For many of the anglers heading out for trout opener, conditions were excellent with mild temperatures, reasonably good ice conditions and fish were eager to bite.
Anglers successfully landed numerous lake trout in the three to six pound range and a few eight and ten pound range fish. White jig and tube combos were by far the bait to use, along with Jiggin' Raps, Chubby Darters, and Buckshot spoons. A few anglers also caught some nice walleyes while working relatively shallow water around twenty to twenty-five feet. Rainbow trout were active too with some nice splake thrown in. The rainbows were hitting small jig and wax worm combos and small jigging spoons. A few folks were using salted minnows with some success as well.
Walleye fishing elsewhere in the area was a bit disappointing, as many small fish were caught and released, with only a few solid keepers being taken. Crappie fishermen were still managing to catch some limits from a variety of area lakes.
The area lakes have seen light to moderate traffic, due primarily to the variable ice thickness. Some lakes have twelve to fifteen inches of ice, mostly in protected bays, while other lakes still have some open water. Some permanent shacks have started to appear on local lakes, but there have been some close calls around thin spots. Always check the ice thickness as you travel, as ice conditions can vary considerably. The walleye bite has been sporadic, with mostly small fish coming to the hole. Work the drops, in fourteen to twenty-one feet of water, to connect with walleye and produce some good sized keepers. Some of the smaller local lakes have been turning out some decent sunnies, crappies, and northern pike. Spearing has begun to rebound in the past few years, and has been met with some good success as pike to forty inches have been reported.
More and more anglers are venturing out as most lakes are sporting at least walkable ice. Mid-sized lakes may have 7-8" of ice. Some of the smaller lakes have 9" of ice on them. Larger lakes ice thickness vary quite a bit from 3-7" of ice, while some of the bays may have 7" or more. Ice thickness still varies widely, so caution while traveling should still be first in your mind.
Fish reports have been few and far between as traffic has been light. Some lakes have been turning out some walleyes, but most are on the small side, while the perch have been near the jumbo category. Some of the smaller lakes in the area have been turning out some decent crappies and sunnies. Wax worms have been the go-to bait for the sunnies when affixed to a dark colored jighead. Crappies have been hitting on small Buckshot spoons tipped with a minnow head or a small crappie minnow on a dead stick.
Pike fishermen and spearers have been having good success near weedy flats. Perch colored jigging lures such as Chubby Darters and Lindy Darters have been producing well for the active anglers, while light colored decoys or live suckers have been luring the pike to the dark houses.
It is still a good idea to drill holes as you travel - do not risk your life for a fish! More ice is coming, count on it.
The much anticipated hard water season is upon us. Lakes in the area all have at least a couple inches of ice on them. A few of the smaller lakes have ice solid enough for foot traffic. Without a lot of snow cover the ice is steadily building, and should continue to do so, as temps remain in the single digits and below zero temps at night.
It should go without saying, but early ice should be approached with extreme caution. Always let someone know when and where you are going and when you expect to return. Safety should be your number one priority. It is advisable to wear a life jacket, inflatable vest, or one of the many affordable flotation suits that are becoming more popular. An ice chisel, also called a spud bar, should always be a part of an early season angler’s arsenal. Drive the chisel into the ice ahead of you every few steps to check for thickness. If the bar goes through, back-out and do not proceed forward.
Carry an accessible pair of ice picks just in case you go through the ice. If you don't think your life is worth the few bucks that picks cost, at least carry a screwdriver in your pocket to use on the slippery, wet ice to pull yourself back out. Also swim your way onto the ice rather than trying to push yourself up onto it.
Every year people die from falling through the ice. Don't be a statistic, be smart, be safe, and live to fish another day.
Check back with us often as creel reports will be available as more anglers hit the ice.
Good luck and good fishing!
Walleye successes recently, have been a hit or miss opportunity on many of the local lakes. Some anglers are reporting good catches of "eyes" in deeper sections of water as the temps begin to fall, in some cases, down to fifty-five feet. Anglers have been relegated to just a few keepers in the fourteen to sixteen inch range while plying relatively shallow waters.
Pike and smallmouth bass action on the other hand has been very good on most lakes as the leaves begin to fall. Live bait such as suckers fished either under a float or slow-trolled in five to fifteen feet of water has been the way to go for some, but just as many anglers have been whacking some really nice fish trolling or casting spinner baits and larger crank baits.
Crappie action remains good with some reaching the sixteen inch mark. Both larger and smaller lakes are giving up some hefty stringers of keepers.
Crappie fishermen have been dominating the scene lately as the fish are beginning to bunch up in deeper water. Most crappies are suspending three to eight feet from the bottom, and can readily be caught by dropping a minnow there. Some folks are using small spinners or diminutive crank baits to locate these roaming schools of fish, and this has led to a better understanding of just where these silver slabs are concentrating.
Walleyes, too, are beginning to put on the feedbag, and they have sunken to somewhat deeper water. Anglers are plying the holes adjacent to flats, where the fish are feeding at night. Trolling or drifting spinners tipped with crawlers or minnows are scoring some nice fish, and this action should just continue to get better as lake temperatures remain on the decline.
Pike and musky anglers are nailing some giants as they ply the waters along weed edges with plus-size crank baits and large tandem spinner rigs. Some are finding these giants in deeper water as well, down to twenty-five feet or so. Keep in mind that these fish are becoming increasingly aggressive as temperatures fall, so speeds of 2.5 mph and more are not out of the question.
Smallmouth and largemouth bass are still on the agenda for many people fishing the local lakes. Keep in mind that bass fishing season remains open here in the Northeast quadrant of the state until February. Tactics are as varied as plying the waters with crank baits, tube jigs and spinners all remain viable methods of catching these aerial acrobats.
Fishing action has picked up a bit and anglers are having most of their success in shallow water. Big small mouth bass are being reported, and walleyes have been a by-catch of those plying the shallows for both large and small mouth bass.
Walleyes have been roaming near shoreline waters in search of minnow schools, and are hitting both crawlers laden hooks and crank baits.
Big pike are smashing plus-sized crank baits and spinners as they cruise the weed bed edges and rocky points in search of an easy meal.
Crappies are beginning to school up along the thermocline and will take anything from a lively minnow to small soft plastics on a jig head. A recent resurgence of the use of Beetle Spins and Spin Bees are helping fill the stringers.
A few impressive rainbow trout in the twenty inch range have been coming out of area stream trout lakes for folks fishing crawlers in the timber.
Walleye action remains fairly consistent with the most successful anglers working at or above the thermocline. This separation of water temps and oxygen levels is the place to run your baits. The level of the thermocline varies from lake to lake, even different parts of the same lake where water flow and clarity can alter temps. Most lakes checked show this line to be at twelve to twenty feet. You can visually see it if you have a sensitive locator by turning the gain up higher on the display. Work at or just above this level.
Many folks are having success working deep diving crank baits, or smaller weighted spinner/crawler combos. Often times you will see small bait fish, with larger marks interspersed, and that is where you want the bait to be running.
Bass fishermen are having a heyday on most lakes. Trophy-sized smallmouth are smashing surface baits early and late in the day, and then hitting shallow divers during mid-day. It is not rocket science, just keep working along shorelines and weed edges down to about ten feet. Crank baits, swim baits and crawfish imitations are drawing the most strikes down deep.
Pike remain active, and are more than willing to smash a spinner bait or spoon. Average pike are running from six to ten pounds, with an occasional whopper up to twenty pounds reported.
Walleyes are actively biting on live crawlers. Due to the ease in handling and keeping crawlers, this is a bait to keep in the boat or canoe. Toss a couple dozen crawlers in the cooler and you have access to lively bait all day in spite of the high ambient air temperatures. Trolling crawler harnesses has really been paying off recently as people ply the local waters in search of walleyes.
Depth really hasn't been a big consideration as fish are coming in from waters as shallow as four feet, and continue down the scale to over sixty feet in deeper lakes. Crank baits too are accounting for a good portion of the fish harvest both for walleyes and northern pike. Larger cranks displace more water and their inherent erratic action will draw predators from a greater distance. Try working the water with these at transition points between the shallows and deeper water.
Crappies are biting! Most are coming from fifteen to twenty feet, but a few are cruising at mid-depth as they chase minnow schools. These fish tend to be the most aggressive biters. Tiny crank baits and Beetle Spins can be trolled through these suspended fish with some success.
Some lake trout have been caught recently, but average size tends to be on the smaller end of the scale at less than six pounds. Trout are taking deep jigged soft baits and trolled spoons.
Fewer fish have been reported this past week as the dead of summer takes shape. Although the success rate of anglers has been down, there still have been a few happy anglers; most of them are boating fish by switching up fishing strategies and trying different lakes.
Night crawler sales have been brisk as the availability and size of leeches has taken a down turn, as is normal at this time of year. Crawlers are a fine alternative to leeches and have led many folks to a successful trip. Whether you fish them on a crawler harness or just suspend them under a bobber, few fish can resist them.
Another option at this time of year is to pursue the various trout species available in the area. The cool, clear waters here do abound with some fine specimens of rainbows, brook, brown and lake trout. Many of these deeper lakes remain cool throughout the summer, and it can be as simple as finding what part of the water column is currently holding the fish. The stream species, such as rainbows and brook trout can be caught by trolling or casting Mepp's style spinners or small spoons, as well as just relaxing on the bank with a worm under a bobber. Lake trout can require a bit more effort and equipment, as these hard fighting specimens are holding in much deeper water and warrant the use of a boat and equipment that allows you to troll in depths of fifty feet or more. Downriggers work well, but can be cumbersome and a bit expensive for casual anglers. A fine alternative is to rig your line with a Dipsy Diver or larger keel type sinker to get your bait down to these depths that hold the fish.