Jan 10, 2019
Milwaukee Metro area
In southern Wisconsin ice fishing is in full swing. Pike, bass and panfish are available on Bass’ Bay on Big Muskego Lake. Look for weed edges and set your tip-ups with medium and large shiners. During the day, fish the same weed edges for bluegill. As the light begins to fade, check the deep basin for suspended schools of crappie. Pay close attention to the special regulations for this body of water.
Winter brown trout are available in good numbers near the power plant in Oak Creek for open water fishermen. Concentrate on the warm water discharges. Cast jigs with plastics or small spoons into the current. Drifting spawn sacks is a good method as well. Trolling crankbait just outside the discharges will also produce.
McKinley Marina near downtown Milwaukee will hold plenty of brown trout and a few steelhead for those looking to land one through the ice. Tip-ups, jigging and auto hook-setting devices are all good bets. Use shiners, spawn sacks and skein.
Andy Mack, Andy Mack Sportfishing, 262.510.1452, www.AndyMackSportfishing.com
South Central Wisconsin
Small inland lakes throughout the Rock County area – such as Clear, Storrs and Gibbs lakes – offer reasonably easy access on to the ice and have a decent amount of action. Most have a variety of fish present including bluegill, sunfish, crappie, perch, bass and pike. Being smaller, these lakes can be broken down in a short time and getting on fish typically isn’t a problem.
Fish may be found hanging in shallow weeds one day and in deeper muddy areas the next, so check all aspects of the lake. As mentioned before, a large portion of these smaller waters can generally be checked quickly, especially if you’re equipped with a fast ice auger and an underwater camera.
Using Eskimo Pistol Bits helps us run and gun when searching for fish. These lightweight, fast cutting augers allow anglers to punch holes quickly and move around easily. We also use Aqua-Vu Micro Cameras to swiftly scan each hole and get an underwater look of the area. Holes that look promising are marked by creating a mound of ice shavings next to it and holes that look dead are filled back in with the ice shavings. This way we can remember what’s best when we return to fish them.
When fishing these lakes, we first try to locate weed edges or open pockets and set up our Beaver Dam tip-ups near them. These tip-up sets are rigged with 25- to 40-pound leaders (fluorocarbon or steel) and baited with shiner minnows in an attempt to target game fish, typically pike. Once the tip-ups are set, we take position on either the shallow side of them or the opposite deeper side and jig for panfish.
Beaver Dam Noodle rods lined with 2- to 4-pound test line work perfectly when targeting panfish. We like to use ACME Tackle tungsten jigs tipped with either a waxie or a few spikes as bait. The tungsten wastes no time getting into the strike zone and they also show up nicely on flashers. If live bait isn’t the ticket, try giving your lure a little more life by adding an artificial plastic with a lot of tail motion.
Numerous springs on this system notoriously cause problems each year. With the somewhat new winter draw down enacted, these springs seem to be even more of an issue, leaving many pockets of open water or thin ice despite temperatures dropping well below freezing. With that said, there is still plenty of fishable ice, but extreme caution should be used.
When the water level was lowered last season, it seemed to push a lot of walleye into the deeper parts of the Rock River. We still caught fish last season at this time, but nothing like years past when water levels were higher. If history repeats itself and conditions similar to last year develop, anticipate a decent early season for walleye, but possibly a slower late season.
When targeting walleye, we use the smooth operating Beaver Dam tip-ups rigged with 8-pound test fluorocarbon leaders and a medium shiner or black tailed chub. The smoothness of the spools on Beaver Dam tip-ups helps eliminate fish feeling any resistance and dropping the bait, which is a key factor in the case of catching walleye. With limited structure present on the lake, anglers can find fish roaming nearly anywhere. However, most tend to focus on the north and northeast sides of the lake.
When targeting pike, we switch leaders to 40-pound fluorocarbon or steel and increase bait size to large shiners or sucker minnows. Look for shallow areas near marshes or areas with weeds. Pike action is fantastic on Lake Koshkonong even in low water conditions and the chance to catch trophy fish is always a possibility.
Captain Adam Walton, Pike Pole Fishing Multi-Species Guide Service, 608.290.3929, www.pikepolefishing.com
Petenwell and Castle Rock flowages
For the last five years the ice really hasn't been safe on both flowages until around the first of the year. Those getting out on the hard water have targeted shallow back waters in four to eight feet of depth. Target panfish along weed lines, around brush and in the deeper channel edges.
Many anglers are jigging with small Demon jigs, 2-spot jigs, Rocker jigs and Ratfinkee jigs. Some like to tip them with waxies and spikes, and others like to use a plastic wedgee. For those targeting bass, walleyes and pike, run tip ups in shallow water and often the pike and bass can be caught just below the surface of the ice. Fish large shiners, smelt and hot dogs for pike, while large shiners work well for bass.
Walleye can be caught up shallow, too. Use smaller shiners and large fatheads rigged on tip-ups tight to the bottom early morning and before dark. Once the season starts to progress and ice starts to thicken, many will venture out to deeper water. For those chasing walleye, fish the main channel or large turns in the main channel in 19 to 20-plus feet of water. This time of year you can run tip-ups with med golden shiners, fatheads and black tailed chubs. Those jigging for walleye use slender spoons, Demon jigging spoons, Lightning spoons, jigging raps and Northland Buckshot Rattle spoons tipped with minnow heads or loaded up with red spikes.
Panfish can be caught out on the main basin of the flowages and in the main river channel. Panfish like to stick tight to wood structure. Some anglers use tip-downs tipped with Rosie's and large Fatheads tight to the bottom for perch and two to four feet off the bottom for crappie. Bluegill will be caught with tungsten jigs like the Chekai Tungsten tipped with waxies, spikes and plastics. Another great bait for gills on both flowages is the smaller slender spoon loaded up with red spikes.
Always remember ice is not 100 percent safe!
Jesse Quayle, Green Water Walleyes, 608.547.3022, www.greenwaterwalleyes.com. Check us out on Facebook at Green Water Walleyes guide service, and please like our page.
East Central Wisconsin
Lake Winnebago System
I just can’t believe it … we were on the ice prior to Thanksgiving! While it was short lived, Mother Nature eventually got us back out for good.
As I type this in early December, I just got off of the frozen water of Lake Poygan for the third time this season. Because of the ice conditions, the two bites which have been absolutely fantastic up to this point have been panfish and northerns.
The channels and protected bays around our system have produced some great panfish action. Everyone’s anticipation of first ice has resulted in some congested traffic in these sometimes small areas of the lake. The bays of Lake Winnebago and the channels holding good weed growth and depth – all throughout our system – have both been targeted heavily. This is for good reason, as I have personally seen the fun action a little tungsten jig and waxie can produce. It hasn’t all been live bait being brandished, as the plastics have had their time and place, usually when the bite is aggressive. As usual, the transition areas and weed edges have been key locations, especially the weed edges – and not in them – as this can cut down the smaller panfish who are just looking to waste your time.
Northern pike action has really been interesting to start off the year. From the west end of Lake Poygan to the northeast shore of Lake Winneconne – coming south to the channels surrounding our river system – many have had phenomenal fishing. Large shiners, including the golden variety, have been the hot ticket under the tip up of choice. With some areas having great water clarity, setting the lively minnow higher in the water column has been an optimal presentation to get results.
The late December open holes on Lake Poygan and throughout the rest of the Lake Winnebago System have almost firmed up. As this happens, it allows us to access key areas we need to put some of our beloved walleye topside. Yet again this year, I’ve already noticed a very hungry appetite from our white-tipped friends. The marks I’ve seen basically come out of nowhere to snatch up my go-to swim bait combination, the Jiggin’ Rap with no bait.
The first walleye of the season I hooked into at the beginning of December almost made it topside. Unfortunately, a fouled last-ditch effort – going elbow deep into the cold waters of Lake Poygan – was all for nothing. As with the others I’ve actually caught this year, that one loved the aggressive rips I gave the lure. Be aggressive with your presentation as it can certainly reward you, no matter if you are in the shallows of Lake Poygan, the basin of Lake Butte des Morts or the wastelands of Lake Winnebago.
It will be interesting to see how this year plays out compared to past years. I can tell you that when we got onto the hard water prior to Thanksgiving, that was certainly something to be thankful for. Follow the OB Outdoors’ Facebook page for updates as we pound through this amazing season because there will certainly be some fun times coming. So, until next time, “Tight Lines. Stay Dry.”
Kyle Sorensen, OB Outdoors, check out Kyle’s videos online at www.OBoutdoors.com.
Oneida and Vilas counties
With the start of an early ice fishing season that began in mid-November, things couldn't be better for ice conditions. Many of the lakes received little to no snow coverage which allowed for a good clear ice to form and weeds to remain green in the shallows.
Now we are heading into the mid-winter pattern of colder weather and heavy fishing pressure on community spots that many times will push fish on to secondary locations. One of the best tools to go off is a standard lake map or a downloadable app for your phone to get outside the pack of shacks and other anglers.
Walleye will be found outside of the secondary breaks and will gravitate toward mid-lake humps and rock bars. Jigging in combination of using tip-ups next to your portable will pay off for bringing in fish and converting lookers into eaters. I try to gauge fish activity with the first couple of fish I mark on my Vexilar as to how aggressive to jig or not to jig once they come in. With at least one tip-up next to you, chances of getting flag double due to already piquing the fishes’ interest and offering them an easy meal just feet away.
Pike will still hold tight to weedy cover and shallow flats next to deeper water. The main objective is to make your presentation above their heads as pike are always looking up to ambush their prey. If I’m on a panfish-based forage lake, I’ll run two tip-ups while jigging for panfish. The gills, perch and crappie will draw predator fish in and tip-ups seal the deal with shiners on roaming fish.
Panfish have been in their open water haunts since the first sign of cold weather this past fall. I’ll be looking for open water areas close to weeds and begin by drilling a line of holes to go back on and check for suspended fish on my Vexilar. Once I’ve located them I’ll drop down my jigs and start working the water column out.
Many of the panfish pods will be moving around throughout the day and with enough holes drilled you can stay with them. Tungsten jigs are my standard presentation tipped with Dave’s Wedgies or waxies/grubs. Dave’s Wedgies are a soft plastic that is infused with a combination of anise oil and other oils that help me put plenty of fish on the ice at the tail end of last season and during the open water spawn of crappie and gills.
Good luck and tight lines the remainder of the hard water season!
Dan Gropengiser, Grop’s Guide Service, 715.360.1601.