Memorial Day weekend weather in the North Woods was mostly good, though somewhat cool. Those desiring warmer temperatures will get their wish this week, with sunshine and highs in the 80-degree range. This “trend” looks as if it will last most of this month ‑ and summer does not officially begin until June 20!
“Weather patterns in the Quiet Lakes area are inconsistent, as is the fishing,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “but anglers continue to catch fish. Water temperatures are in the 60s to 70s, which means new bite windows and patterns.
“Musky season opened this past weekend. Start with smaller swimbaits and bucktails fished near the shallows, and float small musky suckers while casting.
“Walleye anglers are taking some good fish by slow-drifting flats and mid-depth basins with minnows, leeches, and crawlers on bottom bouncers. Some use trolling motors, while others let the wind blow them across the lake. The bite will get better in the next several weeks.
“Northern pike anglers are catching pike around panfish in the shallows and fresh weeds. Position the boat to not spook them and cast toward shorelines. Do the same for largemouth bass.
“Largemouth bass, crappies, and bluegills are infiltrating shallower water with spawning fish. Be smart about taking vulnerable fish during the spawn.
“Crappies are in 2-5 feet and still providing good action. Crappie minnows and small plastics under slip bobbers are taking fish.”
Trent at Hayward Bait says cooler weather caused a fishing lull, though some species and lakes remain quite active.
“Musky season just opened and downsized spinnerbaits and gliders are popular, with northern suckers good live bait. Check out shallow flats adjacent to drop-offs with these cooler temperatures.
“Walleyes are a little deeper, in about 15 feet, and in summer patterns. Some anglers do well trolling fatheads and leeches on jigs in 20-25 feet.
“Northern pike anglers are catching smaller fish in 10 feet and bigger fish in 15-20 feet. Use sucker minnows, jerkbaits, and crankbaits.
“Largemouth bass are in and around wood and vegetation in 3-8 feet, hitting wacky worms, creature baits, and spinnerbaits.
“Smallmouth bass moved deeper and are in about 10-15 feet. Crankbaits, Ned rigs, and minnows and leeches on jigs will catch fish.
“Crappies are in about 10 feet, and sometimes in with bluegills. Crappie minnows, live worms, and panfish jigs work well. Bluegills are hitting small jigs in 2-10 feet on most lakes. Poppers and dry flies will come into play as water temperatures increase.”
Mike at Jenk’s says the Chippewa Flowage pool remains full, with water temperatures in the low 60s.
“Musky season opened this past weekend and if it is like past years, cast baits no larger than 6 inches until we get into warmer summer patterns.
“Walleye fishing remains solid for numbers, with size still an issue, and anglers are using a variety of techniques that are producing results. Minnows and leeches on jigs are working well, and crankbaits are producing some fish. A local guide reports some good success by dragging Beetle Spins through the weeds.
“Northern pike are in the weeds and suckers, chubs, and Tinsel-Tail spinnerbaits are producing quite a few fish. Shallow bays and weeds are good for pike since the bluegills moved in to spawn. Make sure to participate in the Pike Improvement Project 2.0. Stop by the shop or any local resort for information.
“Crappies are no longer in the bays and are now heading to their summer spots. Try weed humps in about 10-12 feet, but it is best to use your electronics to spot them.”
The Ashland Chamber’s Lake Superior fishing report says fishing is great for brown trout, lake trout, and coho from Houghton Point to Outer Island and all points in-between. Fishing is good in shallower water in earlier morning when the fish are chasing baitfish. Walleye anglers are focusing on the shallows around Brush Point and the head of the Bay. Work the mudlines if you troll. The smallmouth bass bite is good in the shallows in Sand Cut, Oak Point, and Brush Point.
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter offers an update on the LCO Pike Project.
“Those who follow local fish management activities closely might have familiarity with the efforts to restore muskellunge on Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Lake. Several partners are involved in the multi-part plan that includes additional intensive stocking strategies, exploring habitat remediation feasibility, and controlling the abundance of introduced northern pike.
“In a pike removal effort initiated in 2017 and 2018, DNR crews removed more than 3,800 pike, with all donated to food shelves or transferred to connected waters.
“The initial results from that removal were impressive. The average size of the remaining pike increased by an average of 3.5 inches, and we observed large increases in the percentage of pike greater than 28 inches. Anglers reported improved size in their catch, as well. However, there was no expectation the improved size following the initial pike removal would be permanent. Pike are a very adaptable and opportunistic species and capable of quickly repopulating.
“Our 2021 LCO survey aimed to understand how the pike population was changing several years out from the initial removal. Our netting survey revealed that some elements of the quality pike size structure remain. Many pike 21-25 inches were still present in the system, and pike more than 21 inches accounted for 40 percent of our catch. Not surprisingly, there were strong year classes of young, smaller pike present, and we caught many pike 15-19 inches.
“These findings demonstrate several things.
“First, we see evidence of how resilient some fish populations can be. Following a reduction in their population size, pike continued to reproduce successfully and quickly returned to their previous abundance.
“Second, we will have to consider efforts to control pike abundance and improve pike size as temporary, with good size structure lasting only a few years under current conditions.
“This might mean that to sustain positive results, we would need to repeat removals regularly.”
Most of Wisconsin’s 11 turtle species breed in late May through June, often crossing roads to lay eggs in nests on higher ground. Cars running over turtles are the leading cause of the decline in state turtle numbers. Drive with caution near wetlands and rivers ‑ slow down, be alert, reduce distractions, and report roads where you see turtles crossing or dead on the road. Some species, such as Blanding’s and wood turtles, take 12-20 years to reach reproductive maturity and the death of one female a year can take a big toll. Nest predation by raccoons, skunks, and coyotes is another major problem. If turtles nest on your property, build a nest cage (view step-by-step video) to protect eggs and hatchlings. These cages allow hatchlings to exit, but keep out predators such as raccoons and skunks.
Spring is also baby animal season and the DNR reminds people to keep wildlife wild. During spring and summer, human-wildlife encounters increase, especially involving young wild animals. Most encounters are harmless, but sometimes people assume a young animal is an orphan. Mother animals often leave their young for hours while looking for food. A young animal’s best chance for survival is with its mother. Before bringing a baby animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, check https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/orphan to tell if the animal truly needs help.
The Hayward Chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries will host a Senior Citizen Event on Nelson Lake June 7-11 for small groups of senior citizens. For more information, visit www.haywardfhnb.org or call (715) 634-3185.
Southern Sawyer County Sports Club is hosting its 10th Annual Veterans Fish Fest June 4-6 in Winter. The event includes fishing, raffles, live music, helicopter rides, chicken dinner, fish dinner, brats, and beer. Proceeds go to help area veterans. If you are a veteran and would like to fish, or you would like to take a vet fishing, call (715) 492-6407 for more information.
The DNR’s Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend is this Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6, and the DNR waives requirements for fishing licenses and trout/salmon stamps (all fishing regulations apply), state park admission, and trail passes. Wisconsin has 49 state parks, 15 state forests, 44 state trails, 84,000 miles of rivers and streams, roughly 15,000 lakes, and much more. State parks are open from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. All linear/rail trails are open to the public, both resident and nonresident, including ATV trails. Cyclists can ride Wisconsin’s touring bicycle trails – many along former railroad corridors ‑ and horseback riders can enjoy more than 800 miles of trails in state parks, forests, recreation areas, and unsurfaced trails. For more information, search “Free Fun Weekend” on the DNR website.
Warming water has activated the fish and most anglers report good success for nearly all species. The late/post spring transition is occurring, however, so visit your favorite bait and tackle store to get the most current information on fish locations, baits, and presentations.
Look for muskies on shallower water flats and points near drop-offs to deeper water. Smaller baits work best in early season, with bucktails, spinners, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, gliders, and small live suckers all effective.
Walleye fishing is good in 12-18 feet on flats, weeds, and mid-depth basins. Walleye suckers, fatheads, leeches, and crawlers on jigs, spinner rigs, and Lindy rigs are catching fish, as are crankbaits and Beetle Spins. Some anglers are catching fish by slow-trolling crankbaits, stickbaits, and live bait in depths to 25 feet.
Northern pike fishing is very good to excellent. Smaller fish provide great action in shallower shoreline weeds, bays, and near panfish in depths to 8 feet. For bigger pike, fish depths to 20 feet as well as around panfish concentrations. Top baits include northern suckers, chubs, and minnows, spinners, spinnerbaits, spoons, crankbaits, and jerkbaits.
Largemouth action is good and getting better with fish in and around shallow weeds, wood, and spawning panfish. Anglers are catching fish on minnows, crawler, plastics, wacky worms, swim jigs, spinners, and spinnerbaits.
Smallmouth bass moved to hard bottoms and structure in depths to 18 feet. Sucker minnows, leeches, Ned rigs, crankbaits, and crawfish colored plastics are productive offerings. Remember that smallmouth bass harvest season does not open until June 19.
Crappie fishing is good to very good, with fish in various spawning stages, depending on the lake. Look for them near weeds and humps in depths from shallow to 14 feet, as well as mixed in with bluegills. Crappie minnows, worms, and plastics on jigs and plain hooks, fished under slip bobbers, will all tempt crappies.
Bluegills are shallow for spawning, though might move in and out with weather conditions. Look for fish from near shore to 12 feet. Waxies, worms, leeches, and plastics on small jigs, teardrops, and plain hooks all work well.
June 4-6: Vets Fish Fest in Winter (715-492-6407).
June 5-6: DNR Free Fishing and Free Fun Weekend ‑ No fishing license, state park admission, or trail passes required.
June 7-11: Fishing Has No Boundaries-Hayward Chapter ‑ Senior Citizen Event on Nelson Lake (715-634-3185).
June 19: Smallmouth bass season opens for harvest.
Jun 24-27: 71st Annual Musky Fest (715-634-8662).
June 27: Hayward Bass Club Round Lakes Open Tournament, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (text 405-227-1789).
July 16-18: Birchwood Bluegill Festival (715-354-3411).
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.