by: Steve Suman
This week is starting out wet and the forecast indicates chances are good some of this weather will continue through the week and into the weekend, but with warmer temperatures. It is spring and expected (but not necessarily appreciated!)
This Saturday, May 4, is Wisconsin’s statewide inland gamefish opener for many species on many waters. Anglers fishing in the Hayward area should be aware that smallmouth bass season in the Northern Zone is catch and release until June 15, while musky season in the Northern Zone does not open until May 25. Other exceptions exist and not all waters follow the general dates for hook and line or trout seasons. Consult the current Guide to Wisconsin hook and line fishing regulations to determine if any special season or bag limit regulations exist for waters you plan to fish. For more information, visit www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing.
“It is official,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “we have ‘ice out’ on the Quiet Lakes. It took most of April, but things are changing. After the long, cold, and snowy winter, it is nice to see all the signs of spring, including some annual fish spawning activity.
“Now is a great time for anglers to prepare their boats and update registrations, get new fishing licenses, and organize gear for the gamefish opener Saturday May 4 – this weekend!”
Erik at Hayward Bait says weather has been a roller coaster in the North Woods, but things are looking good for open water on a majority of the lakes for the general fishing opener.
“Anglers have been on the rivers chasing trout and redhorse suckers, but some really high water might put a hold on those fishing activities until river flows drop. Some of the steelhead rivers to the north raised a fair amount, so be cautious if you are wade fishing – or hold off for slower flow rates.
“This is a great time to fire up your boat and check it out on the water to make sure everything is running as it should. When going on the lake, take along an ultra-light spinning rod and see if you can find a few crappies. Start searching in shallow water, though 8-12 feet is a good starting place. Cast in shallow and slide in and out to locate active schools of crappie. The patterns may vary, just like the weather. Small spinners, Beetle Spins, mini Rattle Traps, and jigs/minnows should do the trick.
“Turkey hunters are having a great season, with a good number of them filling their tags.”
Mike at Jenk’s says nearly all Chippewa Flowage bays are thawed and open and the main lake is almost there.
“There are some reports there is still some remaining ice on the south end, but for the most part the lake is almost open. In front of Deerfoot Resort the water is just about open, with the exception of a few floating pieces of ice, and word from Treeland’s is that Musky Bay is open.
“There should be no worries about having open water for opening weekend this year!”
Carolyn at Anglers All in Ashland says all boat landings are finally free of ice and spring fishing has begun on Chequamegon Bay – as has smelting!
“Trollers are flatlining stickbaits, mainly on the Washburn side of the bay north to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands, looking for brown trout, coho, splake, and lake trout, with an occasional steelhead in the mix. The water is fairly dirty, so look for mudlines.
“Sand Cut, Brush Point, and Oak Point areas are producing some smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, and perch for anglers slowly fishing the shallows with light jigs and plastics, live bait, and flies.
“The streams are still fairly high and dirty, but fishable.”
This week, DNR fisheries biologist Max Wolter discusses angler preferences for trophy fish and high catch rates.
“An online questionnaire developed to get feedback from Hayward area anglers asked the anglers about their species preferences, management preferences, and harvest versus catch and release.
“Nearly 500 anglers chose to respond, yielding interesting results on whether they prefer management designed to produce trophy fish or high catch rates. Of course, all anglers would love high catch rates and trophy size fish, but this is typically not biologically possible. As such, the question asked anglers if they preferred trophy fish and lower catch rates, or good action with smaller size.
“As you might expect, responses to the question differed greatly by species.
“Only 6 percent of walleye anglers preferred trophy management, while 25 percent preferred managing for action fisheries. The remainder preferred a balanced approach for size and numbers, an option available throughout the survey.
“In fact, anglers wanted a balanced approach for most species and rarely indicated they wanted full trophy or action management options.
“Even with muskellunge, only 49 percent of survey respondents wanted trophy management, while 7 percent wanted action and the remainder preferred balance.
“The species with the greatest percentage of anglers (30 percent) wanting an action fishery was yellow perch.
“These results highlight one of the major challenges for fishery management – how to satisfy anglers of all types, including some who are pure trophy hunters and some who are less concerned with size and more interested in seeing the bobber go down as often as possible.”
Diane at Flambeau River State Forest reports the ice is off the North and South forks and anglers are fishing for redhorse and catfish, though the river is very high. Lake of the Pines Campground is open, with a nature trail connected to the campground and a new 50-foot ADA accessible fishing pier. Connors Lake Campground will open for Memorial Day weekend. To reserve campsites, call (888) 947-2757 or visit www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/camping/index.html. Facilities currently closed include Connors Lake picnic Area and the ATV/UTV, ski, and snowmobile trails. For more information, call (715) 332-5271.
Hayward Lakes Chapter–Muskies, Inc. is holding a general meeting Tuesday, May 7, starting at 7 p.m., at Flat Creek Eatery in Hayward, and invites the public to attend. Featured guest Steve Genson, well-known local guide and seminar speaker, will offer his presentation “Oddball Muskie Tactics That Can Work.” Admission is free and anyone interested in becoming a new member of Muskies Inc. can purchase a half-price membership at the meeting. For more information, call Mike Persson (715) 634-4543.
Starting May 1, hunters can submit their elk hunting applications for an elk tag for Wisconsin’s second annual elk hunt this fall. Only Wisconsin residents may apply, the application fee is $10, and the cost of an elk license for drawing winners is $49. According to DNR deer and elk ecologist Kevin Wallenfang, the DNR received 38,500 applications last year, but he encourages hunters to apply, saying, “While it may seem like steep odds to draw a tag, your chances are just as good as the next person!” For the 2019 hunt, the DNR is again making 10 bull tags available. Five go to state hunters, four through the application/drawing procedure, and the fifth through a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raffle ($10 each, with no limit on the number of raffle tickets an individual may purchase). The Ojibwa tribes again receive an allocation of the remaining five elk tags. The DNR will notify all five state hunters in early June. All tag winners must participate in an elk hunter education program in early September that covers regulations, hunting techniques, and more. For more information, search “elk” on the DNR website and visit www.rmef.org/wisconsin.
Aside from a few anglers hitting the water for panfish, much of the angling interest is on trout, salmon, and suckers in the rivers. The gamefish opener this weekend will no doubt change angler priorities, however, and everyone – anglers and non-anglers alike – would appreciate some clear, mild, and sunny weather!
May 4-June 14: Smallmouth bass season catch and release only.
May 10-12: 35th Annual Treeland Challenge-Bass & Walleye Release Tournament; (715) 462-3874).
May 11: Staudemayer’s Four Seasons Resort Spring Crappie Fisherie (715-798-2346).
May 17-19: Musky Tale Resort’s Northern Encounter (715-462-3838).
May 22-23: Fishing Has No Boundaries Kid’s Event at Nelson Lake (715-634-3185).
May 25: Callahan Lake Resort Northern Pike Challenge (715-462-3244).
June 1-2: Free Fishing Weekend – no fishing license required.
Through July 31: Illegal to allow unleashed dogs to run on DNR lands and FWPAs (see regs).
April 24-30: Period B.
May 1-7: Period C.
May 8-14: Period D.
May 15-21: Period E.
May 22-28: Period F.