This week brings warmer days, less cool nights, and chances for showers and even thunderstorms during the next seven days. Spring rains (in limited quantity, please!) should warm the waters and encourage plant growth to pop! There is no shortage of activities this time of year, so get out and enjoy a variety of them! Try something new!
“The lakes are offering very diverse bites,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “with anglers catching nearly every species available in our lakes.
“Walleye anglers fishing jigs and minnows in 18-20 feet are catching large numbers of mostly undersize males. The larger females are recuperating and shallow near/just off spawning areas, so try mid-depths around those areas.
“Northern pike are in weeds in 5-10 feet and spinnerbaits, small crankbaits, jigs and minnows, and large minnows under slip bobbers will take these fish.
“Largemouth bass are shallow and the season is open, with no size limit. Smallmouth bass are on deeper rock and gravel areas. (Note: Smallmouth season is catch and release only until June 15.)
“As water temperatures rise, panfish will move shallow to spawn. Use small jigs with soft plastics, crappie minnows, or waxies under bobbers. The fish can be very vulnerable, so release bigger fish and harvest more plentiful smaller fish.”
Ken at Hayward Bait says water temperatures in the mid to upper 40s are keeping most fish in staging areas of shallow flats with rocks or weeds.
“Finding deeper green weeds is important, as fish stage while waiting for water temperatures in the lower fifties before moving to the flats and bays.
“Walleye are taking jerkbaits, Jigging Raps, and other aggressive baits, including swimbaits, and jigs/minnows in 3-8 feet in low light conditions. During the next full moon, look for walleyes to move into secondary break areas providing plenty of oxygen and food.
“Reaction baits covering water are great for walleye, northern pike, and bass.
“Panfish stage in shallow weeds before spawning and spawn could be shorter this year, as often happens with a late spring warm-up. Panfish are currently in 6-15 feet over hard bottoms adjacent to muck, but shallow areas will get cranking as temperatures warm.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage is full, with water temperatures in the low 40s to high 50s.
“Walleye fishing for the opener was successful for numbers, but not size, with many anglers catching 13- to 14.5-inchers. The live bait bite is on minnows and leeches; crankbaits such as Husky Jerks, Countdowns, and Flicker Shads are solid choices in early spring; and plastic minnows are working well. Target deadfalls along shallower shorelines, as well as steeper drop-offs.
“Northern pike typically go after live bait before anything else this time of year. Though few folks are currently fishing for pike, plenty of walleye anglers are catching them. The west side is probably best for numbers and size.
“Crappies are not yet spawning, as it is still too cold. Expect crappie fishing to be tough until they move into the bays and start spawning. For now, target deeper areas outside the bays until the water warms and crappies move shallow.”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says last week’s snowstorm slowed things as it dropped water temperatures 5-10 degrees on Chequamegon Bay.
“As the waters warm this week, expect warmwater species to become very active. Walleyes recuperated from spawn and are feeding in the shallows, particularly during low light hours and along mudlines.
“Anglers are catching smallmouth bass in the shallows and the fish will soon start making beds. Fish light jigs and plastics, hair jigs, flies, and sucker minnows moved slowly. Northern pike catches are also happening in the shallows.
“Coho fishing remains strong, with anglers still flatlining stickbaits from Long Island to the Islands.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the chase for a new PIT tag record in Sawyer County.
“There are many muskies in Sawyer County with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags that allow DNR biologists to identify individual fish, providing better understanding of muskellunge growth, survival, movement, and stocking success.
“To acquire this information requires recapturing tagged fish in DNR surveys or by anglers with scanners. The more than 24,000 PIT-tagged muskies in Sawyer County offer many opportunities for capturing tagged fish – and catching tagged fish is becoming more and more common.
“There were five tagged muskies recaptured in 2011, one of the first years of the project, and 69 recaptures the following year. From 2013-2017, recaptures ranged from 81-127.
“During 2018, a group effort by the Hayward DNR Fish Team, Governor Thompson Hatchery crew, and volunteer anglers and guides set a new record of 184 recaptured tagged muskellunge. Large numbers of recaptures came from the Chippewa Flowage, Lost Land, LCO, and Grindstone.
“There is a real chance we could see the record broken in 2019, with hatchery crews on the Chippewa Flowage, where there are a large number of tagged fish; research crews on Lost Land and Sand lakes; and the Hayward Fish Team on Round, Sissabagama, and the Tiger Cat Chain. In addition, more anglers are participating in the program this year.
“Stay tuned to hear about all the new insights gained from capturing these tagged musky!”
Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area is hosting an Open House Saturday, May 18, starting at 7 a.m., at its Visitor Center near Grantsburg. There is an early morning bird tour, songbird banding, a bald eagle watch tour, bird activities for kids, property tours, wild edibles class, and more (some require pre-registration). For more information, visit www.crexmeadows.org/programs-events or call (715) 463-2739.
The Hayward Chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries is hosting its 32nd annual fishing event for people with disabilities this weekend, Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, at Lake Chippewa Campground. The event hosts up to 150 participants fishing from boats and pontoons on the Chippewa Flowage. For some, what was once only a dream becomes a two-day fun-filled experience with friends, fishing, and food. The event always welcomes additional volunteers. Various duties include working the docks, assisting participants on/off boats, cleaning fish, and selling raffle tickets throughout the summer, as well as trustworthy operators for fishing and pontoon boats, for which there is always a need. For more information on participating and volunteering, visit www.haywardfhnb.org or call (715) 634-3185, (800) 243-3462.
The water is warming – though not quickly enough for some anglers – and panfish will soon hit the shallows for their spring spawning ritual. Warmer days and milder nights could make it happen quickly. Keep in close contact with your favorite bait and tackle shop so you are on top of the action from the start. Just do not overlook other species that are hitting at this time.
Walleye action is fair to good, though fish currently seem to be in somewhat of a post-spawn lull. Best success is during low light conditions (early/late/overcast) in shallower water. During the day, you might find fish in 4-20 feet and anywhere between. Baits of choice include jigs and minnows/sucker minnows, leeches, plastics, jerkbaits, Husky Jerks, Countdown Rapalas, Jigging Raps, Flicker Shads, and various other crankbaits.
Northern pike action is good in shallow to mid-depth weeds out to about 15 feet – look for staging panfish. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs/minnows, and sucker/large minnows under slip bobbers are all effective for pike.
Largemouth fishing is slow with the cold water and angler attention diverted to other species for the moment. The bass are in the shallows and active, however, and slower moving plastics and live bait will catch some fish.
Smallmouth action is slow due to cold water and catch and release only fishing until June 15 hindering interest. Look for fish on deeper, hard bottom areas containing rock and gravel. Smaller plastics, jigs, and tubes fished slowly should get some interest.
Crappie fishing is fair to good as anglers wait for warming water and fish to move shallow for spawning. At this time, look for fish in 5-20 feet outside of bays and on hard bottom areas near muck. Small jigs with crappie minnows, waxies, and plastics under slip bobbers will do the trick.
Bluegill fishing is also fair to good, with fish in 5-18 feet around weeds and on hard bottom flats near muck. Look for fish to move shallow as the water warms. Best baits include small jigs with waxies and plastics fished under slip bobbers.
May 17-19: Musky Tale Resort’s Northern Encounter (715-462-3838).
May 18: Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area Open House (715-463-2739).
May 22-23: Fishing Has No Boundaries Kid’s Event at Nelson Lake (715-634-3185).
May 24: Flambeau River State Forest Open House at Forest Headquarters (715-332-5271).
May 25: Callahan Lake Resort Northern Pike Challenge (715-462-3244).
June 1-2: Free Fun Weekend – free admission to all state parks, forests, and trails.
Through June 14: Smallmouth bass season catch and release only.
June 15: Northern zone smallmouth bass season goes to daily bag limits. (See regs).
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
May 8-14: Period D.
May 15-21: Period E.
May 22-28: Period F.