The forecast calls for a mild week ahead, with highs in the mid-50s, lows in the 30s, consistent 20 mph winds, and some chances for rain. Considering this is the first week of May in the North Woods ‑ nice weather!
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau hosted the 2021 Governors Fishing Opener this past weekend with near-perfect weather. Temperatures pushing 86 degrees made wind gusts to 25 mph “almost” welcome, and most anglers found success for various species.
“Some walleye anglers did quite well, while others did not. Those who fished rivers fared better than those who fished lakes, while anglers fishing for other species caught northern pike, bass, and smaller panfish. Gamefish are on spawning areas such as creek inlets, river mouths, shallow rock, and sand shoals, with the go-to bait fatheads on 1/8-oz. jigs.
“Panfish are staging on drop-offs into deeper water, waiting for warmer water. They should be almost ready to move to the shallows, but water temperatures are still in the low 40s on some lakes. Warm temperatures Saturday brought panfish nearer to shore and areas with early vegetation.
“For crappies, it is hard to beat a crappie minnow presentation near shallower brush piles. The best bait for bluegills is worm chunks under floats or slow-trolled soft plastics. Do not be surprised to hook a few northern pike or walleyes while you are panfish fishing.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says the opener was warm, sunny, and anglers did well in the shallows for most species.
“Water temperatures hover in the low to mid 40s on some bigger, deeper lakes, and mid to upper 50s on shallower waterbodies. Temperatures in the 50s will allow several species to spawn.
“Walleye anglers are catching fish in 5 feet and shallower water with fatheads, leeches, and crankbaits.
“Northern pike are biting off baits, giving a hard time to anglers targeting all species. Expect to hook pike in 5-10 feet on nearly anything that moves, but Mepps, Rapalas, and swimbaits usually produce.
“Largemouth bass are pre-spawn, on shallow grass and hard bottoms. Spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and jigs are good spring baits.
“Smallmouth bass are shallow, with most anglers doing well in less than 10 feet, though shallow to deep transitions are more productive. Use leeches, crawlers, and swimbaits.
“Crappie and bluegill are moving toward spawning areas in 3-10 feet. Crappie minnows, worms, plastics, and jigs are producing.
“Perch have spawned, but a few anglers still find them shallow, and crawlers and jigs under slip bobbers are effective. Water temperatures above 60 degrees will move fish deeper.”
Jim and Cathy at Minnow Jim’s say Nelson Lake had an early ice-out, a rapid return to normal water level following the drawdown, and a warm opening day. Could anglers ask for anything more?
“Many walleye anglers worked the river mouth on the north end this past weekend, with fish showing a preference for sucker minnows and fatheads.
“Northern pike are plentiful, though with many less than the 32-inch minimum.
“Crappie and bluegill anglers reported good action in sunny, sheltered bays, with minnows and worms working best. Some anglers used leeches, but we probably need warmer water.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses the DNR Fish Team’s 2021 netting season.
“The DNR Hayward Fish Team uses fyke nets as the primary means to survey populations of walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, black crappie, and yellow perch. Well-placed and well-timed fyke nets can be very effective at capturing large numbers of these species, allowing us to collect data rapidly.
“We did not complete any fyke netting surveys in the Hayward area in spring 2020, so we were excited to get back to them in spring 2021.
“Our first stop was Musky Bay on Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) to check on pike. Catch rates of pike were moderate, with a mix of the quality-sized, mid 20-inch pike that we have seen more often in recent years, and smaller, younger pike. We also captured a surprising ‑and welcome ‑ number of muskellunge, many from the 2017 stocking year class.
“Next, we shifted to a walleye focus on Black Dan, Island, and Durphee lakes. Of the three, Black Dan most exceeded our expectations for numbers of walleye caught, and the fish were very nice-sized. Though we captured few walleyes in Island Lake, some were very large, including a 26-inch male, which is exceptionally large for a male walleye.
“Our efforts then moved to the Chippewa Flowage, where we focused specifically on walleye on the west side. In brief, walleye capture rates were similar to our last Chippewa Flowage survey in 2019, but the percentage of legal walleye, 15-20 inches, jumped up to 37 percent, compared to 26 percent in 2019.
“We also surveyed Whitefish Lake for walleye, catching concentrations of spawning fish near the inflowing and outflowing creeks.
“As water temperatures warmed into the musky spawning range, we set nets on the Spider Chain. The catch rate for muskellunge of all sizes was good, with the biggest captured at 46 inches, and several nice tiger muskies showing up as well.
“Muskellunge netting on Sissabagama was somewhat disrupted by cold nights, but capture rates for musky were still fair, with an apparent mix of natural born and stocked fish.
“We now wait for water temperatures to warm into the upper 50-degree range to begin our bass and bluegill electrofishing surveys.”
The DNR will begin a Sand Lake boat launch renovation June 1 and will close the launch at that time. The launch remains available during an in-progress tree removal stage until the June 1 closure. The contractor plans to complete the new ramp installation and pavement markings by the end of June and reopen by July 1, in time for the July Fourth holiday weekend. As with any construction project, weather could delay completion and the reopening date.
Boaters: A new law in effect April 1 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 operator must use it. For more information and clarification, visit the BoatUS and U.S. Coast Guard websites.
Lake Chippewa Flowage Resort Association encourages anglers to participate in the Chippewa Flowage Pike Improvement Project 2.0 and harvest northern pike up to 24 inches in length. This selective harvest will improve all fish populations and create a more favorable environment for the entire fishery. The project offers thousands of dollars in cash and prizes and each fish you register at a LCFRA member establishment is a chance to win! For more project information, where to get tickets, and where to register fish, visit www.chippewaflowage.com/fishing/pike-improvement-project. You will also find instructions on how to filet a pike in illustrations and video, as well as tasty pike recipes.
Wisconsin’s 2021 wild turkey season runs through Tuesday, June 1, with seven-day periods that run Wednesday through the following Tuesday. Bonus harvest authorizations are still available for periods E and F in zones 1 and 3, and Period F in Zone 4. Hunters must register their turkey by 5 p.m. the day after recovery, by using GameReg or calling (844) 426-3734. Hunters need the harvest authorization number on the paper or digital copy of their authorization. Turkey hunters in Zone 6 (which includes Sawyer County) have thus far harvested 349 turkeys.
The 36th Annual Treeland Challenge still has a few openings for its May 6-9 walleye and largemouth bass catch-and-release tournament on the Chippewa Flowage. The event offers thousands of dollars in door prizes drawn every day ‑ four days of prize drawings! The top three winners in both the Walleye and Bass divisions receive an embroidered trophy jacket and more. The Grand Prize is a $2,000 Cabela’s gift certificate (winner must be present for the Grand Prize drawing). Entry fees (post-April 15) are single $100; w/spouse $170; child w/parent $25. For more information and event schedule, visit the Treeland website or call (715) 462-3874; 945-2511.
Bass and panfish should spawn soon, though highs in the mid-50s this week will not warm the water quickly. Check with your favorite bait shop weekly (or daily!) to keep on top of fish movement.
Walleye fishing is good, with post-spawn fish starting to disperse to deeper water. Weeds, rock, sand, and moving water can hold them, and walleye suckers, fatheads, chubs, crawlers, leeches, and crankbaits are all productive.
Northern pike action is excellent ‑ even when you are not fishing for pike! That is a good sign they are just about everywhere, but particularly around schools of panfish and baitfish in less than 10 feet. Live bait, Rapalas, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, and swimbaits are doing the job.
Largemouth fishing is fair to good around mid-depth to shallow weeds, rock, sand, grass, and river mouths. Live bait, spinners, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, jigs, and live bait worked slowly will all draw interest.
Smallmouth bass fishing is good to very good ‑ and catch-and-release only until June 19. (Check here for release tips). Hard bottoms such as rock, gravel, sand, as well as breaklines and drop-offs in depths to 20 feet can all hold fish. Crawlers, leeches, sucker minnows, plastics, and swimbaits all work well.
Crappie fishing is good and getting better, as fish get closer to spawning. Find them in mid to shallow depths around weeds, brush, breaklines, and drop-offs. Crappie minnows, worms, leeches, and plastics on jigs and under slip bobbers are all productive offerings.
Bluegill fishing is fair to good, but improving with the warming temperatures. As the fish move toward shallow spawning areas, look for them staging in mid to shallow depths ‑ especially shallow on sunny days. Use traditional baits such as waxies, worms, minnows, plastics, and panfish leeches under slip bobbers.
Perch are in shallow to mid-depths and (mostly) post-spawn and moving deeper as water temperatures rise. Baits of choice include waxies, worms, and minnows on small jigs and plain hooks.
April 30: Seasons closed: Beaver and otter trapping in North Zone.
May 1: Chippewa Flowage Pike Improvement Project 2.0 began.
May 6-9: 36th Annual Treeland Challenge (715-462-3874; 945-2511).
June 5-6: DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend.
June 19: Smallmouth bass season opens for harvest.
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 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.