"I just drilled a half dozen test holes through 1-2 foot ice with slush on top to pre-fish a few of my favorite spots," said WW&W inland lakes correspondent Fanny Hooe over a frosty mugga Labatt Blue at Zik's. They're hosting a unique ice fishing tournament on her home lake in Copper Harbor tomorrow and you ought not miss it.
"We're fishing from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday with weigh-ins and prize awards at Zik's at 4 p.m.," she added, "three categories, perch, walleye and splake, $10 registration fee, kids fish free."
"What's so unique about that?" I drilled deeper.
"Rods only, no tip-ups, no snowmobiles," she continued. "Plus, we've got a number of tagged fish out there, and we're paying $100 for the No. 1 tagged fish, $50 first place, $25 2nd place; concession and hot lunch available at the boat launch. No state park sticker is required, the event is sponsored by McCabe Distributing and The Pines/Zik's and proceeds go to the DNR Keweenaw Splake program. For info, call Jake Anderson, 289-3483, or Zik's Bar, 289-4222.
Other hardwater venues giving up fish to intrepid ice anglers if you have a sharp drill, good boots and don't mind sloshing through slush are Gratiot Lake, Rice Lake, Boston Pond, Alberta Pond and Salmon Trout Lake backa Redridge. Along the Keweenaw Waterway, WW&W fishing correspondents Sandy Bottom, Lily Pond and Oskar Bay all recommend their home waters by the same names.
"Vun more den vee go check my tip-ups and see if there's any flags flying," Bottom said in her native tongue over her favorite Schnapps at Dolly Partanen's in downtown Dollar Bay, just a hop, skip and a yump away. "Vee might as vell do a little yiggin' vile ve're at it,"
With a mid-week heat wave and temperatures flirting with 50, then dropping back down to the teens overnight, it shouldn't take long to re-freeze.
"It's pretty slushy out on the Portage and Chassell Bay, but there's still plenty of ice," said Dan Loyd, Northwoods Bait & Guide Service in downtown Chassell, "Those targeting walleye are doing well, usually just before dark."
Crappie have been active throughout the day, mostly in the 8 to 10 inch range, with some bigger slabs surprising guys fishing for walleye with Jigging Rapalas and Pimples, some occasionally hitting tip-ups.
"A few big 37-40 inch northerns were brought in this week," Loyd said, "the perch and crappie bite has been good to those who jig deep (25-30 feet) with tiny Swedish Pimples and crappie ice jigs tipped with small live or Gulp minnows, waxworms or a fish eye. Some crappie are suspended just below the ice."
Don't miss the Northwoods St. Patrick's Day Crappie Tournament on Chassell Bay, 7-7 March 17, weigh-ins at Chassell VFW, call 231-2885 for info.
Meanwhile, far to the south in Baraga County, Keweenaw Bay boat and bank fishermen are off to an early open-water start.
"They're catching fish from shore at Squaw Beach and the mouth of the Falls River," said Steve Koski, Indian Country Sports, on the downtown L'Anse Vegas waterfront. "The unseasonably warm weather and the warm water discharge from the power plant have brought the steelhead running early; anglers are getting bit drifting spawnsacks and pitching Mepps and Panther Martin spinners," he tipped, "I've seen some nice 5-6 pounders, all chromed-up and fresh from the lake."
The marinas aren't open yet, but guys willing to back, slide, drag or roll a small boat across shore ice into the water are being rewarded for their proactive approach to Spring.
Migratory coho and king (Chinook) salmon, browns, lake trout and steelhead are all fair game and fishable year round in Lake Superior and her tributaries up to the upstream boundaries, see MDNR regs, michigan.gov/dnr. Walleye and northern season ends March 15, then reopens May 15.
The new 2012 fishing licenses are now available. There's no price increase and 2011 fishing licenses expire March 31.
Ice shanties must be removed from Upper Peninsula lakes by midnight March 31 and Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters by midnight March 15, as do those in the Northern Lower Peninsula.
In other outdoor news, the Copper Country Predator Hunt runs March 9-25 in Houghton and Keweenaw counties, open to the public, must have a small game license, $5 bounty for each coyote, registration fee $10 at Dreamland Bar & Restaurant and Harter's Party Store. Final weigh-in and dinner March 25 at Dreamland, for more info call Roger at 370-0599.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.