Wisconsin’s game fish season opens this Saturday, May 5, and it appears we will have a wonderfully warm week leading up to it. The forecast for Tuesday through Saturday, calls for highs in the upper 60s-70s, with a few chances for rain. How this will affect walleye activity is anyone’s guess (general consensus: go deeper), but crappie, bluegill, and bass will probably be hugging very shallow water.
·Bass season in the northern zone is catch-and-release only May 5 through June 15.
·Muskie season in the northern zone opens May 26.
·New this year: Anglers using eight-inch or longer minnows must use quick-strike rigs or non-offset circle hooks and immediately set the hook when they get a bite.
·Resident and non-resident anglers who have never (or in the past ten years) purchased a fishing license can get a ‘first time buyers’ license. The discounted annual licenses cost $5 for residents and $25.75 for non-residents.
Residents and nonresidents 16 years or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license; resident Armed Forces members on active duty can receive a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.
“The series of highs and lows passing through the area, producing highs in the 40s-50s and lows in the upper 20s, really stalled spring fishing,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “Some warm days will certainly increase fish activity.
“Crappies are moving into shallower water on warm, sunny afternoons, but then drift back to deeper water with the cooling evening. By this time of year, we also expect some good perch fishing, but this year success stories are rare.”
Mark at Hayward Bait says panfish anglers should use very light tackle and work the shallow, south-facing shorelines.
“Keep moving – you will catch a few and then have to work your way down the shoreline. Bluegills are feeding on bugs just below the surface and providing good action. Use small black flies, wooly boogers, or black Rockers, or worms and waxies, under a very light bobber.”
At Outdoor Creations, guide Dave Dorazio says fishing pressure is on the increase, with the Chippewa Flowage producing some great crappie action on minnows, hair jigs, or jigs tipped with plastic tails. Most fish are in less than six feet of water and action tends to peak as water temperatures rise in the afternoon. Anglers are also catching some nice bluegills in shallow water.
Randy at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage water temperature is in the low 50s and it has been a long time since he has seen the water level this high for opening weekend.
“The crappies are not quite on the beds yet, but close, sitting in five to eight feet of water in the morning and by mid afternoon they have moved into three feet. They will be on the beds any day now, especially with the warm weather forecast for this week. Minnows and Gulp! baits are your best bait choices. Anglers are catching some bluegills fishing waxies and Gulp! baits in a little deeper water in brush and on sunken bogs.”
Carolyn at Anglers All on Chequamegon Bay in Ashland says smelting has passed and fishing is good. Walleye and smallmouth are in the hot pond and some nice northern pike taken along the Ashland shoreline. Anglers trolling the weed beds from the break wall west are catching walleyes, trout, and northern. Those fishing the channel and the Washburn side north to the Sioux, Onion, and Pikes out to the tip of Long Island are catching coho. There are still good reports of coho, brown trout, and steelhead, and lake trout caught in the Islands and the south channel. Some steelhead are still holding in the tributary streams.
Jim at Jim Hudson’s Guide Service in Bayfield says fishing action has slowed a bit from the fantastic trolling bite going on all spring. Anglers are still catching fish, just not the huge number of salmon as in previous weeks, and the catches now include lake trout in and around Long Island. It is time to throw spoons in your trolling spread. Smallmouth season on Chequamegon Bay opens this weekend, and with water temperatures in the shallows starting to peak in the 50s, expect a very good pre-spawn bite. Look for fish cruising on breaklines or on flats just off them, and use Rattle Traps, jig/grub combos, swim jigs, jerkbaits, and tubes.
“Erratic and generally cool weather continues to slow the spring progression of spawning seasons for many species of fish,” says DNR fisheries biologist Skip Sommerfeldt. “Water temperatures continue to hover just below the 50-degree mark, and this allowed walleye, northern pike, and perch to all but complete their egg laying for the season. The cool temperatures have delayed muskie spawning progress and they continue to trickle into the shallows to conduct their reproductive rituals. Expect this to continue for at least a couple more weeks. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as most panfish species, have been reluctant to move into the shallows and their spawning is still several weeks away as well.”
Musky Tale Resort’s annual Northern Encounter northern pike fishing event is May 18-20. Entries are limited, but some openings are still available. Entry fee is $75/team ($85 after May 1). This is a two-person team tournament, with prizes paid to the first five places and the largest fish. Fishing hours are 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit www.muskytale.com, or call Bill at (715) 462-3838.
The Cable Natural History Museum is hosting a free fly-fishing workshop Saturday May 19. Both beginners and experienced anglers (age 13 and older) can learn more about casting techniques, equipment, fly tying, and more. Workshop leader John Weinberg and Federation of Fly Fishers volunteers will provide equipment. Anglers will meet at the Museum at 9 a.m. and return by 3 p.m. Bring a lunch, dress for the weather, and be prepared to drive a short distance. For more information, call the Museum at (715) 798-3890.
April 29: Early inland trout season closed.
April 30: Otter trapping season closed in north zone.