With the open water fishing season behind us, we turn our thoughts to ice fishing. This is a very early start to the ice fishing season and a delight to many — including some deer hunters. 

First of all, be safe out there. It seems someone goes through the ice every year, pushing the limits because of lack of ice thickness past the safe point. 

In general on the mid-size and smaller lakes, we have 2 to 5 inches of ice out there. The little snow we have received makes it hard to judge the ice as we go out, so take a spud or hand auger with you to test the thickness.

Remember that the lakes on the Eagle River and Three Lakes Chain of Lakes have current, so that thickness will vary from spot to spot. Check that thickness when you move around also. The same goes for any lake with springs in it.

Those first anglers going out have reported success with walleyes, which is great news. The fish are moving in from deeper water in the evenings, as usual, to feed. Some really nice fish have been caught right at dark, mostly on shiners. 

Walleye anglers are following the usual pattern of setting the tip-ups right at the drop-offs or right at the weed edges to intercept the fish as they move in. The bite window is pretty short at this time, but will expand as the ice thickens. Yellow Birch, Catfish and Cranberry are the best lakes on the Chain for this fishing. We would be pretty reluctant to go out to the holes on the Chain just yet. Let that ice thicken just a bit for that fishing.

Most of the deeper lakes do not yet have very thick ice. You are able to fish the bays and near shore, but wait for a while for those deeper structures.

Some ice anglers are catching northerns on tip-ups in the weeds. The northerns are hitting on large shiners. Anglers also are fishing bluegills in the weeds using spikes or waxies. Some crappies have been reported also right on the deep edge of the weeds. This fishing will get better as that ice thickens.

This will be the first hunting season in a while to combine tip-up fishing for walleyes and deer hunting. This used to be the way many guys started the ice fishing season. What a delight to be able to do both during the deer season.

Be safe out there for both seasons.

Good luck and good fishin’ (and hunting).