Jan 10, 2016

Scouting Report

Northern Wisconsin

Spooner Lake

This thousand-acre lake, just a couple miles from the Washburn County city of the same name, is a bluegill and crappie fishing gem every ice season. If you're looking for a fun place to bring youngsters or folks new to ice fishing, this is the place.  Spooner Lake has good access by way of a public landing right near the golf course. From there one can usually spot where the best fishing is by following the lead of other shacks and ice anglers looking for the same panfish action as you are.  A flasher is a near must for winter 'gills and crappies as they can be anywhere in the water column on any particular day.  Small tear drop jigs, tipped with wax worms will get you on the fish.  The size of the panfish in Spooner isn't often big, but the fish are respectable size wise and taste great.

Round Lake

Over in Sawyer County is a gem of a lake for ice pike. Round has traditionally pumped out some very nice pike every year.  This three thousand-acre lake is a clear water beauty.  It can be tough at times, but it's also a place to catch a Wisconsin trophy Esox.  On deep, clear lakes it takes years to grow pike upwards of three feet, so protecting the resource by practicing catch and release is a good thing, and the fish can continue to grow.  Tip-ups and shiners are the locally favorite method to fish pike. But, jigging spoons and other vertically jigged lures offer a fresh look to the fish and allow an element of mobility to the approach.

Good luck and good fishing,

Jim Stroede Guide Service

Western U.P.

Lake Gogebic Area

By the time you get this issue of Badger Sportsman, winter will be well upon us. Up here in the U.P. you never know what Mother Nature is going to do. This year everyone is talking about the effects from El Nino.  On average we get over 200 inches of snow.  Last year, the Bergland area received around 250 inches of snow.  The year before that we received over 350 inches with 78 days below zero (started early and stayed late). So with that being said the U.P. is definitely a winter wonderland. 

You ask, what can I do to get outside and have fun in this weather? Here’s what we have to offer. The western U.P. has 3 major ski hills (Blackjack, Indianhead, and Powderhorn) for the folks that like downhill skiing and snowboarding. For others, we offer vast snowmobiling opportunities with hundreds and hundreds of miles of groomed trails. Cross-country skiers enjoy plenty of options for trails groomed for both skate and classic.

We also have the famous Lake Gogebic. There is good ice fishing on Lake Gogebic, which is the largest lake in the U.P. and approximately 14,000 acres, spanning two different time zones. The southern part of the lake is in Gogebic County and is in the Central time zone and the northern part of the lake is in Ontonagon County which is in the Eastern time zone. So you could celebrate New Year’s Eve twice in one night! Lake Gogebic is a beautiful lake to be on anytime of year but when coming up here in the winter, you need to be prepared. With the amount of snow we get, travel on the lake can be difficult for the sportsman. The best way to negotiate the lake would be by snowmobile, pulling your portable ice shelter behind. The most common fish anglers target are walleye, perch and northern pike.  Walleye are most commonly targeted in the early mornings and evenings, and the famous Lake Gogebic jumbo perch are targeted during the day.

The Timbers Resort offers lodging with 11 different fully furnished cabins located on the north end of Lake Gogebic along with fishing guide services available. Other amenities in the immediate area include Antonio’s, a  family style dinner restaurant that serves all three meals-breakfast, lunch, and dinner. JW’s Southern BBQ (great food), The Bergland Bay Bar, The Famous Hoop N Holler Bar, and for your snowmobile rentals (Ski-Doo), Timberline Sports is right down the road from us.

For current snowmobile and ice fishing conditions, lodging or guide service give us a call at The Timbers Resort 906.575.3542

Tim Long

West Central Wisconsin

Marsh Miller Lake

This is a popular panfish destination for locals in and around the Chippewa Valley. Anglers will find bluegills and crappies hanging close to bottom along the East Shoreline.  Both waxies and wigglers will do the trick. Folks looking to fish tip-ups for northern pike or largemouth bass should fish the Northwest Bay near Cedar Inn.  Fish the shallows six inches to a foot under the ice with shiners.

Potato Lake, Rusk County

In the dead of winter, sometimes the fishing can be, well, dead.  This lake never seems to disappoint with action, if anything else.  Fish the Narrows, and you will find bluegills and crappies in 30 feet of water, suspended 20 feet down.  I don't know why this is, but it's a constant on this lake.  Fish aren't the biggest in here, but you might find 10 keepers out of 100 fish caught.  If you fish with tip-downs, you will catch crappies in the last hour and a half of daylight, and sometimes the bait won't even have time to jig!

Chris Powell

West Coast of Wisconsin

Lake Pepin

In recent years, weather conditions in January have been fairly normal, apart from warmer than average temperatures.  We have found clear water and water temperatures in the mid 30’s. The bite may not be on fire, but they usually have been consistent. The ice conditions on Lake Pepin is, at times, not all that great, so most of the fishing has been on open water at both ends of the lake. The backwater in the Tiffany Bottoms, where the Chippewa flows into the Mississippi, has been frozen solid for a good month and the crappie and panfish are hitting hard.  Thanks to El Nino, the warm days make the fishing quite enjoyable. As the month winds down and the days get longer, we are seeing more and bigger fish. They are not necessarily easy to catch, but they are there. For all the fish caught in the open water we were dragging light jigs/plastic downstream. January is an enjoyable month on the West Coast of Wisconsin.

    February is a great time to be on Lake Pepin. We fish in icehouses on the real cold days and the fishing is generally good. It is a big lake and finding fish can take some work, but with due diligence, you can land some real nice fish. On the days when the weather allows, the open water fishing is also good. The days are getting longer, so one can spend more time out on the ice. It seems that when the sun goes down the biting stops. The currents on the lower part of the lake have increased due to the dam releasing a little more water and this seems to have stimulated the fish a bit. If you want to have some good times on the ice, or fish open water, Lake Pepin is well worth the trip

Bart Armstrong

East Central Wisconsin

Fremont Area

The Templeton Bayou and other bayous become busy with ice fishermen as the ice thickens. These fishermen are chasing bluegills, perch, crappies and northern.  The best bet for perch and bluegills is a small ice jig tipped with a wax worm or spike. Crappies are caught with wax worms or spikes but small fathead minnows and a small jig will also do well.  With the advancement of fishing tackle, the tungsten jig is now very popular for panfishing. The smaller body of the jig head combined with the heavier weight for its size makes it deadly for fishing panfish. Small plastics also work very well for panfish. Experiment to find what works best for you.  Northerns can be caught using tip ups and large shiners. I typically stagger my depths from 8 inches below the ice to 2 feet below the ice. Northerns always feed up in the water column.  The treble hook size will vary also by the size of the shiner. 

Lake Poygan

Now to my favorite fishery, Lake Poygan.  Walleye, white bass and crappies can all be caught here using the same lures and sometimes out of the same holes.   Let's start with walleye as they are many people's target.  Walleye can be found on Lake Poygan in various depths from 2 to 8 feet of water.  Crowds gather all over the lake hoping someone else found the fish. Sometimes they do, but a lot of the time they just spook the fish that were there. A GPS map of the lake is a great way to search for fish on Lake Poygan.   Look for the few breaks that can be found and the river channel that flows through the lake. Jigging Rapalas, Swedish Pimples and slender spoons are the weapons of choice, tipped with minnow heads, spikes or wax worms.  Work the bottom 2 to 3 feet of the water column while rarely touching bottom. A flasher will help greatly. 

White bass and crappies can be found primarily in the "Horseshoe." It's the deepest part of the lake and holds fish all year round. For white bass and crappies, I fish the bottom 3 to 4 feet of the water column as they always feed up. Like the walleye, try not to hit the bottom with the baits. Use the same baits as walleyes but smaller sizes and tip them with the same things. If you're not catching or marking fish don't be afraid to move a lot. 

Remember to check the ice conditions before venturing out. Stay safe and good luck!

Capt. Patrick Morack , Moracktion Guide Service, 920-216-9085 

South Central Wisconsin

Madison Area Lakes

Madison lakes will hold plenty of panfish both shallow and deep.  When fishing shallow, scouting for weeds usually pays off.  Look at areas that held heavy weeds throughout the open water season.  As weeds die off in the winter, these previously thick cover areas clear out some and become prime locations that are easy to fish.  Don’t hesitate to throw out a tip-up, rigged with a sucker, for roaming pike in these areas also.  With large areas to cover, it saves a lot of time to implement the use of flasher sonar and Aqua-Vu cameras to help locate weed structure and fish. 

When fishing deep, crappies and bluegills can be found suspended in various areas, but spots near sharp breaks seem to hold fish consistently.  Try starting around 20 ft. and systematically work deeper until fish are found.  For perch, look near the deepest areas of these lakes.  It’s usually no secret where the hot spots are located. 

Please remember when pulling perch from deep water, many will not survive being released due to the quick ascent.  Either plan on keeping everything caught or use barbless hooks.  With barbless hooks, once a fish hits and 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 Madison’s perch population and ensure great fishing in the future. 

Lake Koshkonong / Rock River

Winter drawdown keeps Lake Koshkonong pretty low during the ice season, but even with an average depth of 3 to 4 feet, don’t overlook this great fishery.  Panfish can be found near Bingham Point and in boat channels located around the lake.  Walleye roam the lake and can be randomly found anywhere, but the areas near the Rock River inlet, Vinnie Ha Ha, and Stinkers Bay have produced well in the past…especially during the evening.  Tip-ups, rigged with fluorocarbon leaders and fathead minnows or chubs, work well for walleye.  Make sure the tip-up line pulls off easy.  Fish will quickly drop the bait if they feel unnatural resistance. If you’re looking for pike, try the shallow bays near marsh areas or creek inlets.  These areas are especially good later in the season as pike start staging prior to their spawning ritual.  Try tip-ups, rigged with Northland predator rigs or suckers, both work very well.  If SAFE ice is present, the upper Rock River itself offers some great fishing opportunities.  With deeper holes present, a variety of fish can be found holding in these areas.  Find the channel and work the breaks in water depths of 5 to 12 ft.  Both jigging and tip-up fishing can produce river walleye, pike and panfish.

Gibbs Lake

Gibbs Lake, in Edgerton, WI, is a smaller bowl-shaped lake, which offers excellent fishing action.  Bluegills are very common in both weedy areas and deep flats, but most are stunted and size is a factor.  Larger crappies are present, but they can be difficult to precisely locate.  Gibbs Lake does offer decent sized predator fish.  Numerous pike and largemouth bass can be caught along the weed edges with tip-ups.  Pike averaging 20 to 30 inches and bass averaging 14 to 18 inches are fairly common.  Walleye are present in this lake also, but are not commonly caught.  Gibbs Lake is a great location for kids due to the ease of catching smaller fish and short walking distance required.

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

Petenwell and Castle Rock

At this time of year, fishermen will be strung out down along the main river channel. For walleye, the majority will be targeting deep water; usually depths of 20 to 30 feet. Other places to target are big bends along the main channel. One preferred way to fish is using tip-ups with medium golden shiners. Use small treble hooks with 10 to 12 lb. mono. Another great thing to add above the treble hooks is a glow bead or beads in bright colors. Some ice fishermen will run a small spinner. The reason for doing this is that Petenwell and Castle Rock are stained bodies of water.  The small spinner adds some flash. Scent can be another key factor to putting fish on the ice. For those that like to jig for walleye, slender spoons, jb varmit spoons, rpm minnows, raps and buckshot rattle spoons work well. Many will tip these baits with minnow heads or load them up with spikes.

For those wanting to find panfish, put a focus on deep water with a lot of wood structure. The best depths to fish are 15 to 20 plus feet of water. Perch will be a lot deeper than crappies and bluegills. Most of the perch are caught in the middle to the most southern part of the lake. You can use small jigs, spoons tipped with waxies, spikes and minnows. Bluegills will be caught tight to wood along the bottom at times or suspended high along the wood structure. Oftentimes, jigging right down through the brush will bring in some slab bluegills. Crappies and white bass can be caught along big bends on the main river channel and tight to the wood like bluegills. One preferred method is to run tip downs with rosies 3 feet off the bottom. Remember the suspended fish will be the most active or feeding fish. Jigging small slender spoons and tungsten jigs like the chekai work well.  Jigs tipped with plastics, spikes and waxies often work the best. If using spoons, they can be tipped in the same way.

Be safe out there this winter. Stay on top, have fun and catch some fish!

Jesse Quale