by: Steve Suman
This week starts with chance of rain and thunderstorms, which could be of great help in removing ice from the lakes. From at least Thursday (if not before) through the Saturday-Sunday May 5-6 fishing opener weekend, the weather looks nearly perfect, with moderately warm days and cool nights. Now all we need is open water!
“The times are changing,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “and it is definitely beginning to feel like spring.
“We have some melting happening, but it is more obvious on the ground than on the lakes. Only areas receiving direct sunshine are clearing and shaded areas are still covered. On the lakes, there is some ice movement away from the shorelines, but mostly where the sun shines on the north side of the lakes – and the north ends are almost always the first to open. Mid-lake and south ends are still solid. Reports last week indicated most of the lakes still had 26 inches and more of solid ice.
“Conditions are changing quickly, this past week brought an end to ice fishing season, and consider any ice as unsafe at this time.
“Rivers and creeks are open and flowing well, with melting snow and ice adding to the flow and concern for flooding along some river areas.”
“Lake Hayward has opened up, but most lakes will still have some ice for opening weekend. The Chippewa Flowage might be open, as well as some of the smaller lakes with water flow. Plan accordingly.
“The streams are flowing nicely and there are decent reports from those fishing trout and steelhead. Fly fishing anglers are definitely catching fish, but also try pitching small crankbaits and spinners. Remember it is still catch and release on the inland streams through Friday May 4. Reports are decent from anglers fishing the Brule River and other tributaries. Some fresh steelhead are showing up with the melt, and spawn under slip floats is working well.
“Turkey flocks are now breaking up, the toms are starting to respond to calling, and in the past week hunters have harvested several nice gobblers around the area.”
Mike at Jenk’s says he made a trip around the Chippewa Flowage area last week to check conditions.
“The ice depth at that time was about 20 inches. The West Fork had thawed down to around Johnson’s Resort in Moore’s Bay and some areas are starting to break away from the shoreline on the east side.
“Ice on Little Round and Richardson’s Bay is starting to get a bit sloppy, but there will probably not be open water for a couple of weeks. It appears the ice on Spider Lake still looks pretty solid.
“The Flowage is down about 6 to 6.5 feet from full pool, but based on a discussion with a local guide, some people believe it will fill up quickly this week.”
At Anglers All on Chequamegon Bay in Ashland, Carolyn says that unless something catastrophic happens, there will still be ice cover on opening weekend.
“However, warm days with rain and a south wind could make big changes on the Bay, as the shorelines are starting to soften. As of this past Sunday, with Sand Bay and Saxon Harbor closed, the only places to launch a boat are Cornucopia and Herbster.
“As for smelters, smelt do not spawn under the ice, so be patient and check conditions towards the end of the week.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses what fish do after you release them.
“Catch and release angling has become common for many Wisconsin species and anglers practicing catch and release have plenty of reasons to pat themselves on the back.
“Still, some might wonder what a fish does after the angler releases it. Does the fish go right back to what it was doing before the angler caught it?
“A pike study in Germany might shed some light on this question.
“Researchers used radio tags to track pike in a lake, noting how much the pike moved as well as the habitats in which the pike spent time. Using hook and line fishing, the researchers then caught and released the pike, after which they continued tracking the fish.
“The researchers found that following the catch and release, pike moved less for some time before starting to get back to their normal behavior. Biologists believe this period of lower activity is a response to the non-lethal physiological stress of the catching experience. After a fight with an angler, pike – just as with an exercising human – have elevated blood lactate, blood glucose, and heart rate levels, all of which take time to drop back down to normal levels.
“The study showed that angling typically causes a disruption in a fish’s routine, but it is a disruption from which it can recover without too much difficulty, provided the angler follows good catch and release practices.”
The application period for a hunting license for Wisconsin’s first-ever managed elk hunt this fall is May 1-31. The DNR is issuing five once-in-a-lifetime, bull-only tags to state hunters for the hunt, awarding four tags through a lottery drawing and the fifth through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffle (visit www.rmef.org/Wisconsin). The application fee is $10; RMEF raffle tickets are $10 each (no limit). Hunters may enter both, but only win once. The elk license is $49. The season runs October 13 through November 11 and December 13-21 in the Clam Lake elk range in parts of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties. For more information, search “elk” and “FAQ” on the DNR website.
Deerfoot Lodge will host DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter this Friday, May 4, for a presentation on the “State of the Chippewa Flowage.” Wolter’s presentation begins at 8 p.m. and will focus on walleye, panfish, and musky. For more information, call (715) 462-3328.
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies, Inc. welcomes the public to its meeting Tuesday, May 1, starting at 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Eatery in Hayward. Admission is free. Max Wolter, local DNR fisheries biologist, will discuss the PIT tag project, recent musky stocking, a new skin/scale sampling project to learn more about local musky genetics, and more. Attendees interested in becoming a new member can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
The general inland gamefish season, including trout and largemouth bass, opens this Saturday, May 5. Please note smallmouth bass season in the Northern Zone is catch and release only through June 15. Musky season in the Northern Zone opens May 26. Finally, mark your calendars for June 2-3 and Wisconsin’s Free Fishing Weekend.
April 30: Seasons closed: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.
May 4: Early catch and release trout season closes.
May 4: “State of the Chippewa Flowage” DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter presentation, 8 p.m., Deerfoot Lodge.
May 5: Frog season opens.
May 5: “Fishing” presentation by Frank Pratt at Weiss Community Library (715-634-2161).
May 10-13: 34th Annual Treeland Challenge bass and walleye release tournament (715-462-3874).
May 11-12: Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum canoe paddle making class (715-635-2479).
May 18-19: Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward Annual Event.
May 23: Fishing Has No Boundaries Kids Day at Nelson Lake.
May 26: Muskellunge season opens north of Highway 10.
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).
April 25-May 1: Period B
May 2-8: Period C
May 9-15: Period D
May 16-22: Period E
May 23-29: Period F