By: Steve Suman
According to the forecast, the North Woods will experience hot temperatures and various chances for thunderstorms in the next week (or longer). There should also be plenty of sunshine in the mix, however, so make your plans for summer recreation and a July 4th celebration!
“Water temperatures on the Quiet Lakes range from mid 60s to low 70s,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “The better fishing is in late afternoon into dusk. Some waters will start producing bug hatches that affect the bite in a positive – or negative – manner.
“Musky action remains slow, with anglers seeing follows, but not boating many fish. Most are casting an assortment of different baits and sizes, but smaller to mid-size baits are producing best.
“Shallow, mid-lake reefs and humps are producing some nice catches of walleye and northern pike, primarily in 8-14 feet. Live bait works best, either jigged or under slip bobbers. Slow trolling a spinner rig is productive, and casting weedlines with spinnerbaits will produce northern pike.
“The bass bite for both largemouth and smallmouth is consistent. For largemouth bass, cast to shoreline vegetation, docks and weeds. For smallmouth, look to rock and sand areas.
“Panfish finished spawning on most lakes and are ready to eat aggressively in thick vegetation in 4-8 feet. Try pitching a 1/16-oz. jig tipped with a crawler piece or use a small minnow under a slip bobber.
Trent at Hayward Bait says fishing is fair to good, depending on the species.
“Muskies are around lily pads in 5 feet in early morning and late evening. During the day, fish vegetation and flats in 10 feet. Natural color Husky Jerks, X-Raps, and rubber lures such as Swimmin’ Dawgs and Medussas work best.
“Walleye anglers are catching fish on weed edges and rock humps in 15-20 feet. If you find smallmouth, try a few feet deeper. Favored baits are leeches, minnows, and crankbaits.
“Northern pike are in weeds and lily pads in 5 feet early and late. During the day, work vegetation in 10 feet with Husky Jerks and X-Raps.
“Largemouth bass are in 5 feet around shorelines, docks, vegetation, timber, and baitfish early and late in the day. They now favor faster spinners, jerk minnow baits, and topwaters.
“Smallmouth bass are on rock piles, humps, sunken islands, and sandbars in 10 feet. Leeches, Ned rigs, and topwaters work well.
“Crappies are near vegetation, drop-offs, and humps in 8-12 feet. Use minnows, Slab Daddies, and small swimbaits.
“Bluegills are in 4-8 feet, hitting crawlers, leaf worms, jigs, and poppers.”
Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s say Nelson Lake walleye anglers should work shorelines early and late in the day and target deeper water during the middle of the day.
“Drift, troll, and cast rocky shorelines with crawler and minnow harnesses; jig and bobber fish leeches and minnows; and cast and troll stickbaits.
“Northern pike and largemouth bass anglers say chatterbaits work well, along with spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits.”
“Panfish anglers fishing for crappies and bluegills are using jigs and slip bobbers with worms, crawler chunks, waxies, leeches, and Gulp! Alive, which works as well as live bait. Start shallow, searching for remaining spawning beds, and work out to deeper water, making sure to try around cribs and bogs.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is full, with water temperatures in the mid-70s and rising.
“Muskies are on the move. With highs in the 80s this week, anglers can expect a good trolling bite. Target points, breaklines, deep, open water with cover on the bottom, and deep areas holding walleyes. Mattlocks, Jakes, and Grandmas are solid choices. At night, cast bucktails and topwaters over weed tops, retrieving into deeper water.
“Walleye fishing is slow with summer water temperatures. Anglers still catch fish, but have to work for them. During the day, when there is a chop, troll cover out to 18 feet with crankbaits, or jig leeches and crawlers. At night, fish weeds and wood in 6-12 feet.
“Northern pike are very active, though not many larger fish. Tinsel Tails and Johnson Silver Spoons in the weeds remain the most effective strategy.
“Smallmouth bass action is primarily on Ned rigs, plastics, and crawlers fished on stumps and rocks.
“Crappie fishing is predominantly on the bogs around 8 p.m., though cribs, brush piles, and deep weed humps are also productive. Anglers are using crappie minnows, Crappie Scrubs, and Mini-Mites.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses Nelson Lake’s fishing and fishing history.
“Habitat differences, fish community composition, and various management actions enable some lakes to deliver higher quality fishing experiences for certain species than other lakes. Here, I will highlight the reasons for the exceptional fishing opportunities in 2,716-acre Nelson Lake.
“Nelson Lake has experienced a seismic shift in fishery composition over the last 30 years. Once a very high-density walleye lake, it now has the unfortunate distinction of being a prime example of walleye recruitment failure, an issue impacting many lakes across the Midwest.
“While Nelson Lake today does not offer anything close to its walleye action of the past, the walleyes anglers catch are more likely to be large. A 2017 survey found 48 percent of all captured walleye were more than 20 inches.
“Largemouth bass have effectively filled the void left by walleye as the most abundant gamefish in the lake. Largemouth action tends to be consistent, with many fish in shallow weeds and wood. Most largemouths are in the 12- to 16-inch range, with few larger.
“Northern pike might be Nelson Lake’s most exceptional angling opportunity, when compared to other area lakes. While 40-inch pike are a true rarity in most lakes, Nelson has the ability to produce them with consistency.
“There are three reasons pike run large in Nelson Lake.
“First, there are no muskies in the lake. (Yes, there are rumors of musky in Nelson, but this is definitely a ‘photo or it didn’t happen’ situation.) This allows northern pike to fully occupy the large predator role and have access to the biggest food sources, which are mostly suckers.
“Second, pike recruitment tends to be lower than most other lakes, leading to a lower density population with less competition among individuals.
“Finally, there are restrictive size and bag limits in place that allow pike to reach their growth potential. It is worth noting the restrictive regulations could only be successful with the low recruitment/low density nature of this population.”
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB) approved bag limits and season dates for the 2020 waterfowl season. The North Duck Zone opens one week earlier than last season, resulting in two statewide openers – Sept. 26 in the north and Oct. 3 in the South and Mississippi zones. Regular duck season runs 60 days. A 92-day regular goose season, with a second split in the South Canada Goose Zone, results in a goose season open during Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Starting July 1, the DNR will begin accepting applications for the 2021 bear season. The deadline is Dec. 10. Be aware there are new bear management zone boundaries beginning with the 2021 season. The new zones are part of the Black Bear Management Plan designed to effectively address bear conflicts and manage desired population levels. For more information, search “bear” on the DNR website.
Fishing in general is good, but some species are definitely more cooperative for anglers. Again, this is a transition time and fish are moving or have moved to summer locations and changed feeding patterns. It will serve anglers well to stop at their favorite bait and tackle shop to get the most current favored baits, presentation, and fish locations.
Musky action is improving, though it remains very challenging. Hit shallow weeds, weedlines, and lily pads with bucktails and topwaters early and late in the day. During the day, target weeds, flats, and deep cover with spinner baits, Swimmin’ Dawgs and Medussas, or troll breaklines and points with larger baits such as Mattlocks, Jakes, and Grandmas.
Walleye action is somewhat slower, but some anglers continue to connect. Fish are dispersing and you might find them around weed beds, weedlines, wood, rock, and humps in 6-22 feet. During the day, target the deeper structure, but move to shallower cover in late evening when walleyes move in to feed. Top bait choices are currently leeches, crawlers, and minnows on jigs, slip bobbers, and spinner rigs for live bait. Artificials include trolled/cast crankbaits and stickbaits.
Northern pike are still on the feed and aggressive. Focus on weeds, weedlines, humps, lily pads, and panfish concentrations in 4-15 feet. Northern suckers, minnows, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, buzzbaits, Husky Jerks, and X-Raps are all great pike baits. For trophy fish, work deeper water with bigger baits.
Largemouth action is best in low light hours around weeds, weedlines, wood, brush, docks, stumps, and slop, with depths from very shallow out to about 8 feet. Spinners, minnow baits, chatterbaits, buzzbaits, plastics, and topwaters are all very productive.
Smallmouth fishing is good, with fish holding on humps, stumps, sand, rock, and bars in depths to 12 feet. Anglers are doing best with leeches, crawlers, Ned rigs, plastics in various forms, and topwaters.
Crappie fishing is fair to good, with evening hours providing the best action. Holding areas include thick vegetation, drop-offs, cribs, humps, brush, and bogs in depths to 14 feet. Baits of choice include crappie minnows, worms, waxies, leeches, Slab Daddies, Crappie Scrubs, Mini-Mites, Tattle-Tails, and Gulp! baits on jigs and/or under slip bobbers.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good and they are on the feed after completing spawning. Look in and around weeds, cribs, and bogs, from very shallow out to about 10 feet. Waxies, worms, crawler pieces, and leeches on jigs and under slip bobbers work well, while Gulp! baits and poppers are also producing.
July 1: Bear tag application period opens. Deadline is Dec. 10.
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
Aug. 7-8: Jack Pine Savage Days in Spooner – TBD (715-635-2168).
Sept. 4-6: 28th Annual Exeland Trout Fest (715) 943-2242).
Sept. 9-12: Lake Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt (filled).