By: Steve Suman
A rainy, windy start to the week will transition to drier weather, but much cooler! Highs in the low to mid 40s and lows in the low to mid 30s (with a night in the 20s ahead) will round out the week. Wednesday evening to the weekend looks relatively clear. There is still some leaf color to enjoy, but take a jacket!
“Due to inconsistent weather, fish in the Quiet Lakes are in a mood,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but we have time to get them in a better mood. Lakes are in fall transition, with falling water temperatures and many leaves on the surface. For anglers still hoping for great fall fishing, the good news is that area waters are not very busy and fish should see little pressure from now until ice season.
“Anglers casting or jigging should float a musky sucker over the side of the boat or under a float. Big predators such as muskies, trophy walleyes, and northern pike are most active this time of year. Regarding musky suckers, there is a serious shortage in this area. If you intend to use suckers, check close to home or at stores along the way. Make sure the suckers have adequate aeration or they might be dead when you arrive. An alternative is using a crappie, walleye, or northern pike as bait, but remember that whatever species you use counts against the daily limit.
“Walleyes are roaming contour breaks and chasing baitfish and same goes for crappies. In fact, anglers fishing crappie holes at this time of year can find success catching bonus walleyes. For live bait set-ups, fathead minnows or walleye suckers will do the trick.
“Casting shorelines with double-jointed stickbaits and spinnerbaits will turn some northern pike and bass.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says Hayward area lakes have experienced turnover, water temperatures are in the 50s, and vegetation is dying. Fewer weedlines and less cabbage make it easy to target fish on hard structure and cover.
“Musky and big northern pike are usually very hungry this time of year and it is difficult to choose a lure that is too big. Large paddle-tail swimbaits, Bull Dawgs, and just about any large rubber baits are all good options. Watch for these fish to push from the shallows out to deeper water to where the other fish populations have migrated, with 10-20 feet a good starting range.
“Walleyes also tend to push to deeper water in the fall and hang out on hard bottoms such as rock piles. If you are hooking smallmouth, but cannot find walleyes, fish a few feet deeper, since walleye tend to stage deeper than smallmouth at this time. Jigs and walleye suckers can be very effective for both species.
“Largemouth bass are around logs, large rocks, docks, and other hard cover. Bass press tight to cover, even in fall, so try fishing that stump you avoided snagging all summer. Bass jigs in natural colors are a favorite this time of year, and spinnerbaits, under-spins, swimbaits, and flukes can pay off when fish can no longer feast on bug hatches.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses information gleaned from PIT tagging stocked muskies.
“Last week, Hayward Fish Team teamed with several other DNR teams, Hayward Lakes Muskies Inc. members, and some Chippewa Flowage anglers to PIT tag approximately 5,000 muskellunge fingerlings destined for stocking into the Chippewa Flowage.
“Typically, only high profile fisheries or research projects undertake these large tagging efforts, as tagging that many fish takes a considerable amount of effort and carries a significant price. Hayward Lakes Muskies Inc., Chippewa Flowage Property Owners Association, Lake Chippewa Flowage Resort Owners Association, and Friends into Spooner Hatchery donated the money for these tags.
“The benefit of tagging entire year classes of fish before stocking is the opportunity to gather some of the highest caliber data possible in a fishery. It provides additional information on stocking success, including the possibility of estimating how many of the fish survive to adulthood – an estimate we were able to generate earlier this year for Lost Land Lake. Tagging also allows us to determine how the fish disperse after stocking in a large system such as the Chippewa Flowage. In fact, data from tagged fish stocked in 2016 was very valuable in determining which stocking sites to use for this 2019 Chippewa Flowage stocking.
“Tagged fish allow us to have ‘known age’ fish so we do not need to estimate their age later, which gives us the best opportunity to track growth rates reliably and accurately. Growth rate data is immensely valuable for determining appropriate regulations, setting future stocking rates, and managing prey fish populations, among other reasons.
“Yes, tagging all those muskies was a lot of extra work, but thanks to the partners mentioned above who supported the 2019 stocking effort with their donations and volunteerism, we will reap the data payoff for the next few decades!”
A number of Wisconsin hunting and trapping seasons opened this past weekend, with more on the way. Coyote, fox, bobcat, and resident raccoon hunting/trapping seasons, and fisher trapping season, opened Oct. 19. Mink/muskrat trapping opens Oct. 26; beaver and otter trapping opens Nov. 2. Non-resident raccoon hunting/trapping opens Nov. 2. Bobcat, fisher, and otter require special zone-specific harvest permits. Trapping occurs on many wildlife areas open to hunting so dog owners should keep close watch on their animals and know the safe and easy methods to release pets from traps. For more information, search “trapping and hunting seasons” on the DNR website.
The DNR is conducting enhanced Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sampling across 18 counties in northern Wisconsin and is encouraging hunters in these areas to submit deer samples for testing. The DNR and local volunteers are providing self-service kiosks, sampling stations at businesses and cooperators, and an option to meet with DNR wildlife management staff. The DNR Spooner Service Center offers free CWD self-sample kits containing all supplies necessary to submit a tissue sample. Hunters must provide deer harvest authorization number, customer number, harvest location, and contact information. For more information, search “CWD sampling” on the DNR website.
In Flambeau River State Park near Winter, fall colors are just past peak and river water levels are above average for this time of year. Connors Lake Campground, water systems for showers, water fountains, and dump stations closed; Lake of the Pines Campground remains open through Dec. 15.
During Forest Products Week Oct. 20-26, Wisconsin is celebrating the many products that come from forests, the people who work in and care for forests, and businesses that manufacture wood products. According to the DNR, the forest products sector employs more than 60,000 citizens and generates $24.1 billion in goods and services annually. Wisconsin has been the nation’s top papermaking state for more than 60 years. Wisconsin’s forest products industry includes 1,200 companies, with another 280 companies in the logging and forestry support sectors. Forestry is the number one employer in 10 counties – and every forestry job supports additional jobs in the state. For more information, search “forest products” on the DNR website.
Musky action is good to very good – and late fall is trophy time for musky anglers. Look for fish in varied depths, from shallow to mid-depths, depending on the lake and day. Offerings producing the best success include musky suckers (if you can find some!) and big bucktails, Bull Dawgs, Medussas, plastics, stickbaits, jerkbaits, and gliders.
Walleyes are scattered and moving, and action is erratic, but anglers are catching some nice fish. During the day, concentrate on deep weeds, rock, humps, breaklines, and brush. In low light hours, fish shallower flats and cover. Baits of choice include walleye suckers, fatheads, crawlers, plastics, crankbaits, minnow baits, and Jigging Raps.
Northern pike fishing is good to very good around weeds, shoreline cover, and concentrations of panfish. The most productive baits include northern suckers, fatheads, spinners, spinnerbaits, stickbaits, and spoons.
Largemouth bass fishing is still surprisingly good for this time of year. Work shallower shoreline cover and shallow to mid-depth weeds, wood, stumps, humps, docks, and rock with spinners, spinnerbaits, stickbaits, swim jigs, plastics, and live bait such as fatheads and walleye suckers.
Smallmouth fishing is good to very good along shorelines, breaklines, and on deeper rock and other hard bottom areas. Top offerings include walleye suckers and fatheads on jigs, stickbaits, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics.
Crappie fishing is good to very good – once you locate them. They are schooling and moving on and over deeper weedlines, brush, breaklines, rock/hard bottoms, other structure, and simply suspending. Best baits include crappie minnows, waxies, plastics, Gulp! baits, small spoons, and jigging baits. Check the entire water column!
Bluegill fishing is fair around shallow to mid-depth weeds, brush, bogs, and humps. Waxies, leaf worms, crawler chunks, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks work well. Try small minnows for bigger ‘gills.
Oct. 19: Seasons opened: Pheasant; Ruffed grouse in Zone B; Bobwhite quail; Hungarian partridge; Raccoon gun/trapping for residents; Red and gray fox hunting/trapping; Bobcat hunting/trapping Period 1 north of Hwy. 64; Coyote trapping; Fisher trapping (see regs).
Oct. 26: Seasons open: Muskrat statewide; Mink in north, south, and Winnebago zones.
Oct. 31: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame closes for season (715-634-4440).
Nov. 1: Wild ginseng season closes.
Nov. 2: Seasons open: Beaver trapping; Otter trapping.
Nov. 4: Woodcock season closes.
Nov. 23: Regular gun deer season opens.
Nov. 26: Duck season closes in North Zone.
Nov. 29: Mourning dove season closes.