The forecast indicates mild, but wet, weather until the sun shines Friday ‑ and with luck, through the weekend. Then we are back to wet and cool for about a week before turning warm and sunny. That is a ways away, however, so…
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau is hosting the 2021 Governors Fishing Opener, with the event running from April 30 through May 2. Parts of this event are open to the public, while others are by invitation only. A free Fishing & Outdoor Expo at the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame Friday, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., is open to the public. The Expo includes vendors, birds of prey, live music, casting skills challenge course, and free fish fry lunch to the first 200 people. Before, during, or after the Expo, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2021 Hayward Lakes Vacation Guide, packed with information on activities, events, restaurants, lodging, and so much more, and covers the Greater Hayward Area. (You might be surprised at the size!) For more information, visit the HLVCB (www.haywardlakes.com) and Hayward Chamber (www.haywardareachamber.com) websites, or call (715) 634-4801; 634-8662; 800-724-2992.
“The fishing opener on the Quiet Lakes is just a few days away,” says Pat at Happy Hooker. “Are you ready? Most game fish will be in season, with the exception of musky and catch-and-release-only smallmouth bass.
“Panfish are still waiting for warmer water in the shallows. Water temperatures remain on the cooler side following recent cold nights, and we see from 38-42 degrees, depending on the lake and location on the lake.
“Some smaller waters are starting to show tufts of fresh weeds and these are the better lakes for anglers to target while waiting for bigger lakes to warm. Find fresh vegetation and you will find fish, but water temperatures need to warm.
“Temperatures have been on a roller coaster this month; some days fish slide up shallow, and some days they are deep. With the temperatures, the bite is up and down. On down days, ask your local bait shops for recommendations.
“Currently, the best angling opportunity is catch-and-release bass fishing. Anglers are finding largemouth in 5-10 feet, but the fish are not super active. Most times the best approach is a lure with a slow retrieve ‑ and it is important to concentrate on the rod to feel the bite. Best baits are downsized spinners, chatterbaits, and double-jointed Rapalas.
“Panfish are waiting for warmer, shallower water before they spawn. A good tactic to turn a few fish is to target the typical wintering holes with ice fishing equipment. When the waters warm in the next couple of weeks, we will be into some good near-shore panfish bites on the traditional minnows and worm pieces under bobbers.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says last week brought mostly cloudy weather, rain, and snow flurries, and this week will be more of the same. We should see warmer weather by the fishing opener.
“Largemouth bass are staging on secondary points, preparing for the spawn. Cribs, vegetation, and other structure in 10-15 feet will hold fish, but depths will vary. Jerkbaits, crankbaits, and drop-shot rigs are good pre-spawn options.
“Smallmouth bass are hanging on rock structure in about 15 feet. Hair jigs, worms, and leeches under slip bobbers are effective right now for catch-and-release only fishing.
“Anglers looking to catch panfish will notice fish beginning to move shallow, preparing to spawn when water temperatures are warm enough.
“Crappie anglers report female crappies are moving shallow, waiting for warmer water to lay their eggs, but males are still a bit deeper, in 10-15 feet. Look for crappies around old weed growth, with minnows and worms under slip bobbers the favorite. Small under-spin jigs are also a popular choice this spring.
“Bluegills are in about 10 feet and seem a bit more active on sunny afternoons. Tattle-Tails and other small jigs are effective.
“Perch anglers are finding fish shallow, in depths ranging from 3-10 feet, and sandy flats with scattered vegetation will hold perch this time of year. Panfish jigs and worms under slip bobbers are the favored offerings.
“Turkey hunters can expect to find toms still strutting hard. Youth hunters harvested some nice birds during the Youth Hunt, including a three-bearded tom! While turkeys have remained active even throughout midday, as the temperatures warm they might become less active as mornings progress.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says the smelting season ended on Chequamegon Bay and fish are now looking for your bait!
“This time of year, the Ashland shoreline can be very productive for northern pike, brown trout, and walleye.
“Trout and salmon fishing is fantastic this spring. Most trollers are fishing from Houghton to Long Island to the Sioux and Onion rivers, and into the Islands. Most are running stickbaits from boards, though some moved to spoons on lead core line or Dipsey Divers. If you hook one of those brown trout ‑ hang on!
“Smallmouth bass are active in the Sandcut, Oak Point, and Brush Point areas. These fish love lightweight jigs and Twister Tails moved slowly in the shallows ‑ if the water is warm ‑ and you might find bonus walleye, northern pike, and jumbo perch.
“Anglers are hitting both ends of the breakwall, soaking smelt, hoping to hook a 60-inch sturgeon.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the possibilities of a subdued fishing opener.
“When Wisconsin’s gamefish season opens May 1, anglers can pursue and harvest walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, and trout. Panfish harvest season remains open year-round. Muskellunge season in the Northern Zone remains closed to fishing until May 29, and smallmouth bass remain catch-and-release only until June 19.
“The extended forecast paints the opener as a very pleasant weekend, with highs in the mid-60s, lows in the 40s, and a mix of sun and clouds. However, our various fish species may react in different ways to this somewhat cool weather.
“Northern pike will likely be the safest bet for fast action. Pike will likely remain in shallow water, less than 8 feet, and around any new weed growth, which remains sparse at this time. As a coolwater predator, pike should be more than willing to chase faster moving baits such as Rapalas and spinnerbaits.
“Walleye will be post-spawn, but their location may be less predictable. Some smaller males might still hang around spawning areas, hoping for more females to come in, but many larger walleye will slide into deeper water. With the bulk of walleye spawning done on all area lakes, fish should be squarely in post-spawn behavior.
“On the other hand, warmwater species such as bass and panfish will almost certainly be pre-spawn. Crappie and bass look for water temperatures in the upper 50s to low 60s to set up on nests, and the forecast makes me think we will not get there by the opener.
“Look for panfish to seek the warmest water they can find, which will be shallow bays that receive sun and little wind. Shallow weeds with sun exposure are great, too, particularly in our very clear lakes.
“Largemouth will likely be in those weeds as well, milling around with the panfish and making occasional rushes at schools of bluegill that are sunning themselves. Smallmouth will likely be cruising around shallow flats and adjacent drop-off edges near where they will spawn.
“Good luck to all anglers this weekend!”
Now that open water fishing and boating season is upon us, anglers and other boat owners should be aware of a new law that went into effect April 1. That law requires operators of boats less than 26 feet long to use engine cut-off switches when underway. If an engine cut-off switch is present, the boat operator must use it. For more information and clarification of the law, visit the BoatUS and U.S. Coast Guard websites.
The Lake Chippewa Flowage Resort Association is actively encouraging anglers to participate in the Chippewa Flowage Pike Improvement Project 2.0 and harvest northern pike up to 24 inches in length. Register your catch at LCFRA member establishments and each registration is a chance to win thousands of dollars in cash and prizes! This selective harvest will improve all fish populations and create a more favorable environment for the fishery as a whole. Visit www.chippewaflowage.com/fishing/pike-improvement-project for more information on the project, where to get tickets, instructions on how to filet a pike in both an illustration and video, and recipes.
Hayward Bass Club begins its weekly fishing outings May 5 (running through August 18) and the club is still accepting new members. Interested anglers should contact Wayne Balsavich by text at (405) 227-1789 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Annual dues are $50 per two-person team.
Ready or not (you had time!), the 2021 Wisconsin gamefish season opens this weekend, Saturday May 1. The early ice-out was definitely a blessing this spring. Pick up your new license now and avoid the rush!
Fish are in varied depths and cover (can change daily), but shallow to mid-depth weeds are good places to start.
Largemouth bass are around weeds, cribs, and other structure out to 18 feet, hitting crankbaits, minnowbaits, jerkbaits, plastics, drop-shot rigs, spinners, and live bait. Largemouth fishing is catch-and-release only until May 1.
Smallmouth bass are also in depths to 18 feet, on rock, gravel, and other hard structure. Jigs, crawlers, plastics, and leeches on slip bobbers are getting attention. Smallmouth fishing is catch-and-release only until June 19.
Crappies are in and around weeds out to 15 feet. Crappie minnows, waxies, worms, and plastics work well, as do small spinners and Beetle Spins. Bluegills are in depths to 12 feet, with waxies, worms, and plastics doing the trick. Anglers report best success when the sun shines. Perch are on sand flats with vegetation in 2-12 feet. Try small jigs, teardrops, and worms on slip bobbers.
April 17: Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame opened (715-634-4440).
May 1: Chippewa Flowage Pike Improvement Project 2.0 begins.
May 7-9: 36th Annual Treeland Challenge (715-462-3874; 945-2511).
June 5-6: DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend.
Jun 25-27: Musky Fest (715-634-8662).
June 27: Hayward Bass Club Round Lakes Open Tournament, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (text 405-227-1789).
April 21-27: Period A spring turkey season.
April 28-May 4: Period B spring turkey season.
May 5-11: Period C spring turkey season.
May 12-18: Period D spring turkey season.
May 19-25: Period E spring turkey season.
May 26-June 1: Period F spring turkey season.
For more information on area events and activities, visit the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau and Hayward Area Chamber of Commerce websites, view the Calendar of Events, or call (715) 634-8662 or 800-724-2992.