By: Steve Suman
Forecasts for rain over the Memorial Day weekend did not come to fruition, with the exception of thunderstorms Monday morning. As such, it is probably best to take the forecast for the remainder of this week as a toss-up. Though it currently shows wet and warm as a distinct “possibility” – think positive and expect warm and sunny!
“Start musky season with smaller, softer plastics and swim-baits with slower retrieves. Muskies and northern pike are looking for spawning fish in 6-10 feet.
“The best walleye bite is on fatheads on 1/8-oz. jigs. Anglers are catching keepers off drop-offs in 10-14 feet. There are many undersized walleyes in holes in 18-25 feet.
“Drift jigging live bait on breaks in 6-14 feet is good for a mix of walleyes, northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and even an occasional musky. On some lakes, crawlers, minnows, and leeches are producing action, as are leeches under slip bobbers fished off sharp transitions. Check the regulations – some lakes have different rules.
“Panfish fishing improved with the warming water temperatures. Crappies are staging for spawn and anglers are finding them in 4-6 feet. Look for crappies to move into shallow, fresh vegetation this week. Try crappie minnow on small hooks or jigs fished under bobbers. Remember to always set the bobbers to keep your bait above the fish.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says warming water temperatures are pushing largemouth bass and bluegills in to spawn.
“Musky anglers will see decent action as water temperatures increase. No need to throw big lures this early in the season – larger jigs, sucker minnows, and bucktails will work.
“Walleye are in 10-15 feet near weed edges, but with warmer water temperatures, they will move shallow to feed in early mornings and late evenings.
“Northern pike are very active. Bigger pike will retreat to deeper water as temperatures warm, while smaller pike remain shallow. Anything from crappie jigs to larger Rapalas work well.
“Largemouth bass are active, but not aggressive. Try finesse lures, Texas-rigged soft plastics, and jigs. Males will be shallow, waiting for females, until the water temperature gets closer to 65 degrees.
“Smallmouth bass are near weed edges in 10-15 feet. Jigs/fatheads, swimbaits, and crankbaits work well. Leeches are good once water warms to more than 65 degrees.
“Crappies will soon move shallow to spawn. Jigging minnows and worms is the favored presentation.
“Bluegills are moving shallow and small jig, worms, and poppers, all work well.”
Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s say Nelson Lake walleye anglers report success on fatheads and jigs under slip bobbers.
“In addition, cast or troll Rapalas and Flicker Shads in the dam area, rocky shores, and river channel.
“For northern pike, cast darting action surface plugs or soak large minnows under bobbers.
“Largemouth bass fishing is good for anglers casting weedless frogs, scented plastics, and swimbaits near developing weedlines and weed beds.
“Panfish are nearly ready to spawn. Jig and bobber-fish shallow bays and shorelines with waxies, crawler chunks, small leeches, and minnows, or cast small Mimic Minnows and Beetle Spins. If you only find smaller fish near shorelines, move a little deeper for larger, staging fish.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is at full pool, with water temperature in the mid 60s.
“Musky anglers should target spots where crappies are spawning, as crappies are a major food staple for Flowage muskies. Use smaller baits, as these baits are more appealing in early season.
“Walleyes are slowly moving into their summer patterns. Minnows remain a strong bait choice, but leeches are becoming more popular. When walleyes go deeper during the day, target deeper areas with solid bottom cover, and try trolling with various shad-style crankbaits. As the day progresses to twilight, walleye move to breaklines, weed edges, stumps, and rocks.
“Northern pike are hunting panfish in the shallows and bays on the west side. Great places to start are Minnesota and Daggett’s bays. Live bait and spinnerbaits are solid bait choices.
“Crappies are spawning in the shallows and Minnesota and Sibley bays are very productive. Crappie minnows, Crappie Scrubs, and Gulp! Minnows are all producing good numbers of fish.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses stocking – and removing – suckers.
“White suckers receive little attention from anglers unless they are looking to use them for bait. The species is widespread in the Midwest, occurring in most lakes, rivers, and small streams.
“One thing known about white suckers, especially in musky country of northern Wisconsin, is they are a great food fish for predators. There are, however, waterbodies where suckers are so abundant there is concern they compete for food with other fish species, such as panfish, though I know of no such cases anywhere in the Hayward area.
“The imbalance of suckers – too many in some places and not enough in others – has led to some interesting fisheries management practices, including removing suckers from high density lakes and stocking them into other lakes as food for predators. This approach was apparently common in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, though evaluated only recently.
“Researchers took suckers from high-density lakes and stocked them into lakes with slow growing northern pike. They then evaluated if panfish growth improved in the lakes where they removed suckers and if pike growth improved in lakes where they stocked the suckers. They found little evidence of growth improvements in either the pike or the panfish.
“This study throws some cold water on the idea that you can simply stock more food for predators and change the growth dynamics of a system. An approach that may be more likely to yield results is to place an emphasis on overall ecosystem health and balanced predator prey relations.”
Free Fun Weekend and Free Fishing Weekend are on the schedule for June 6-7. During Free Fishing Weekend, the DNR waives the requirement for licenses and stamps to fish inland waters and outlying Wisconsin waters of the Great Lakes and Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. All other regulations apply.
During Free Fun Weekend, the DNR offers free admission to all state parks, forests, and trails, waives state trail pass requirements for biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and inline skating; and ATV/UTV owners can ride free. Non-resident ATV/UTV operators do not need a non-resident trail pass to ride state ATV trails. All other rules apply – safety education certification is required for all ATV and UTV operators who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988.
Reminder: Wisconsin residents have until May 31 to apply for a 2020 elk season tag. The $10 applications are available through the DNR’s Go Wild license system and license agents. Raffle tickets for a tag drawing are available from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for $10, with no limit on purchases. For more information, search “elk” on the DNR website.
Fishing conditions are good and the weather decent, though rain is in the forecast. Start planning for the Free Fishing and Free Fun weekends coming up June 6-7 when the DNR waives the requirement for fishing licenses, state park admission fees, trail passes, and more. See above for more information.
Musky season in the Northern Zone opened this past weekend, but apparently with little fanfare. Reports are few, but indicate action was fair. Fish are in depths out to about 12 feet, not far from where you will find spawning panfish. Good bait options include small to medium suckers, soft plastics, swimbaits, and bucktails.
Walleye action is good to very good, though should slow as fish disperse to deeper water summer spots. For now, target depths from 4-18 feet. Focus on shallower water in early morning and evening hours. Weedlines, rock, breaklines, brush, stumps, river channels, and transition areas are prime holding areas. Deeper cover is best during daytime hours. Live baits of choice include fatheads, walleye suckers, crawlers, and leeches fished on jigs, harnesses, and under slip bobbers. Effective artificials include casting or trolling crankbaits, Rapalas, Flicker Shads, and other minnow baits.
Northern pike are on the feed in shallow bays, weeds, and weedlines – and close to wherever you find spawning panfish. Depths vary from shallow to mid-depths, though look for trophy pike in deeper, cooler water. Pike are hitting nearly any offering, but top producers include suckers and smaller minnows under bobbers, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, Rapalas, #5 Mepps, and topwaters.
Largemouth fishing is somewhat slow, but quickly getting better with the warming water temperatures – which are encouraging bass to move shallower for spring spawning. Find them on weedlines, weed beds, and breaklines in 3-16 feet. Productive baits include live bait, rigged plastics, finesse baits, creature baits, swimbaits, and topwaters such as frogs.
Smallmouth action is good in 5-18 feet on weed edges, breaklines, and hard bottom areas. Jigs with minnows or leeches, swimbaits, crankbaits, and soft plastics will all entice the smallmouth.
Crappie fishing is good to very good as the fish are on shallow spawning beds or moving in that direction, depending on the lake. Start in mid-depths and cast shallow, working toward shore as necessary. Be sure to check regulations (for any species!) on the water you are fishing. Best offerings include jigs/crappie minnows, worms, panfish leeches, plastics, Mimic Minnows, Beetle Spins, Crappie Scrubs, and Gulp! Minnows. Use restraint in your harvest.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, but constantly improving as the fish move shallower in preparation for spawning. Look for fish on beds in shallow bays and shorelines, with bigger ‘gills just off/outside those shallow areas. Again, show some restraint on harvest. Top baits include waxies, worms, crawler chunks, small leeches, and plastics under bobbers.
May 20-26: Period F spring turkey season.
June 6-7: Free Fun Weekend: Free admission to all state parks, forests and trails; ATV/UTV owners can ride free; DNR waives state trail pass requirement for biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, inline skating.
June 20: Summer solstice – the longest day (daylight) and shortest night of the year.
June 28: Hayward Bass Club’s Round Lake Open tournament 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-699-1015; 634-2921).
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).