The beginning of any fishing season can be somewhat of a crapshoot, especially the ice fishing season with a variety of ice conditions each year. 

Last week, for example, the North Woods had one day of warm weather and rain that changed ice conditions on a lot of lakes. Some small lakes, like Dollar Lake, only needed one warm day to reopen. 

The ice, while good in many spots, is just not safe in many other places and got worse during that rain. But the weather is colder this week and we’re back to building ice on almost all lakes.

The bottom line is be careful out there.  This is the time of year to spud or drill holes whenever you go out, especially if you are going out on new spots where no one has been. With a few exceptions, this is also not the time of the year for machines on the ice.

As for the fishing, there haven’t been a lot of anglers out yet due to the deer hunting season and marginal ice conditions.

Walleye action has been OK on the Eagle River Chain on Cranberry and Yellow Birch lakes in the evenings. The Chain is a good choice annually for early season tip-up fishing. Most anglers prefer medium shiners for this fishing, although there will be times that the perch will also try to eat these shiners. The larger, deeper lakes are still a riddle, as not too many anglers have gotten out on them. If you can find some weed spots near shore with at least 3 inches of ice, they’ll produce at times. Wait a while for these bigger lakes, and let the ice do its work.

Northerns have been hitting on most lakes. Larger shiners work best for these fish, but they’ll hit just about anything they can find. We find a lot of guys fishing for both walleye and northerns in the afternoons on smaller lakes.

Panfish action is starting, and a few anglers are getting some good fishing in. A good lake early each year is Thunder Lake, but any smaller and shallow lake will produce bluegills and perch. The best bait to take along is usually waxies for perch and crappie minnows for the crappies. Spikes and waxies work well for the ’gills.

This early season can be very enjoyable, depending on the wind. If it’s not a windy day, get out there for some fresh fish.

Good luck and good fishin’.