Ice Fishing and Ice Caves
Episode 30: BCW Talks with Fishing Guide Josh Teigen and Julie Van Stappen from the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The average daytime temperature in Bayfield in February is a cold 27 degrees and a very frigid 3 degrees at night. That makes the conditions nice for everything ice. On this episode of Bayfield County Wild, we talk to the area’s foremost authority on ice fishing and why Bayfield County is ideal for this popular pastime. Plus, will there be access to the famous ice caves on frozen Lake Superior this year? Our guest from the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore fills us in on the details and why these magnificent ice formations draw thousands to the Northwoods.
Do a Little Jig!
At 27, Josh Teigen is already an authority on ice fishing. He appears regularly on John Gillespie’s fishing show “Water & Woods” and is a full-time, year-round fishing guide. A Bayfield County native, Josh grew up on the Pike Chain, where he learned to love fishing. He describes his fishing style as “impatient.” He likes to “run and gun” - if he can’t find the fish he moves to a different location to stay on a good bite. Josh believes the County is an amazing area to fish because there are so many bodies of water, including Lake Superior, Chequamegon Bay, and hundreds of inland lakes. In the winter, you can catch a wide variety of fish, including Trout, Pike, Bass, Walleye and Pan Fish.
Having spent so much time on the water during his life, Josh says he pretty much knows where the fish like to hide. Fish don’t move around a lot in the winter, so Josh recommends live bait. His favorites are Walleye suckers and Northern suckers, also called shiners. He also uses jigs, spoons and Kastmasters, which are basically spoons tipped with a minnow head.
Ice fishing is an inexpensive sport, according to Josh. Typically, you only need an auger, bait bucket, live bait, a couple tip-ups and a rod. If you go on a fishing excursion with Josh, he provides everything – rods, reels, flashers, transportation, and a shack and heater to stay warm. All you need to bring is food and beverages.
Josh recommends that if you are coming up to go ice fishing, you should always check with the local bait shops or chamber of commerce for ice conditions to be safe. Josh also provides a monthly fishing report online. If you interested in setting up an excursion with Josh, you can contact him on his Josh Teigen Facebook page, follow him on Instagram or visit his website at JoshTeigen.com.
Exploring the Apostle Islands Mainland Ice Caves
This time of year, a popular winter attraction is the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. The Ice Caves are located on the mainland portion of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore along the shoreline of the Bayfield peninsula between Cornucopia and Bayfield. Julie Van Stappen, Chief of Resource Management for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, tells us about the Sea Caves which are transformed into Ice Caves during the winter. The Sea Caves are intricately carved out of finely layered Devil’s Island sandstone. During the winter, these magnificent formations turn into crystalline structures with waterfalls and columns made of ice. They are formed by a combination of waves crashing against the rock in cold temperatures and from water seepage that comes from the top of sandstone, causing the ice columns and other formations. Like the Sea Caves, the Ice Caves also feature stalactites and stalagmites, but are made of ice.
Julie says the best conditions for seeing the Ice Caves are when the ice is thick and stable, and the weather is cold, calm and clear. If it’s windy, sheets of ice can form and break up, creating “shark fins” or shards of ice stacked up in layers on its edges, making it very difficult to get through. If there’s a lot of snow, like there is this year, the ice becomes weaker and unsafe to cross.
When the conditions are right, access to the Ice Caves is at Meyers Beach where you walk about a mile out onto the ice to get to the first formations. In a good year for the caves when it’s crowded with visitors you must sometimes park farther away and the distance you’ll need to walk can be much longer. Julie recommends that you dress warm, in layers of comfortable clothing and have good footwear, along with stabilizers or Yaktrax. Walking on the ice can be slippery with uneven surfaces that can make the trek somewhat physically challenging.
If the Ice Caves are deemed inaccessible (which has been the case this year and is likely to remain that way) Julie says you can still view the Ice Caves from the Mainland Trail. The terrain here can also be tricky because there are lots of ravines and you need to be careful to stay back from the edge. Another way to see the Ice Caves is to go online and search for “Apostle Islands Ice Caves” to view the many photos that have been taken over the years.
The Ice Caves are closely monitored by highly trained rescue teams who check the ice regularly to make sure they meet the required criteria for safety purposes. To check the current conditions, go to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore website and for more general information on the Ice Caves visit bayfieldcounty.org/731/Ice-Caves.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is currently celebrating its 50-year anniversary. Julie says their website also features special events that will be happening this year, including the grand opening of the Little Sand Bay Visitors Center in June and another event at Big Top Chautauqua in August.
Feb. 1 – 2: Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races in Bayfield, WI
Feb. 1: Mt. Ashwabay Summit Ski Race
Feb. 2: Ice Fishing Contest at the Loon Saloon in Cable, WI
Feb. 7 – 8: Rittenhouse Inn Red Wine Weekend in Bayfield, WI
Feb. 8: Barn Quilt Paint & Sip at the Harborview Event Center in Washburn, WI
Feb. 9: North End Classic Cross-County Ski Race in Cable, WI
Feb. 9: Kids Fishing Contest, Birchgrove Campgrounds in Iron River, WI
Feb. 15: Book Across the Bay, Lake Superior at Ashland, WI
Feb. 15: 2nd Annual Northern Pines Sled Dog Race, Northern Pines Golf Course & Event Center in Iron River, WI
Feb.15: Drummond Bar Stool Races, Black Bear Inn, in Drummond, WI
Feb. 16: Bike Across the Bay, Harborview Event Center in Washburn, WI
Feb. 19 – 23: Slumberland Birkie Week
Feb. 22: Annual Dart Tournament, Legendary Waters Resort & Casino, Red Cliff, WI
Feb. 22: Candlelight Trek at Iron River National Fish Hatchery
Feb. 23: Annual King & Queen of the Mountain Competition, Mt. Ashwabay Ski & Recreation Area, Bayfield, WI
Feb. 27 – Mar. 1: Quilters Retreat, Harbor View Event Center, Washburn, WI
The Valhalla View Pub & Grub is a must-stop when you’re hitting the trails of Bayfield County. Whether you’re on a 4-wheeler, snowmobile, or just passing by, Valhalla View has 24-hour pay at the pump fuel, drinks, and food to satisfy you and your machine. One of the best dining experiences around, Valhalla View has a full dinner menu, daily specials, all-you-can-eat salad bar, hand-made pizza and more!
Start your winter adventure at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center where you can connect with the historic, cultural, and natural resources of the Lake Superior Region. You’ll get personal customer service, experience interactive exhibits and find out about fun programming led by local experts. There’s even a gift shop! Explore the nearby wildlife refuge, take in the view from the observation tower, hike the trails, browse the art gallery or attend an event. You can also do some genealogy research or other historical exploration in the archives with help from the Wisconsin Historical Society staff on site.