Early ice fishing may start ahead of time this year
By Jed “Big Musky” Buelow
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports, Nature Editor
Well this might certainly go down as one for the record books as Tomahawk area flowages have already started to ice up and the calendar hasn’t even reached November yet.
And it the future forecast holds and we do see temps drop like they are predicting, then it won’t be long now and we will be hitting the ice for some early season ice fishing. Typically I like to see a couple days where the high temp stays in the 20s with overnight lows well below freezing before thinking about venturing out on new ice. I am by no means a dare devil when it comes to tempting luck and take many precautions the first several times out for the season.
The nice thing is that tip-ups don’t need to be set out in deeper water to catch walleye when fishing early ice. Some of the best action can happen in as little as three to four feet of water, as fish will be up shallow this time of the season as they look to put on weight heading into the later parts of winter when activity slows.
Along with providing some of best action, this is also the time of the year when some of the biggest walleye of the season are caught. Typically the best action occurs during low-light hours when the fish will move up in the shallow to feed. A lot of times when fishing early ice we are not even targeting structure to catch fish, but instead, just fishing shoreline where there is enough ice for us to fish. If some rock structure, a weed line or an edge of channel can be reached without jeopardizing safety the better, but mostly we are running tip-ups tipped with golden shiners and finding fish moving in shallow to feed.
Of course safety is very high on the list when venturing out on first ice. I always recommend fishing with a buddy who will chase a beer rolled out on the ice to make sure it is safe. All kidding aside, I use a spud and check the ice before each step while venturing out. It is a good idea to have some rope attached to a flotation device and I carry a couple picks that can be used as an extra level of security.
Another thing to consider if thinking of fishing early ice is that no two bodies of water freeze the same. A couple of winters ago we had to abandon one Tomahawk flowage after a warm up melted the ice. That same day we went to another flowage and had plenty of ice to fish on a bay that was protected from the sun by large pine trees. The size of the body of water and exposure to wind can also make a big difference on where and how the ice forms each fall.
If there is enough ice you can bet I will be fishing regardless of what day it is on the calendar. Although getting out before Veterans Day in early November would certainly go down as one for the record books. I will be checking ice depths on a number of lakes and flowages once again this fall if anyone would like me to check on a specific body of water. Just shoot me a request at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to pass along an ice report for a specific water body. Good luck to the brave few still planning to head out this coming weekend for one last shot at a fall musky! And good luck to those hitting the waters and woods for some hunting time. Be safe, have fun and enjoy your Northwoods water, woods soon to be ice time!