Jan 10, 2015

Scouting Report

Northern Wisconsin

Mercer Area/Turtle Flambeau Flowage

There are hundreds of lakes ranging in size and varying in fish variety in the Mercer area. Small lakes with great panfishing that can only be accessed by snowshoes on state forest land as well as the largest body of water, a main draw to our area, the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.

I spend my ice guiding on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.   These lakes are accessible by one of the many public boat landings. Travel on the flowage is dependent on the amount of snowfall. Last year, travel was difficult with a deep snow on the ice and was restricted to mainly snowmobiles. Despite the deep snow and cold weather we did pretty well on walleyes. I had my heated shanty on an area in 6-8 feet of water on a large stump flat, we used Beaver Dam tip ups with golden shiners and walleye suckers to consistently catch walleyes, some pike and an occasional big perch. Often the last hour of daylight is when the fish are most active.

There is also some good crappie fishing on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. They are found in the original lake basins in 20-30 feet of water.  A lot of crappie fisherman key in on the Lake Bastine area of the flowage. The crappie population is on a peak right now with a lot of fish in the 11-13" range. We had a lot of nice crappies this fall, some over 14". The 10" minimum size seems to have improved the size structure.

Jeff Robl, Bobber Down Guide Service, 715- 776-0140, www.BobberDownGuideService.com. Check out Jeff’s weekly ice condition reports on www.Lake-link.com .

West Central Wisconsin

Wow, did we get an early start on ice fishing this winter!  I first stepped on ice the week before deer hunting, and last year my first outing was on Thanksgiving Day.  For two years in a row, there has been plenty of ice to drive on at Christmas time. So we are going to be in a little different pattern than in recent years, and we may, for the second year in a row, need to break out those auger extensions.   

Chetek Chain of Lakes

It never ceases to amaze me how well the Chain keeps producing great panfish opportunities.  It is the “go-to” destination for many ice anglers in the Chippewa Valley, yet loathed by others.  I have arrived at the lake many times to find frustrated anglers claiming it to be a "dead sea," only to have great success myself.  The popular spots here, like with most lakes in winter time, are no secret with various "shanty towns" popping up all over the place.  I'll tell you what, “The Chain” is a huge body of water.  Sometimes you need to think outside the box, and get away from these crowds.  Look for spots 10-12 feet deep, pop a dozen holes or so, and just work it.  Pick up a Hot Spots map and learn the contours.  Also, some bait shops in town offer FREE maps of the lake.  If it is after 3 p.m., you will find the crappies suspended, with hungry bluegills toward the bottom.  Purists of dark colors work well, as do moon jigs tipped with maggots.

Fireside Lakes (Rice and Mud)

The big bowl south of Bruce, is another one of my favorite spots to fish in the winter time.  I enjoy tip-up fishing in the bay right off the only landing on the lake.  A weed choked area in the open water months, it provides some great tip-up action in the winter time.  I scatter them about, and fish about 2 feet under the ice.  You're in about 6 feet of water here, so you can cover quite a bit of water with a big minnow.  Northern pike are plentiful here, and you shouldn't have a problem getting one to bite.  Once in a while you may catch the occasional musky.  Please note, that musky season has closed, and these toothy critters are much more fragile than their cousin the northern pike.  Safely remove the hook if possible, take a good picture, and get it back in to the water.  If you wish to pass the time by jigging for panfish, however, you will need to move to the middle to find deeper water.  (Bring your Vexilar!)  You will need a good pair of binoculars if you wish to watch for flags!

Chris Powell, Chippewa Valley Guide Service, 715-577-9771, www.Lake-wissota.com

South Central Wisconsin

Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages

Normally, during the months of January and February we have safe ice conditions for fishing and being out on the ice.  Sometimes we have 12 to 18 inches of ice at this time. However, there are some areas to look out for during this time also.  Areas to look out for are large heaves on the main lake of Petenwell Flowage and Castle Rock Flowage. On Petenwell Flowage, for the last 10 years, there has been a large heave that runs east from Long View all the way across to just south of the Lure Bar.  There has also been another large heave off of Hall’s Point.  The last large heave runs south of Hall’s Point all the way down to the south end, by the dam.  

Castle Rock has had several large heaves the last few years as well.  Buck Horn Side, which is the west side of Castle Rock, has had a heave south of the bridge that runs all the way down towards Ship Wreck.  On the east side of Castle Rock, a large heave runs from Devil’s Island to Carlson’s.  And there is one that runs down the main lake towards the dam. What is a heave?  A heave is when the ice pushes together, makes a crack, and forms a push up above the ice.  As the ice expands sometimes they will drop and leave a large area open.  These are areas you do not want to cross with ATVs or vehicles.  

When fishing this time of year, anglers will be scattered out on the main channel of Petenwell Flowage.  Those that are targeting walleyes will be fishing deep bends in the main river channel.  Other good areas to target walleyes this time of the year are southeast of the 10th street boat launch on the west side of the lake.  Another great place is Wilderness County Park on the west side and Monroe County Park on the east side out in the main river channels.  To fish these walleyes, get on the main river channel edge or in the channel itself.  Most people will use tip ups with medium golden shiners or large fat heads eight inches to a foot off the bottom.  Others like to jig, using Rapalas or slender spoons (JB Varmint Spoons work well also).  Most people will tip these baits with the head of a fat head minnow or shiner, while others load them up with spikes.  

For panfish, crappies, perch, and white bass, you will want to find wooded structure areas along the main river channel.  The crappies tend to linger around wooded structure. The white bass will be mixed with the crappies but more scattered throughout the channel.  You can catch white bass at almost any time.  A good way to target them is to keep moving until you get on a pod of fish.  Once you locate an area you want to fish, drill a large amount of holes; that way when you do move from hole to hole you are not scaring the fish by constantly drilling more holes. A lot of times, fisherman will drill holes and drill more holes. That actually scares the fish and then it takes a while for them to come back to the area again.  To target these panfish, use tip downs with rosie reds set anywhere from a foot to two feet off the bottom.  Others like to jig small spoons, blade baits, and small tungsten jigs with plastics.  

Jesse Quale, Green Water Walleyes, 608-547-3022 check us out on www.Lake-link.com or www.GreenWaterWalleyes.com 

Madison Area Lakes

  • Panfish action will be fast and furious throughout the ice season on all Madison lakes. Upper Mud Lake has both shallow weeds and nearby deep holes, making it a magnet for many species of fish.  The new walking path made lake access much easier last season and many anglers got in on the fast action Mud Lake offered.  Expect this area to continue producing as long as it’s not over pressured.  Lake Kegonsa has some monster gills and decent perch, but ice action can be much slower than other nearby lakes.  For gills, look for shallow weeds in 5-8 feet of water, fish will likely be close.  Look in water 20 to 30 feet deep for Kegonsa perch and be ready to move when the fish do.  Lake Waubesa has had pretty good crappie action during past ice seasons.  You may need to search a bit, but once found, catching a limit isn’t uncommon.  Try looking off the steep breaks in water 25 to 35 feet deep.   Many Waubesa crappies can be found suspended, so using a flasher will help catch more fish.  Waubesa also has numerous areas where evening walleyes can be found.  Look for shallow rocky areas located near steep breaks or weed beds.  Once located, Beaver Dam tip-ups, rigged with fluorocarbon leaders and shiner minnows, will do the trick.  Lake Mendota is a favorite for many perch anglers.  Search areas in much deeper water with flashers or ice sonar units when looking for these deep dwellers.   Please remember when pulling perch from Mendota’s deep water that they will not survive being released.  Either plan on keeping everything caught or use barbless hooks.  Once a fish hits and the barbless hook is set, quickly determine the size.  If it feels small, simply stop reeling and give the fish a little slack.  They may need a little shake, but most fish will free themselves.  This style of fishing will help protect Mendota’s perch population and ensure great fishing in the future.

Whatever lake you travel to, try jigging tungsten jigs in weedy areas and UV jigs in deep water.  Tungsten is heavier and helps jigs drop through weeds instead of resting on top of them.  UV jigs are much brighter and pop out to deep water fish.  Also, try Uncle Josh Meat panfish leeches when jigging for gills, crappies, or perch.  They’ve been fantastic in both open and ice water applications. 

Lake Koshkonong

  • Early ice walleye action is pretty decent on Lake Koshkonong, but that bite dies off as the season goes on. During January/February, most walleyes have vacated the main lake basin and moved into the deeper river holes.  There may be some scattered walleyes roaming the lake during the late ice season, but catching more than one here or there is uncommon.  Not all is lost though...Mid to late ice season is great for pike fishing on Koshkonong.   Most bays, especially those with feeder creeks, marsh grass, or springs close by, will commonly hold plenty of pike.  Once holes are drilled, expect to only have one or two feet of water below.   Even though it’s really shallow, many large pike are caught here year after year.  Beaver Dam tip-ups, rigged with steel leaders and sucker minnows, work great for big pike.  Using smaller shiner minnows also works and may even catch one of those roaming walleyes.  However, smaller bait will likely keep you running as smaller pike continuously trip your flag.

 Clear Lake

  • Clear Lake in Milton, WI offers some great pan fishing throughout the ice season. Being a small lake, it’s fairly easy to locate fish.  Numerous weed edges and a few deeper holes will hold crappies and bluegills.  Stay mobile and cover area using a flasher and/or underwater camera until fish are located.  If looking specifically for crappies, evenings can produce better results.   

Gibbs Lake

  • Gibbs Lake is surrounded by a county park and has bluegills galore, but unfortunately, most are stunted in size. Small tungsten jigs, tipped with Uncle Josh Meat panfish leeches, work well since small fish tend to easily pick off waxies or spikes.  Larger crappies are present, but they can be difficult to locate.  Tip-up fishing can produce decent pike and largemouth bass.  Try setting up tip-ups baited with a shiner minnow in or along the weed edge.  Walleyes are present in this lake also, but are not commonly caught.  With plenty of bluegills present and only a short walking distance required, Gibbs Lake is a great location to take kids fishing.

Captain Adam Walton, Pike Pole Fishing Guide Service, www.pikepolefishing.com, 608-290-3929

East Central Wisconsin

White Potato Lake

White Potato Lake in Oconto Co. is one of the first larger lakes that has fishable ice due to its shallow water. The perch and walleye are the most targeted by anglers. Finding cabbage weed edges adjacent to the sand flats are the most productive. Tip-ups rigged with minnows will fool these fish this time of year.

Lake Noquebay

Lake Noquebay is a good bet for great early tip-up action for smaller northern pike with an occasional larger trophy. Known for its hand size gills, this lake has a great population that are targeted in the thick cabbage weeds. The northern lake rock structure holds nice size crappies along with walleye. Locate the drop off and use your sonar to target the depth the fish are holding at.

The Bay of Green Bay

The Bay of Green Bay looks to be fishable earlier this year with an early ice covering. Perch can be caught shallower early in the year, using lake shiners using Tip-C tip down rigs. Walleye will be feeding on the shallower reefs. A jig, tipped with an emerald shiner or slick jig, will fool walleye feeding on the top of this structure. The whitefish bite continues to be the most consistent with action all day. Swedish Pimples, tipped with wax worms or smaller Echo Tail, jigged aggressively will trigger these fish.

Allen’s Guide Service/ Green Bay Ice Fishing, 920-660-2007, www.AllensGuideService.com or www.GreenBayIceFishing.com

Lake Poygan

Lake Poygan will be fished very hard through the ice at this time of the year. Anglers will be catching white bass, walleye, and perch with and occasional northern pike. Some anglers will be using tip-ups while others will be jigging. When using tip-ups, the tip-down tip-ups are most effective. The common choice of bait for tip-ups is a shiner. The best of choice for jigging would be a Swedish pimple or a jigging Rapala. These can be fished with normal natural bait or can be kept with wax worms and/or spikes. A flasher is also a very helpful tool when jigging for these fish. The fish are easily located as you will see crowds of fishermen in certain areas of the lake.

Lake Winnebago

Lake Winnebago fishermen will catch walleyes, white bass, and perch throughout the winter fishing season. The most productive way to target these fish is with the use of jigging Rapalas and Swedish pimples. These can be fished with no natural bait or can be tipped with wax worms and/or spikes. One of the ways to target these fish is look for the crowds as they will find the fish. Again, a flasher is a very handy tool to use when checking for these fish. 

Please remember when venturing out on any ice to check with local clubs as to the ice conditions for the lake you are targeting. Most local clubs will help you and give you any information you need. Enjoy all the winter has to offer, but please remember to be safe.

Jim Klein, Bills and Gills Guide Services, 920-680-7660, www.BillsandGillsGuideService.com