This week, spring weather should start looking more like… well, spring weather! The week starts with high temperatures in the 50-degree range, but ends with highs in the mid-60s (and maybe warmer!) Rumor has it we might see some sunshine as well. Sunny and 65 degrees are on the schedule for the Saturday gamefish opener. Enjoy the weather change and if you fish, get your tackle ready to go!
“Ice continues to go out as we get closer to opening weekend,” says Levi at Hayward Bait. “It is difficult to tell how much ice remains, but if you go on the ice, go with extreme caution!
“Crappie anglers who are still ice fishing are using crappie minnows or purple and pink plastics. Look for fish to start moving shallower towards structure and weedlines in 5-10 feet, or on deep basin edges in 10-20 feet. Open water anglers should look for crappies to move towards their spawning grounds off shallow structure and weed flats. Plastics and crappie minnows should work well on opening weekend. Any types of structure just off shore in 5-10 feet are key places to look for crappies.
“Bluegill anglers who continue to ice fish should look for fish to push shallow and into shallow weed flats in 3-8 feet. Waxies are working best, but some anglers are catching bigger bluegills on plastics. Open water anglers should look for fish to push to shallow bays and structure. Fish both live bait and artificials near areas where bluegills typically spawn, with 3-8 feet your best bet for opening weekend.
“Perch are staging near or on their spawning areas. As the weather warms, look for fish to start spawning on mud flats in 5-15 feet or in creeks and near creek mouths. Best baits include artificial such as small swimbaits and jigs, with live bait such as fatheads and crappie minnows key.
“Opening weekend walleye anglers should look for fish off any type of structure in 3-8 feet with deep water nearby. If you fish a lake with current, fishing near it is beneficial. Best baits include jerkbaits, bucktails, hair jigs, and plastics.
“Northern pike anglers will find pike in shallow, weedy bays and on shallow weed flats during the opener. Rattle Traps and spinnerbaits should be the most productive baits.
“Good luck and tight lines to all anglers fishing opening weekend!”
Greg at Happy Hooker says the ice is going away quickly and it appears all of the Quiet Lakes will be free of ice by the fishing opener. The fish should be biting, as there has been little fishing pressure the last few weeks.
“If you have not already done so, make sure to stop at a local bait shop to get a new license and a current fishing regulations pamphlet.
“Fish will use vegetation to hide from predators and to start preparing for spawn, and anywhere in weeds in 6-15 feet is a great place to start. Crappie minnows and fatheads under bobbers with plain hooks or jig heads will catch fish. Keeping it simple and subtle may work better than being big and flashy this time of year.
“If you are keeping fish to eat, make sure you know the regulations and use selective harvest so we can continue to have great fisheries in the area.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses myths concerning catfish.
“Many northern Wisconsin anglers have limited experience with catfish, though catfish are present even into some of the upper reaches of the Chippewa and Wisconsin rivers and in border waters such as the St. Croix and St. Louis rivers.
“Some anglers who do not actively target catfish might have some misconceptions about catfish habits and behaviors. For example, many people think catfish are ‘bottom feeders,’ but that label is not wholly accurate. There are two types of catfish in Wisconsin, and each type has a different mode of feeding.
“Channel catfish, which are more widely distributed and smaller, are true generalists. They will eat anything from insects to crayfish to live fish. Channel catfish are also more likely to eat dead fish, which makes them more susceptible to ‘cut-bait.’ They are prone to take ‘stink bait,’ too, the name applied to a wide range of intensely pungent commercial and homemade concoctions.
“Flathead catfish eating habits are more similar to musky or walleye than to channel catfish. Flatheads are impressive predators that almost exclusively eat live prey, predominantly fish. A flathead will likely swim right past stink-bait or cut-bait offerings.
“This addresses another important misconception: catfish are not sedentary.
“Some anglers picture a catfish as a stationary fish, just waiting for food to come along. In reality, both channel and flathead catfish move around quite a bit searching for food or making movements between different seasonal habitats.”
The DNR is reminding the public that life jackets save lives and anyone hitting the water this weekend should wear a life jacket and make safety part of the fun. Nearly 80 percent of last year’s 25 boating fatality victims were not wearing life jackets. Of those, 91 percent were male, with an average age of 46.
The DNR does not track all drownings, only fatalities linked to the use of a recreational activity item, such as a boat, kayak, or canoe. Wardens have responded to numerous drowning deaths only to find a life jacket stuffed inside a kayak or floating near the capsized canoe. Current and past boating incident reports are available on the DNR website.
For more information, search ‘boating safety’ on the DNR website.
Treeland Resorts is hosting its annual Treeland Challenge Bass and Walleye Catch and Release Tournament Thursday May 12 through Sunday May 15. This tournament is all about the camaraderie of fishing and bringing together old and new fishing buddies. Participants can win thousands of dollars in door prizes ever day of the tournament ‑ four days of prizes! The tournament accepts single and family registrations. For more information, visit www.treelandresorts.com or call (715) 462-3874.
The Northwest Wisconsin ITBEC Tourism Committee is hosting a ‘Family Fishing Day‘ Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at Shell Lake Memorial Park in Washburn County, as part of the Governor’s Fishing Opener. The Tourism Committee welcomes families to come out to enjoy a fun day full of family entertainment and a free community fish fry.
The first 100 families to check in at the walleye statue will receive a family swag bag! Event highlights include learn-to-fish activities; casting instruction with DNR staff; minnow races; making fishing lures; “Find the Fish” scavenger hunt; build-your-own s’mores station; a magician at 10:30 a.m.; Pow Wow dancers at 1 p.m.; safety demonstrations; and more.
Molson Coors and the Northwest Wisconsin ITBEC Tourism Committee are sponsoring the free fish fry from 11 a.m. until the fish is gone. The meal includes a 6 oz. deep fried cod filet, coleslaw, potato chips, cookie, and beverage. Servings are limited, so come early! Shell Lake Lions Club members will prepare the meal and appreciate donations for their time!
For more information, visit www.northwestwisconsin.com or call (715) 635-9696.
Hayward Lakes Chapter-Muskies Inc. welcomes the public to its club meeting Tuesday, May 3, at Flat Creek Lodge in Hayward. A general business meeting starts at 7 p.m., followed by featured guest and speaker John Dettloff, well-known local guide and resort owner. Dettloff’s presentation on fishing for muskies on the Chippewa Flowage begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and anyone interested in becoming a new member of Muskies, Inc. can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
The 2022 inland gamefish season opens this Saturday, May 7. The forecast calls for mild, sunny weather for Saturday; the remainder of the weekend is up for grabs. Make sure to check the current regulations for details and rule changes.
Following are final reminders prior to the opener:
Fishing/hunting licenses for 2021-22 expired March 31, so you need to renew.
As of April 1, the Chippewa Flowage panfish bag limit changed to 10 combined panfish species.
The early catch-and-release trout season closes May 6.
New fishing regulations go into effect in northern Wisconsin this year, in particular walleye regulations. The complete list of changes is available on the DNR’s Fishing Regulations webpage.
Wisconsin’s boat registration period runs 3 years, beginning April 1 of the first year of issue/renewal and expires March 31 of the 3rd year after issuance or renewal. Make sure your boat has a current registration!
Walleye anglers fishing opening weekend should target structure in 4-10 feet adjacent to deeper water. Best baits include walleye suckers and fatheads on jigs, crawlers and leeches on jigs and harnesses, crankbaits, and plastics.
Northern pike anglers should find fish on shallow, weedy flats, in weedy bays, and near panfish concentrations. Northern suckers, walleye suckers, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, swimbaits, and crankbaits should produce.
Crappie fishing is fair, with some anglers still ice fishing and others hitting open water. Look for fish on weedlines and around structure in 4-12 feet, and on basin edges in 12-22 feet. Crappie minnows and plastics, preferably in pink and purple, will do the trick.
Bluegill fishing is good, with some anglers still testing their luck and ice fishing. Fish are shallow on weed flats and around structure in shallow bays in 3-10 feet. Baits of choice include waxies, worms, plastics, and Gulp! baits.
Perch fishing is good, with fish staging near or in spawning areas on mud flats in depths to 15 feet and/or in creeks and creek mouths. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, fatheads, fish heads, waxies, and worms on jigs and small hooks, and small swimbaits.
March 31: The 2021-22 fishing/hunting licenses expired!
April 1: Chippewa Flowage panfish bag limit changed to 10 combined panfish species.
April 30: Otter and beaver trapping seasons closed in Northern Zone.
May 3: Hayward Chapter-Muskies Inc. meeting at Flat Creek Lodge, 7 p.m. (715-634-4543).
May 6: Early catch-and-release trout season closes.
May 7: Wisconsin general gamefish opener (see regs for details).
May 7: Northwest Wisconsin ITBEC Tourism Committee hosting Governor’s Fishing Opener (715-635-9696).
May 12-15: Treeland Challenge Bass and Walleye Catch and Release Tournament (715-462-3874).
May 20-21: 35th Annual Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward event (715-634-3185).
May 28: Musky season opens in Northern Zone.
May 28: Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum ‑ Canoe & Wooden Boat Show, Spooner, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-635-2479).
May 31: Application deadline for 2022 elk tag.
June 4-5: DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend.
June 24-26: Musky Festival (715-634-8662).
June 26: Hayward Bass Club Open bass tournament on Round Lake 8 .am.-4 .pm. (405-227-1789).
Bonus harvest authorizations on sale until selling out or season ends.
B: April 27-May 3
C: May 4-10
D: May 11-17
E: May 18-24
F: May 25-31
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.