By: Steve Suman
This week looks to be another spring run of very varied weather, from warm and sunny to cool and cloudy, with rain, snow, and a mix of the two – even while most lows are in the 30s and highs in the mid-50s! Keep an eye on the sky and do not be deterred from enjoying those periods of sunshine!
“The gamefish opener is Saturday, May 2 – are you ready?” asks Pat at Happy Hooker.
“Have you renewed your license? Cleaned out the tackle boxes, discarded and replaced rusty hooks and melted plastics? This is a good time to grease and oil reels, as necessary, as well as spool them with fresh line. Check your rods for broken eyelets and broken tips. Do your landing nets have holes or frayed netting?
“This is also the time to organize your boat, charge batteries, and service or replace the fire extinguishers.
“Most of the Quiet Lakes are 80-90 free of ice, depending on the lake, though some back bays sheltered from the wind still have some ice – but certainly nothing safe enough for ice fishing. Early season anglers are heading to the open rivers to fish, but they are swift and cold!
“Whatever you do out there, be safe!”
Trent at Hayward Bait says that following an early warm spell, spring temperatures returned to a seasonal average.
“Now that ice conditions are virtually non-existent and there is open water, boats are coming out of storage. Some lakes might still have a very thin sheet of ice on calm, shaded bays, but one warm day should take care of it.
“Gamefish season is closed until the May 2 opener and most anglers are targeting panfish, bass, trout, and suckers.
“Bass fishing pre-spawn can be an incredible time to catch a personal best. Bass are not heavy foragers in the winter and will feast prior to spawning, but most likely not near the shoreline. Remember that bass fishing is catch and release only until May 2 for largemouth and June 20 for smallmouth.
“When fishing for crappies, there are many good lures and baits, but chartreuse Fuzzy Grubs on jigs have worked for decades. For bluegills, chicken jigs and crawlers can put fish in the frying pan throughout most of the season. Crappies and bluegills have not yet moved to shallow water, so focus on depths of 15-20 feet on most area lakes, though you might see bluegills in 10 feet on shallower waterbodies.
“Perch are in and around shallow sand flats and worms and Bimbo Skunk lure jigs will entice these fish.
“If you enjoy river fishing, suckers and trout are the main focus. Early trout season on the inland streams is catch and release, artificials only, and black/yellow Panther Martins and red/white Mepps should hook a few trout for you. Suckers are hitting on crawlers and leaf worms. If you are fishing the Lake Superior tributaries, spawn sacs are the favorite choice.
“For those who prefer the woods to waters, spring turkey season is open and the toms are strutting and calling enthusiastically while on the prowl for hens. The turkey population in the North Woods has boomed over the last several years and we anticipate a successful season for many turkey hunters. With minimal snow on the ground and things firming up already this spring, turkeys can get around easily compared to previous years.
“Whatever your preferred outdoor activity, stay safe and have fun!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses USGS river gauges as your new favorite fishing tool.
“Have you ever driven somewhere to go fishing, only to find the conditions totally unfishable after a large rainfall event raises the water level, turning the rivers into a muddy mess? It is about the worst feeling and this has certainly happened to me plenty of times, especially when fishing rivers or creeks.
“Today, it is hard remember the last time that happened to me, due in large part to one of my favorite fishing tools, the National Water Information System. This system houses real-time stream gauge data collected by the U.S. Geologic Survey. Find the data at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/rt.
“These days, a quick check of the page shows me the current conditions before committing to a fishing trip. In the Hayward area, there are two particularly relevant stations – the Namekagon River at Leonard School Road and the Chippewa River at Bishop’s Bridge. Each of these will tell you how much flow is coming down that river.
“The Namekagon gauge has the added perk of reporting stream temperature. Reading these gauges will require a bit of experience. To help speed your learning curve, the Namekagon is very fishable when the Leonard School gauge is in the neighborhood of 200 cubic feet per second (cfs), while the Chippewa River fishes well when the Bishop’s Bridge gauge is in the 500-800 cfs range.
“Many other gauges might be of interest to area anglers as well, including the Bois Brule, Flambeau, and St. Croix.
“Be smart – and fish hard!”
Anglers and others who missed attending the annual Sawyer County Fisheries Forum in March that was canceled due to concerns about COVID-19 can view the “video forum” online. Wisconsin Northland Outdoors producer John Myhre helped facilitate the production. The video is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc-91pZLQ90&t=328s. If you have questions or comments after viewing the video, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/2B75G7V.
The DNR says sales of remaining bonus permits for the 2020 spring turkey season continue and will do so until authorizations sell out or the season ends. At this time, remaining bonus permits are available as follows: Zones 1, 3 – periods E-F; Zones 4, 5 – Period F. Cost is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents. Properties designated as public hunting grounds, including state parks open to hunting, remain open to turkey hunting, even if in the closure order. For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website.
The DNR has suspended ALL burning permits until further notice due to the COVID-19 Safer at Home order. This prohibits all burning of debris in barrels, debris piles on the ground, grass, and wooded areas. Spring has the highest fire risk, with debris burning the #1 cause of wildfires. People cause more than 98 percent of all wildfires in Wisconsin and most debris fires occur in spring after the snow-cover melts and before vegetation greens. Be aware of sneaky causes of wildfires such as sparks and hot exhaust systems from logging, farming equipment, and off-road recreational vehicles.
In the past week, there were nearly 50 wildfires across the state and strong, gusty winds, low humidity, and dry conditions mean that current fire danger throughout Wisconsin are Very High. Even with rain in the forecast, grasses and other vegetation can dry out very quickly and allow fires to escape and grow rapidly. Wildfires have many causes – do not be one of them!
The DNR reminds Wisconsin boaters using Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters that a joint agreement between the states governs the waters and Michigan currently prohibits use of motorized watercraft in its waters. Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order prohibits the use of a motorboat, PWC, and similar watercraft, including gas and electric motors, in Michigan waters for the duration of the order.
As the availability of open water increases, more anglers are taking advantage and getting their boats on the lakes, while other anglers are concentrating on the streams and rivers.
All anglers should take note of new local, statewide, and regional fishing regulations for the waters they are fishing. Some changes are in effect as of April and new regulations regarding catfish took effect in March.
Hayward area anglers should note the printed 2020-21 fishing regulations pamphlet contains an incorrect opening date for walleye season on the Chippewa Flowage. Walleye season on the Flowage opens May 2, the same as everywhere else. The DNR is working to correct the online version, but the printed version is incorrect.
Anglers who fish the Wisconsin-Michigan border waters should read information (above) concerning regulations regarding fishing those waters.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing is now a year-around option, with some exceptions. Fishing is catch and release only outside of the regular gamefish season, with smallmouth catch and release until June 20. Fishing is good once you locate the “pods” of bass, which can be a challenge. Swimbaits, jerkbaits, and live bait are good choices.
Crappie fishing is fair to good, depending on the lake and current conditions. Look for them in depths from 10-22 feet, thought this, too, will vary from lake to lake. Crappie minnows, plain and dressed jigs with waxies, plastics, and Gulp! baits are all productive at this time.
Bluegill fishing is fair, with fish locating in about the same depths as crappies, but around weeds and structure. Small jigs and teardrops with waxies, worms, and plastics should produce some bites.
Perch action is good, with fish on and around shallow sand flats. Small minnows, worms, waxies, and dressed jigs can get their attention and put some eaters in the livewell.
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
April 15-21: Period A.
April 22-28: Period B.
April 29-May 5: Period C.
May 6-12: Period D.
May 13-29: Period E.
May 20-26: Period F.