By: Steve Suman
The current forecast predicts warm and slightly windy weather, with rain possible toward the end of the week into the weekend. Spring’s late arrival makes 80-degree temperatures quite welcome, even if accompanied by precipitation. Ice is gone and fishing (and other water recreation) is on!
“Welcome to the new season,” says Pat at Happy Hooker.
“Walleye anglers report moderate success on the lakes and better fishing on the rivers. Lake walleyes remain rather shallow and off the spawning areas. Females still recovering from spawning are not active and slow to respond, but anglers are catching a few smaller males on deeper edges. Jigs and live bait are best, but small crankbaits will work later. Northern pike are in the shallows.
“Panfish anglers report limited success in deeper water, but the fish are staging and will move shallow for spawning. Use crappie minnows, Gulp! Minnows, and Tattle-Tails on jigs and/or under slip bobbers. Work the baits above the fish, not on the bottom.”
“The DNR placed long capture nets on several points around the lakes. They extend quite a ways from the shoreline, but are marked with buoys and very visible. Watch out for the nets and give them a wide berth.”
Guide Steve Genson at Hayward Bait says all lakes are clear of ice and fishing is good.
“Walleyes anglers report the best success with jigs and minnows, Rippin’ Raps, and Husky Jerks. Most action is shallow, 10 feet and less, with some good action on crankbaits trolled in 10-20 feet.
Northern pike action is mostly shallow as well, with shallow bays and flats your best bet. Crankbaits and swimbaits are working well.
“Bass action is good, with most fish very shallow. Find the warmest water and focus on hard structure with wacky worms, crankbaits, and jigs. Panfish action is slow, but will improve with warming temperatures.
“Trout fishing is good on most streams and spinners, small Rapalas, and flies all work.
“Turkey hunting is decent following green-up, with good action early and late in the day.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is down about 1 foot and the water temperature in the low to mid 40s.
“Walleye anglers are catching fish on various structures and in various depths, but mostly on shallow wood and stumps with minnows, and assorted crankbaits.
“There are few northern pike reports, though some walleye anglers say pike are hitting live bait in deeper holes. As the weather warms, expect to find them shallow, in weeds and other cover.
“Crappies are not spawning yet, though anglers report observing some smaller males in shallower weeds. Most crappies, including the larger females, are beginning to congregate in deeper water outside the bays. It is probably still 1-2 weeks before the spawn starts.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says Chequamegon Bay ice is out!
“Trolling for trout and salmon is good off the Sioux and Onion rivers for anglers working the mudline and trolling shallow running stickbaits off boards.
“Walleye anglers are fishing during low light hours and trolling the shallows. Smallmouth bass should arrive any day now – the late ice and cold might have thrown them off their game. Smelt have run for two nights – come up and enjoy the spring tradition!
“Steelhead anglers, especially those who know the locations of the holes, report success in all the tributary streams.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses 2018 spring fish spawning – it is all happening at once!
“The term “broadcast spawner” refers to fish species that drop large numbers of eggs – often more than 20,000 per female – over the bottom of the lake or river while males fertilize them. This usually means females are ‘paired-up’ with at least one, and sometimes more than one, male. The eggs then settle into the bottom until they hatch.
“In northern Wisconsin, broadcast spawning species include walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, yellow perch, and sturgeon. Each of these species typically spawns at a different water temperature, meaning that in a normal year they all spawn at slightly different times.
“In the usual progression, northern pike start spawning while the water temperature is in the mid-30s, walleye spawning peaks in the mid to low 40s, muskellunge and yellow perch in the mid 50s, and sturgeon in the low 60s. However, with the late ice-out and rapid warm up in 2018, almost all of these species were spawning at the same time, within a week of ice-out.
“This created some major challenges for DNR crews conducting fisheries surveys and it is unclear how it will affect spawning success for different species.”
On May 26, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner is hosting its ninth annual Canoe and Wooden Boat Show. The free event includes museum tours, exhibit hall open house, canoe workshop, and live music, with food and beverages available in the beer garden. The main attraction is the wide array of antique canoes, boats, and canoe related materials on display, with collectors, builders, and canoeing enthusiasts bringing their gems to display, discuss, sell, or trade. For more information, visit www.wisconsincanoeheritagemuseum.org or call (715) 635-2479.
Flambeau River State Forest will host an open house Friday, May 25, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., at the office headquarters on Hwy. W (22 miles west of Phillips or 15 miles east of Winter). Various staff will be available throughout the day to visit and answer any questions about the forest, recreation, or management. For more information, call (715) 332-5271.
This Saturday, May 19, from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Crex Meadows Wildlife Area will host the Crex Meadows Bird Festival. This is an opportunity for bird enthusiasts of all levels to celebrate birds at one of Wisconsin’s largest state owned wildlife areas. Enjoy guided bird tours through the property, songbird banding, presentations, activities for kids, and more. A wildlife painting workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and participants using oil paints will sketch, under paint, and paint a drake mallard. Cost is $60. Some events require pre-registration. For more information, visit www.crexmeadows.org or call (715) 463-2739.
Musky Tale Resort’s annual Northern Encounter fishing contest on the Chippewa Flowage is May 18-20. The entry fee is $90/two-person team (after May 1). The contest awards prizes for a minimum of five places and the largest fish. Fishing hours are 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 a.m.-noon Sunday. For more information, visit www.muskytale.com or call (715) 462-3838.
The Hayward Chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries will hold its 31st annual fishing event for people with disabilities Friday and Saturday, May 18-19, at Lake Chippewa Campground on the Chippewa Flowage. The event hosts up to 150 participants fishing from boats and pontoons – which for some is an experience that was once only a dream – and is two days of fishing, friends, evening meals, and fun. There is always a need for volunteers. For more information, visit www.haywardfhnb.org, or call (715) 634-3185; (800) 243-3462.
Walleye action is fair to good, with fish around various types of structure and at assorted depths out to 20 feet. The top baits and presentations include jigs and minnows, crankbaits, Rippin’ Raps, Husky Jerks, and trolled crankbaits.
Northern pike fishing is fair. Look for fish in a variety of locations, from shallow weeds, bays, and flats to deep holes. Productive baits include sucker minnows, crankbaits, spinners, and swim baits.
Largemouth bass are very shallow and offering very good fishing. Concentrate on warmer water and fish various types of structure with wacky worms, crankbaits, and jigs.
Smallmouth fishing is good, but remember the season is catch and release only in the North Zone until June 16. Baits of choice include wacky worms, crankbaits, jigs, and plastics.
Crappie action is slow. Fish are still in mid-depths to deeper water, staging for their move to shallower water for spawning. Try crappie minnows, Gulp! baits, Mini-Mites, and Tattle-Tails on jigs or plain hooks, using slip bobbers to keep the baits at the proper depth.
Bluegill fishing is slow, with fish near cover in deeper water. The most productive baits include waxies, worms, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs or plain hooks, fished under slip bobbers.
May 18-19: Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward Annual Event (715-634-3185; 800-243-3462).
May 18-20: Northern Encounter at Musky Tale Resort (715-462-3838).
May 19: Bird Festival at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area; 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (715-463-2739).
May 23: Fishing Has No Boundaries Kids Day at Nelson Lake.
May 25: Flambeau River State Forest open house, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-332-5271).
May 26: Muskellunge season opens north of Highway 10.
May 26: Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner hosting Canoe & Wooden Boat Show (715-635-2479).
June 2-3: Free Fun Weekend. Free fishing, park/forest entry, DNR trails, ATV/UTV trails (see restrictions).
June 16: Northern zone smallmouth bass season goes from catch-and-release to daily bag limits (check regs).
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).
Spring turkey season dates
May 9-15: Period D
May 16-22: Period E
May 23-29: Period F
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau website, view its Calendar of Events, or call 800-724-2992.