By: Steve Suman
Last Sunday’s sub-zero low temperatures were a bit of surprise, but this week’s forecast indicates a slight warming trend – though mixed with various types of precipitation. On a more positive note, the extended forecast shows the following week and the remainder of April with mild to warm temperatures. The warmer the better, as the Wisconsin fishing opener is May 5 and the ice on some area lakes is holding at more than two-foot depths!
“There is quite a bit of snow – and way too much ice! Still, some anglers are targeting crappies and bluegills with some success. Crappies are holding in deeper water and are most active on minnows and plastics. Anglers should stay mobile until they find some fish.
“Bluegill anglers should target shallow flats, using waxies, spikes, and plastics.
“A few anglers are taking advantage of the early catch and release trout season, but they have to deal with a lot of snow. Some anglers are hitting the Brule River for steelhead. They report low, clear water conditions so fishing is tough – but they also report catching a few fish.
“Pray for some warmer weather for the fishing opener!”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter addresses the question of fish spawning under the ice.
“This late spring has many anglers wondering what the 2018 spawning season looks like for Wisconsin fish. As winter in the north clings on through the typical spawning time frame – April is the usual spawning season for walleye and pike – some anglers might wonder if fish will spawn under the ice. The short answer appears to be ‘no’.
“Northern pike spawn at some of the coldest water temperatures, but Becker’s Fishes of Wisconsin specifically states that pike spawning begins ‘as soon as the ice breaks up in the spring.’
“The staff at the DNR’s Governor Thompson Hatchery in Spooner share some of their knowledge on the subject as well. According to hatchery staff, pike and walleye will often spawn before the entire lake has opened – sometimes just using the open areas near shore – but spawning under the ice is not something they have observed.
“What we do expect during a late spring is that each species of fish will spawn almost immediately as soon as conditions are right. Females have been growing eggs inside them all winter and will be ready to go when they get the chance!”
On the Brule River, spring steelhead fishing opened March 31 on the lower stretch with a good numbers of anglers and with many reporting success. Snow, cold temperatures, and ice are not deterring the anglers!
On Saturday, May 5, starting at 10:30 a.m., Weiss Community Library will host former DNR fisheries biologist Frank Pratt for his presentation “Fishing.” For more information, visit www.weisscommunitylibrary.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (715) 634-2161.
Spring turkey season begins April 18 and the DNR encourages hunters to check the DNR website for turkey hunting regulations and other helpful information. The spring season regulations are available in the 2017 Small Game Hunting Regulations, 2017 Fall Turkey Regulations, and 2018 Spring Turkey Regulations. For more information, search “turkey” on the DNR website. The 2018 spring season runs from April 18 through May 29, consisting of six, seven-day periods running Wednesday through the following Tuesday. The Youth Turkey Hunt is April 14-15. During the youth hunt weekend, youth hunters can use a harvest authorization for any period, but must hunt within the turkey management zone indicated on their harvest authorization.
Cable Natural History Museum is looking for volunteers to help with the Midwest Crane Count April 14-15, from 5:30-7:30 a.m., to count and monitor the abundance and distribution of sandhill and whooping cranes at sites in Ashland, Bayfield, and Sawyer counties. This is a statewide survey organized through the International Crane Foundation. For more information, email Haley@cablemuseum.org or call (715) 798-3890.
The DNR’s spring fish and wildlife hearing and Conservation Congress county meetings are Monday, April 9, starting at 7 p.m. in every county. The Sawyer County meeting is at Winter High School. For more information, and to view the 2018 questionnaire, search “spring hearings” on the DNR website.
Fishing success remains good, but travel ON the ice remains difficult due to snow and slush. Still, anglers who are getting on the ice report decent success. The fishing opener is only four weeks away and this week’s weather is not too spring-like. However, the extended forecast for mid-April until the May 5 opening weekend is indicating somewhat warmer temperatures. The question is if it will be warm enough, soon enough.
Crappie fishing is fair to very good once you locate the fish. Plan to move to find fish and keep on them. Target deeper water, but check the entire water column, as the fish can be anywhere within the column. The most productive baits include crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics tipped on small jigs, plain hooks, and panfish spoons. Action is generally better late in the day to dark.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good for anglers fishing shallow flats, weeds, and various structure in depths out to 20 feet. Top baits include waxies, spikes, plastics, and Gulp! baits on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks. Try small minnows for larger ‘gills.
April 14-15: Youth turkey hunt.
April 15: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum opens (715-634-4440).
April 15 through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs for exceptions).
April 30: Seasons close: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.
May 4: Early catch and release trout season closes.
May 5: Frog season opens.
May 5: Fishing, a presentation by Frank Pratt at Weiss Community Library (715-634-2161).
May 26: Muskellunge season opens north of Highway 10.
May 18-19: Fishing Has No Boundaries Hayward Annual Event.
May 23: Fishing Has No Boundaries Kids Day at Nelson Lake.
April 18-24: Period A
April 25-May 1: Period B
May 2-8: Period C
May 9-15: Period D
May 16-22: Period E
May 23-29: Period F