IRON MOUNTAIN - Brutal winter conditions are back. With another blast of below-zero temps in the forecast for next week, outdoorsmen and women in the area are mostly (impatiently) waiting for spring.
There were a few brave souls venturing out onto the ice this week for some fishing action, but not many.
At Whispering Pines Outpost in Breitung Township, John Grier said the conditions have become dangerous in a lot of places.
"I know a couple of guys were out on the ice and just got stuck," Grier said. "It's bad, with all that snow and slush out there."
Grier said the stuck anglers, who were on the Menominee River, had to call a friend to help free their vehicle from a layer of slushy ice. The helpers arrived, only to become stuck themselves, and the group spent hours shoveling themselves out.
"It's just too much," Grier said. "The minute you get out there, you sink. If you're going out, take a snowmobile if at all possible."
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said difficult access has continued to keep ice fishing pressure at a minimum. A few anglers have been accessing fishing spots via plowed trails, but the wind and blowing snow seem to change conditions daily.
Many ice anglers have all but given up and removed their ice shacks, especially with more heavy snow predicted. Anglers on Green Bay are reporting they have to go through 30 inches of ice to fish.
As a result of Friday's snow storm, trail conditions were expected to change dramatically across the state. It may take snowmobile and ski groomers some time to groom the wet, heavy snow. People planning on traveling this weekend should call ahead to destinations for the latest conditions.
The Michigan DNR reported the following fishing conditions across the Upper Peninsula:
Keweenaw Bay: Is producing some smelt for those fishing at night with a teardrop and wax worm between Baraga and Bucks Marina. The bite was slow for coho and lake herring. Catch rates for lake trout were hit-or-miss. Anglers are fishing out from the Whirl-l-Gig and Pequaming or on Newton's, Farmers and the Big Reef. They are using 3/4 to 1 1/2 ounce jigs with smelt or cut bait.
Marquette: Ice anglers fishing the Upper Harbor have reported incidental catches of diving ducks when using tip-ups with minnows. Anglers are advised to fish as far away from open water where waterfowl have congregated. This will help to minimize the chance that foraging birds will get caught on a hook or tangled in fishing line. If a bird is caught, the best course of action is to reel it in, remove the hook/line and then release the bird. Retrieving the bird through the ice is preferable to simply cutting the line. If a bird is badly injured, anglers are encouraged to contact a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. Licensed rehabilitators are listed online at www.michigandnr.com/dlr/.
Munising: Trout Bay was producing some limit catches of coho, lake trout and a few herring. A few small whitefish and splake were caught off Munising.
Menominee: Few anglers were on the bay however some were targeting panfish near the pilings by the lighthouse.
Menominee River: Anglers are being warned that an "ice breaker" is scheduled to come in soon. It will come in from the bay and move upstream to the Marinette Marine to help a ship with its departure. The local paper has advised anglers to stay clear of the bay and the river in that area. A couple bluegills were caught near the Menikaunee launch and behind K-Mart. Pike and walleye were targeted near the Mystery Ship launch. Those fishing the open water on the Michigan side caught a couple steelhead when drifting flies, spawn and yarn or casting small spoons and rapalas. Walleye fishing through the ice on the Wisconsin side was slow but a few were caught in the late evening when jigging a piece of minnow or wax worm.
Little Bay De Noc: Still has good ice however travel conditions were not good. Those taking motorized vehicles out were getting stuck in deep drifts. Some have removed their ice shanties because of the conditions. Catch rates were fair for whitefish in 75 to 85 feet of water off Sand Point. Perch fishing was fair off Kipling. They are using wigglers in 10 to 23 feet but many were small so they were released. Most of the walleye caught near the Second Reef or Gladstone were sub-legal. Ice shanties near the Escanaba Power Plant have been removed because of ice breakers opening the shipping lanes.
Indian Lake: In Schoolcraft County was producing some perch and walleye.
Munuscong: Catch rates were fair along the shipping channel in waters 20 to 27 feet deep. Anglers can see fish but the bite was slow.