IRON MOUNTAIN - A spell of warm weather has made the ice sloppy and slippery on many area lakes, but anglers were still finding good fishing in spots and hoping for a swift return of winter temperatures.
According to Gaylord Scott at Florence Sport and Bait in Florence, Wis., ice depths vary widely, with reports of as few as four to six inches on Fisher Lake, to as much as a foot on the Chain of Lakes in Spread Eagle, Wis.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources plans to offer a free fishing winter weekend on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.
Don Ciochetto at The Sport Shop in Iron River is not worried about the higher temperatures causing too much trouble for fishermen. He reported many anglers still catching nice fish.
"The northern fishing has still been really good," Ciochetto said. "I've talked to some guys fishing for perch and they've been doing good there, too."
Ciochetto also reported some nice northern being speared.
At Crystal Bait in Crystal Falls, Tom Bean said things have been a bit slow this week.
"There are a couple of guys out panfishing, getting some crappies using wax worms and wigglers, but not much else," Bean said. "Walleye fishing has really slowed."
As for the ice, Bean doesn't think the warm weather will have a lasting effect on ice fishing.
"It'll probably make it a little sloppy on top," He said. "But then we're supposed to get a cold snap so that should tighten it up."
The Wisconsin DNR reported that inland lakes in northern Wisconsin had ice depths up to 10 inches.
Also, according to the Wisconsin DNR, walleye action has continued a generally erratic trend into the new year. Northern pike success has been fair to good, and panfish action has been sporadic, with a few nice catches of crappie, bluegill and perch reported. Anglers have had to move around quite a bit to find the active fish.
The Michigan DNR reported the following fishing conditions across the Upper Peninsula:
Many lakes in Keweenaw, Houghton, and Baraga County had too much slush for ice fishing. The slush makes for difficult travel as well as slow fishing.
Lake Gogebic: Ice anglers caught perch in Bergland Bay. A few walleye were also caught along the north end.
Lac Vieux Desert: Ice anglers are catching good numbers of pike ranging 16 to 24 inches. Most are using tip-ups with golden shiners over the weed beds in 6 feet of water. Only a few anglers have caught walleye. A good number of bluegills were caught on wax worms in 6 to 10 feet of water. The fish range 6.5 to 7.5 inches. Some caught crappie. As for perch, anglers are catching them however most of the fish caught were 8 inches or smaller.
Portage Lake: In Houghton County has ice. Anglers caught crappie near Chassell.
Keweenaw Bay: Has no ice. Huron Bay has shore ice only.
Groveland Mine Ponds: In Dickinson County have ice. Plenty of small bluegills along with a couple nice perch and crappie were caught in Island Pond. Try jigging wax worms, wigglers or minnows a foot off the bottom in 13 to 15 feet of water. The West Pond has small bluegills, crappie and sunfish in 15 feet of water for those jigging or using tip-ups. The East Pond has small perch and muskie in 12 to 20 feet of water. The South Pond had no reports of fish caught. Anglers were targeting walleye and panfish west of the boat launch in 30 feet of water.
Lake Antoine: Fishing was slow with only small perch caught by those jigging with natural baits. Most were on the north end of the lake in eight to 10 feet of water.
Little Bay De Noc: Has some ice, however most of the bay still has open water. A pressure crack has formed along the north end of Butler Island. Anglers should avoid this area. Anglers are just starting to fish in the Escanaba Yacht Harbor but most were fishing the Kipling area or the Gladstone side of the "Narrows." Fair catches of walleye were reported in Kipling by those jigging rapalas with minnows in 18 to 30 feet of water or Gladstone in 25 to 35 feet of water. Perch fishing had mixed results near Kipling in 8 to 35 feet of water with natural baits. The bigger fish were caught in the deeper water. Jumbo perch were caught near Gladstone when jigging. While most anglers are using a portable shanty some are bringing out the permanent ones and setting them up.
Manistique Lake: Anglers are ice fishing however caution needs to be used especially around the outlets. Small walleye and pike were caught but no perch.