Ely—Frozen ciscoes are a favorite bait of ice anglers pursuing lake trout in the canoe country. But this winter, frozen ciscoes may be hard to find at local bait shops. Jim Maki of Great Outdoors in Ely, the region’s primary cisco supplier, was shut down from his usual seining operation at Prairie Portage by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency said federal rules prohibit commercial harvesting in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
“We’ll know how many ciscoes we’ll have in another four or five days,” Maki said at press time.
Maki was granted a USFA permit extension to continue his operation this year. He said unless there is a federal regulation change, this will be the last year he can harvest ciscoes at Prairie Portage. The ciscoes he catches there are 5 to 7 inches long; a perfect size for bait and significantly smaller than the ciscoes found in most lakes.
“There’s not many places where you can get ciscoes that size,” Maki says.
At Buck’s Hardware in Grand Marais, John Muhich says they are looking for alternatives to Maki’s frozen ciscoes, such as frozen smelt. He did not believe that Lake Superior herring (cisco by another name) could be used as substitutes, because they have not been certified as free of the fish disease VHS by the Minnesota DNR.