By: Steve Suman
This week’s forecast shows rain and thunderstorm chances through Tuesday, and clear and sunny mid-week. Chances for rain and thunderstorms, and a warming trend, return Friday night through the weekend. That is reaching out a ways and subject to change. It is a great summer in the North Woods, despite the unfortunate cancellation of many events.
“Weather is hot and so is the fishing on some waters. It is best to get on the water in early morning, late evening, and after dark. Fish are moving to cooler, deeper holes and around structure. If you find fish at a certain water temperature, try to find areas with identical conditions.
“Walleye fishing is good on some lakes, with daytime anglers fishing leeches under slip bobbers finding fish near mid-lake humps in 12-20 feet. A few anglers report nice walleye in 12-18 feet. It is a hit-or-miss, low numbers bite, but some big fish. Late afternoon into dark is the most productive time.
“Northern pike and largemouth bass anglers are catching fish in and around deeper vegetation.
“Smallmouth bass anglers are getting some very nice fish on swimbaits and crankbaits cast near hard substrate such as rock, sand, and gravel.
“Panfish anglers are catching fish around deep vegetation. Avoid bass and northern pike by using corn. Otherwise, waxies, leaf worms, and small plastics will produce fish.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says recent rains brought temporary relief for the anglers and fish dealing with warm mid-summer water temperatures. Some fish have moved to the shallows, at least for the short term.
“To prevent mortality rates, most musky anglers are foregoing fishing until temperatures cool.
“Walleyes are as shallow as 4 feet, most likely due to the recent storms. Most anglers are working weedline edges with spinners, jigs, and crankbaits.
“Northern pike are all over the lakes, but commonly found near drop-offs in about 10 feet. Work Rapalas, spinnerbaits, and swimbaits on weed edges.
“Largemouth bass are staging around drop-offs, ledges, humps, and creek channels. Many types of lures are working, with topwaters favored, but swimbaits, stickworms, and creature baits are pulling their weight.
“Smallmouth bass are around humps and drop-offs in 5-12 feet, with Ned rigs, 5-inch wacky worms, and topwaters working well.
“Crappies are around shallow wood and emergent vegetation. Minnows and worms on jigs, small Rapalas, and topwaters are all effective.
“Bluegills are in about 8 feet and favoring live bait, though with recent bug hatches, poppers and flies work well.”
Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s offer a pat on the back to Nelson Lake anglers braving the hot temperatures to get out and enjoy fishing!
“The walleye bite is slow, with best success jigging minnows and leeches or casting Rapalas, Flicker Shads, Rattle Traps, and Beetle Spins.
“Northern pike are very active around weed beds and weed edges. Cast spoons, spinners, swim jigs, and buzzbaits.
“Largemouth bass anglers using scented worms, creatures, and weedless baits are working shorelines in early morning and late evening and the river channel in midday.
“Panfish fishing is good, especially around bogs and cribs. Use waxies, worms, crawlers, and leeches under bobbers or jig fishing. Fish might be a little deeper with warm surface temperatures.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage pool is full and the water temperature 78-81 degrees.
“Musky fishing is now safer due to somewhat cooler water temperatures, but be diligent with your release. Try trolling deeper basins with Mattlocks, 13-inch Grandmas, 14-inch Jakes, and 10-inch Cranes. In very early morning and late evening hours, cast bucktails and surface baits.
“Walleyes might come into 6-12 feet in the evening, but stay in deep basins with cover during the day. Water temperatures dropped a bit, though still higher than ideal. Leeches are the go-to bait, but this could be the last week for leeches.
“Northern pike action is quiet, but some fish might move into shallower weeds with the dropping water temperatures, and Tinsel Tails are the trick this time of year.
“Smallmouth bass are in/around shallow stumps and rocks on the east side. Several local guides say Ned Rigs and Whopper Ploppers are very effective.
“Crappies still get a lot of attention on the bogs at night. Crappie minnows, tube jigs, one-inch Gulp! Minnows, Crappie Scrubs, and Mini-Mites all perform very well. Get to the bog early to reserve your spot!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses muskies and heat.
“I do not need to tell you how hot it has been, as you are feeling it – and the fish feel it, too! Unlike humans, who can escape to air-conditioned buildings, fish are stuck with the heat, though feel it in a different way.
“Fish are cold-blooded and the environment determines their body temperature. When the environment gets hot, they get hot. This leads to some major metabolic and physiological shifts that impact their behavior, growth, and potentially their survival.
“What do we know about muskies and heat, and what might it mean for your fishing?
“When temperatures get really hot, muskies eat less. Studies of muskies feeding across different temperatures found that musky feeding peaks around 73 °F, though that varies a bit based on the musky strain. When water temperature gets warmer than 73 °F, muskies start to feed less, and at extreme temperatures, a musky might not feed at all.
“High water temperature induces a ‘stress response’ in muskies. Cortisol, a common indicator of stress, releases into the blood stream and the size and count of red blood cells increase to facilitate oxygen transfer. This stress response can help muskies endure brief periods of extreme temperatures, but long durations of very warm water can be lethal.
“A study in which I took part found that muskies held in steadily warming water started to lose their orientation at about 85 °F, with some succumbing at that temperature or slightly warmer. A study of angling-caught muskies found that muskies caught and released at temperatures up to about 80 °F were able to survive the experience, but the study included no muskies caught at temperatures warmer than 80 °F.
“There is still more to learn about what extreme summer water temperatures mean for survival of angled muskies, but studies such as these have started to outline what might be the ‘danger zone.’”
The application deadline for bobcat, fisher, and Upriver Winnebago system sturgeon spearing is August 1. Beginning this year (2020), trappers no longer need to apply for a river otter permit. The DNR is shifting to a bag limit/quota to simplify regulations, while maintaining safeguards to ensure an abundant river otter population. Successful applicants drawing a fisher tag, and bobcat applicants who intend to trap, must purchase a trapping license. All first time trappers must complete the Wisconsin trapper education course prior to purchasing a trapping license, unless actively engaged in farming. The DNR recommends attending a trapper education course prior to applying for a bobcat or fisher tag to ensure they fulfill all requirements before the start of seasons. For more information, visit www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/dates.html.
Musky action is fair to good, though with the warm water temperatures many anglers are choosing to give the muskies a break and not pursue them until cooler temperatures prevail. Should you fish muskies at this time, trolling deep basins with large stickbaits during the day is a possibility. In evening and early morning, cast bucktails and topwaters along shallow to mid-depth weed edges.
Walleye fishing is fair to good, though with inconsistent bite windows and best fishing in early morning and late afternoon into after dark. During the day, work weeds, humps, and deep basins in depths to 20 feet and deeper. In the evening hours, target weed edges from shallow to 10 feet. Leeches and crawlers on jigs, slip bobbers, and spinner rigs work well, but fish are also hitting Beetle Spins, crankbaits, Rapalas, Flicker Shads, and Rattle Traps.
Northern pike action is very good or slow, depending on the lake. Look for fish in/on and near weeds, weedlines, weed edges, drop-offs, and panfish concentrations in depths out to 15 feet. Spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons with Twister Tails, swimbaits, buzzbaits, and Rapalas are all working. Go deeper with bigger baits for trophy pike.
Largemouth fishing is good to very good in/over/on the edges of shallow to mid-depth weeds, humps, ledges, drop-offs, channels, slop, and shorelines. Very effective baits include swimbaits, stick worms, creature baits, scented worms, weedless plastics, and topwaters.
Smallmouth action is good on structure and hard bottom areas such as gravel, rock, sand, stumps, humps, and drop-offs in depths out to 15 feet. Ned rigs, wacky worms, swimbaits, and crankbaits in crayfish colors, as well as topwaters, are all catching fish.
Crappie fishing is good to very good around mid-depth to deeper weeds, wood, brush, bogs, and cribs. A wide variety of baits are working, including crappie minnows, waxies, worms, leeches, tube jigs, plastics, Crappie Scrubs, Mini-Mites, Tattle-Tails, and Gulp! baits, small Rapalas, and topwaters.
Bluegill fishing is good to very good around weeds, brush, cribs, and bogs out to about 12 feet. Top baits include waxies, worms, leaf worms, crawler chunks, and panfish leeches on jigs and/or under bobbers, and on flies and poppers. Try a bit deeper for bigger ’gills.
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 (canceled) (715-635-2168).
Aug. 8: Northwoods Bass Anglers Big Chip Open Tournament, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (715-762-1833).
Sept. 4-6: 28th Annual Exeland Trout Fest (715-943-2242).
Sept. 9-12: Lake Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt (filled).
Oct. 8-10: Treeland’s 5th Annual Muskie Fly Fishing Championship. Limited to first 100 entries (715-462-3874).