocarbon leader on a tip-up can really make a difference from getting a flag or not.
Crappie: Good – If you can find green weeds, 6-12 feet of water and safe ice, you should find some Crappie. Early mornings and evenings are best times. Small jigging spoons, Z-Vibers and #3 UL Rippin Raps have been putting fish on the ice, some good size fish too. With the warm weather, if you can scatter a couple tip-downs this can really increase your catch rate. A small treble with a fathead or rosie will do the trick. Stained water, a rosie red minnow can really make a big difference on catching Crappie.
Bluegill: Good – Gills have been showing up in the shallow weedy areas, 4-10 feet of water. Spikes or waxies are both producing tipped to a small tungsten or leadhead jig. If you want bigger fish try tipping a plastic, like a wedge or a nuggie, to your jig and add a spike for a little meat.
Perch: Good - A lot of fish, but a lot of smaller fish being reported. The few people I talked to targeting Perch said they had to do a lot of sorting. Larger baits will help you get the bigger fish. Use larger fatheads, plastics or a flutter spoon tipped with 2-3 waxies to help get the larger fish to hit.
Musky: ??? – Season is still open and there’s still time to get that pig. Some of the large, deep, clear lakes have partial open water, depending on wind direction and if you can get a boat in the launch or not. The other option is thru the ice with a tip-up and a Musky sucker. Just use your quickset rig and Musky bobber, the sucker won’t trip your flag then. And yes, we still do have Musky suckers left.
Gun deer season opens this Saturday. As of now we have tracking snow on the ground, 1-3 inches in most spots in the woods. A lot going on this time of year, with hunting and ice fishing coming early, so get out and enjoy it. First ice is some of the best ice fishing of the year, but can also be the most dangerous. Please use caution and be safe!