May 10, 2014

Northern Wisconsin

Vilas/Oneida Counties

Panfish: 

Throughout May and the first part of June, crappies and bluegills will be up shallow spawning. For crappies, if lakes have deeper bull rushes, those are the first places I start to look. If there isn’t much for bull rushes, then I will search shallow wood and old weed beds. Many times bluegill beds can be seen if you cruise shallow water. Small jigs like cubby mini mites, and small twister tails under a bobber tipped with a waxie is all you will need. Cast out and twitch back to the boat, the bobber will keep your jig in the strike zone without it getting snagged in the wood or weeds. If you’re fishing shallow and seeing a lot of open beds but no fish, that means they are done spawning. After spawn, fish will start holding on weed edges of primary break lines. Perch spawn really early after ice out, so they will be outside weeds or mixed in on the weed flats during this time. Again, a small jig will do the trick, but crappie minnows on an Aberdeen hook work well too.

Largemouth/Smallmouth: 

This is the easiest time of the season to pad your numbers and catch some giant bass. The big females will be up shallow on their beds just like the gills and crappies. Many days on the water this time of year, you can really have some big number outings (100 plus fish) or fish different lakes and get true five plus pound bass. Bass really like to spawn next to some kind of structure. That means if shallow water has scattered logs or larger rocks you can bet that, under many logs and beside some of bigger rocks, there will be beds. There are some phenomenal smallmouth lakes in the Vilas/Oneida county area. The one most under-utilized species in other lakes are the great largemouth fishing that is present. Light plastics that flutter down keeping a tight line to feel the bite. Leeches are a sure bet for active bass. Also, cruising areas using Rapala's X-raps are a good way to fish spots fast, before going back with plastics to work the pods of fish. 

Walleyes:

Usually, the walleye fishing is consistently good through mid-June. After that, some lakes will start to shut down depending on the mayfly hatch. Walleyes on clearer bodies of water with good weed growth will be found on outside weed edges. Day bites still exist, but as the month of June continues early, late, and night fishing can be best. Slip bobbers or slow falling jigs worked on the weed edges are usually a good bet. Minnows are usually a good way to go in May. But as water starts to warm to the mid 60's, I usually start using crawlers and leeches. As the month of June progresses and you start seeing mayflies or the larva casings on the surface of the water and the weed bite is shut down, go find a mud flat and see if walleyes have made the move. Fishing can be tough during this time but moving around to other lakes can pay big dividends where there might not be as bad of a hatch. Walleyes on stained water, shallow weeds, rocks, and timber are good places to look. If you can find cribs where there’s bait, walleyes will not be far away. Many times on stained water these fish will be sitting shallower than you might think, finding many fish as shallow as 4' deep.

Muskies:

This is a great time to get out and chase musky. Musky season will open on May 24th this year for the northern part of the state. Start off using small bucktails like Mepps number 5's, small twitch baits like 6” Grandma's, and Phantom 6” softails. Work new weeds next to spawning areas. As June progresses, fish will move off the weed flats and start working more weed edges. From around the 2nd week in June (starting at about 65 degree water temps), I start moving out to deep water and work suspended fish. Fish will be high in the water column this time of year. I work the top ten feet of the water column. To fish open water this time of year, I generally do it on water that contains ciscos. I tend to start off in the deepest part of the lake. Evenings when the ciscos “dimple” on the surface I start moving and fan cast around the area. A key for success is to not work your baits too deep and fish fast to cover as much water as I can. Bucktails, surface baits, jerk baits, and shallow running cranks will all work.

Overview:

This time of year offers many great fishing opportunities. Not many pleasure boats to contend with and there is usually a good day bite for many species. Fish will be sitting shallower this time of year than any other. Since the fish are shallow and vulnerable for easy over harvest please make sure to practice at least some catch and release. Everyone wants to be able to go out and get a meal of fish, but over harvesting pan fish on a regular basis makes it hard for lakes to continue to pump out the numbers and size quality we all like to see. 

Captain Matt Raley, Hideaway Hollow Outfitters, (715)347-4868, visit www.HideawayHollowOutfitters.com or www.WisconsinMuskieGuide.net

Castaway Lodge

Seadrift, TX

www.coastalwaterfowl.com 

With hundreds of lakes to choose from in the Mercer area here are a few at the top of the list. They all have very similar fisheries, stained water, and beautiful scenery. The stained water is a significant common denominator that aids in a great daytime bite.

 Turtle Flambeau Flowage: contains 12,942 acres of water, a couple hundred miles of shoreline (over 90% publicly owned) and islands with 66 DNR maintained campsites. The fishery is diverse with panfish, pike, walleye, smallmouth and musky.

The two main rivers that formed the TFF (Turtle Flambeau Flowage) are the Turtle River flowing in on the north end and the Flambeau River on the east end. A large number of spawning walleyes still relate to these rivers, and depending on water temperatures in early May, these original river channels can hold numbers of walleyes. Other fish spawn on the many rock and gravel shorelines in the main body of the flowage, these shallow rocks are good early season walleye spots. A jig and fathead minnow is a combination that takes many of the early season fish.

As the water warms up in early to mid-June, so does the smallmouth fishing (catch and release until June 15th) the TFF is known for some fantastic smallmouth fishing with a lot of heavy 16-19" fish. They can be found on shallow sand and rock flats in 2-6' of water and will aggressively hit shallow running crank baits. As June moves on, the walleye bite goes to leeches and crawlers keying in on areas with concentrations of stumps and logs on the bottom, a depth of 6-10' is a good range to find fish in.

Fishing a flowage is not without risk to your boat and lower unit, there are many hazards including shallow rock bars, stumps and tree trunks, in deeper water, still attached to the bottom. Buy a lake map to help navigate, and drive slowly when not over original lake basins.  There are a lot of fish per acre; learn small areas at a time.

Trude Lake: Connected to the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, by a culvert, it’s 781 acres is similar to the TFF in fish species, population density, water color, and scenery. Again, excellent walleye and smallmouth fishing, with potential for trophy musky. There is diverse habitat to fish; wood, rocks, weeds, breaks into deep water and shallow bays with stumps.

Gile Flowage: Farther north in Iron County lies the 3,384 acre Gile Flowage. In contrast to the Turtle Flambeau, its shoreline is privately owned and does not provide the camping opportunities. It does not get the publicity of the TFF, but contains some excellent fishing with big numbers of smallmouth and walleye that run a bigger average size. The Gile has panfish, pike and low pressure for trophy musky. During May and June, fish for smallmouth and walleye on mid-lake rock humps and shorelines with either jig and minnows or casting crank baits. Anchoring on humps with active fish and fishing slip bobbers is also an effective way to put fish in the boat. 

Jeff Robl, Bobber Down Guide Service, (715)776-0140, email: bobberdowngs@gmail.com or visit www.BobberDownGuideService.com 

West Central Wisconsin

This is a very exciting time of year to fish the waters of the Chippewa Valley!  The opener has arrived, and it is time to take out all of the aggression you have been building up all winter long!  Where to start? 

Lake Wissota

Jigs and minnows, fished in the shallows, will produce walleye in early May.  Not to mention some of those bonus hog crappies.  Vertical jigging, retrieving, and dead sticking are all going to catch fish.  The Yellow River area is a popular early season destination.  As the water warms, start moving deeper.  Jigging will still produce fish, but the Slow Death technique, I have found, is a great way to get into large numbers of walleye.  When Slow Death trolling, do not be afraid to put a crankbait, or even a spinner harness out to better entice fish that may have put their noses in the air to your bait. 

Smallmouth bass are relatively easy to find in Wissota.  Keyword, as always, is structure.  Areas such as the train bridge, Wissota Hydro, Larson's Point, and countless spots on the Chippewa River are all good options to start in your search for early season footballs!  Cranks, plastics, and jigs will all produce.  

Long Lake 

This is a very special smallmouth bass fishery.  And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources realized that, so they have a placed a limit of 1 bass with a minimum of 18 inches length regulation on the lake.  Long doesn't hold nearly the numbers of smallmouth as Lake Wissota or other Chippewa River flowages, but as a quality fishery, it excels.  Scan the water for beds, pitch plastics such as Senkos or Power Lizards and let the fun begin!  Please practice CPR (Catch Photo Release), and release all fish as quickly as possible.  A word of caution on this lake; buy a lake map, or watch your GPS on your locator for potential hazards.  One spot may be 100 feet deep, and the next one might be 1 foot deep!  I know many people who have damaged props, and have taken out lower units on this lake!  Get to know it, or you may be making an unexpected call to an insurance agent. 

Lake Menomin and Red Cedar River 

When the locals think of Lake Menomin in Menomonie, they think one thing.  Yuck!  This lake is notorious for the green slime it takes on every summer, and subsequent stench that fills the town.  If you drive over the lake on Interstate 94 in July or August, you would think the same thing.  Launching your boat in these waters in May, you see a completely different lake; almost crystal clear. So enjoy these two months while you can out here, because the fishing is about to get hot! 

  I like to troll cranks, such as Jointed Shad Raps and Flicker Shads.  Most anglers would assume this would be for walleye, and I will tell you this is half true.  While walleye are the target fish, be prepared to get busy with big perch, crappie, white bass, northern pike, and even big bluegills!  It happens all of the time!  What is the key? Structure, structure, structure. GPS on your locator will help a ton, as you can mark your hits, and keep passing by. 

Red Cedar River

  The Red Cedar River portion of Menomin (Upstream of the 94 bridge) is like a piece of seclusion that's close to home, and its' a great place to go chuck a spinner bait.  Northern pike, as well as both largemouth and smallmouth bass will give you plenty of action as you work the shorelines.  The current can be swift at this time of year, so good boat control can be super important if you want to maximize your chances at catching fish.  Be mindful of the varying depths, and a few hazards, like you would in any river.  

Captain Chris Powell, Chippewa Valley Guide Service, (715)577-9771, email:wissotafish@gmail.com or visit www.Lake-Wissota.com 

Northeast Wisconsin

Wolf River

The Wolf River will be overlooked by most anglers as the walleye and white bass run will be over. But don't be surprised as many fish stay in the river all through the summer. Walleyes can be caught by casting jigs and crank baits along the shorelines. Don't forget to try vertical jigging some of the deeper holes. The beauty of fishing the Wolf River later in the season is you will not see very many anglers. On some days, we have the whole river to ourselves.    

 

Lake Poygan

Lake Poygan will be a great place to fish this time of year. Fish can be caught by trolling the large flats with planer boards and crank baits. Crank baits such as Shad Raps, Flicker Shads, and Salmos are the choice of most anglers. Don't be afraid to fish different depths of water from 3 to 8 feet.

The Fox River

The Fox River also holds large numbers of walleyes throughout the summer. These fish can be caught by casting jigs, vertical jigging, or pulling flies. Fish the contours that you find and also the slower sides of the current. 

Lake Winnebago 

Lake Winnebago should be producing good catches of walleyes, white bass, and perch. The walleyes can be caught by trolling the reefs with crank baits. Another popular way of fishing the reefs is by anchoring and using slip bobbers. This usually produces nice catches of walleyes and perch. Trolling the mud with crank baits and crawler harnesses will also be a very effective way of catching walleyes this time of the year. Crank baits of choice for the Winnebago system are Shad Raps, Flicker Shads, Salmos, and Reef Runners. When fishing the mud, look for suspended fish anywhere from 7 to 11 feet down and target those fish. 

Bay of Green Bay

The Bay of Green Bay will be giving up large catches of fish at this time of year. The walleyes can be caught by trolling boards and vertical jigging the rockpiles. Look for fish to be in depths of water from 4 to 18. Crank baits trolled behind boards is one preferred method used by anglers on this body of water. The crank baits of choice are Shad Raps, Flicker Shad, Salmos, and Reef Runners. Night crawler harnesses are also trolled behind boards. Large blades are preferred on this body of water. Anchoring on top of rock piles and vertical jigging or pitching a jig with a night crawler is another great way to catch walleyes on the Bay of Green Bay. The Bay is also noted for its great smallmouth bass fishing. The bass can be caught by targeting rocky shorelines with jigs and spinner baits.

So whatever species you are after, don't be afraid to give “The Bay” a try. The fish are out there waiting to be caught. Go out, have a great time and enjoy the outdoors!

Captain Jim Klein, Bills and Gills Guide Services, (920)680-7660, email: billsandgills@gmail.com or visit www.BillsandGillsGuideService.com 

Bay of Green Bay

As spring approaches and the water temps begin to warm up, area walleyes in the Bay of Green Bay make their voyage up the Fox River to their spawning grounds near the dam in De Pere, WI. This area is well known for world class walleye fishing. Many tactics are used during the spawning run, such as vertical jigging with minnows or plastics, as well as casting big crankbaits like Rapala Husky Jerks in the rapids close to the dam.

This bonanza typically lasts for about 4-5 weeks. Once the walleyes are done spawning, the urge to feed dramatically picks up. They have exhausted much of their reserved energy fighting for favored spawning areas, as well as battling strong river currents for weeks. At this point, the tired and weary walleyes make their way back to the Bay of Green Bay in search of warmer water to jump start their metabolisms.

This is where you can find unbelievable walleye trolling action. There are several areas in the bay that are considered shallow water walleye structure. What I look for, however, are shallow flats that are predominantly comprised of sand. Sandy bottom typically attracts and holds more heat, thus warming the water faster than other areas. Additionally, area baitfish will be attracted to them. Hungry walleyes will key in on these areas for two reasons. One, it gives their metabolism a “jump start,” and two, it holds the feed they are desperately looking for.

Typically, you will locate huge schools of walleye in these sandy, shallow water areas in less than 5 feet of water. I like to troll over them utilizing small crankbaits, like the #5 Berkley Flicker Shad. Run your spread further away from your boat than usual, as the fish may spook a bit more due to the shallow water you are trolling through. I will run the Flicker Shads in a staggered pattern. If I am running 6 planer boards, I will set the baits at 15, 20 and 25 ft. back off the boards and troll at speeds of 1.5-1.8 mph.

Another good method is to use crawler harnesses in these shallow water situations. I like to use Big Eye Custom Lures crawler harnesses. Use a small split shot about 6 feet above the harness and set them up on planer boards. I run this pattern at 20, 25 and 35 ft. back from the boards at speeds of .9-1.3 mph.

Lastly, these shallow water sand flats need to have a dingy stain to them. If the water is clear, move out deeper. Walleyes and shallow, clear water don’t mix well. I have found that in many cases, the fish simply slide out to the 9-12 foot range and will actively feed. Of course, you will have to adjust your baits to run deeper as you move out.

As May approaches, put some time in and study a good map of the Bay of Green Bay. I like to use the layout maps from Fishing Hot Spots. These maps will lay out the depth contours you will need to see, as well as provide you with the composition of the bottom in many areas. Don’t be afraid to troll in 3-5 feet of water in early May. The fish are there! They are there for a reason! Good luck and happy fishing! 

Captain Jeff Nuechterlein, Eyetime Guide Service, (920)427-6723, or visit www.EyetimeGuideService.com

South Central

Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages

May and June can be some of the hottest fishing in central Wisconsin on the Petenwell and Castle Rock flowages.  The walleyes and white bass are done spawning and the crappies finish up in May.  The vast majority of walleye and white bass will be leaving from the spawning grounds, and will be filtering back out into the main part of the lake.  Targeting a mix bag of fish is advantageous for this time of year.  This also means there will be many different ways you can target these fish.

One popular way is to jig blade baits at the head waters of the lake.  I would recommend using Echo tail blades which are made right in the heart of Wisconsin.  Another is to jig or drag ring worms by B Fish N Tackle by custom jigs and spin and rig the main channel with large mud minnows or red tailed chubs along steep drop offs or breaks off the main channel.  My “go to” at this time of the year is to bring out off shore tackle planer boards and long trolling rods.  These fish will be feeding on the main lake flats, high in the water column.  The easiest way to catch them is a zig-zag pattern over a flat on the main part of the lake.  A flat is a large area of water that can be found on the east or west shore of both flowages in water depth of 12-15 ft. (about a ½ mile circle).  My go to baits here are Salmo hornets, #4 and #5 Flicker Shads and #4 glass Shad Raps in various colors; mainly bright colors.  When targeting suspended fish 99% of people are fishing too deep.  You want to target active feeding fish.  These would be the ones that are suspended.  By targeting them I only run baits 25-45 ft. behind my off shore tackle boards. We also like to run bright custom painted baits.  TylersBasementCreationsTackle.com and also Tommy Harris custom painted baits are both really great.    

Another way to catch these fish is early morning or late evening, casting shallow rip rap or rocky shoreline areas with small crank baits.  Later in May and June, these fish can also be caught early morning and late evening on shallow rocky shorelines casting rattle traps.  As the water gets warmer towards the end of June and late in summer, target fish trolling may get difficult with all the natural food along with the new hatch growing.  You may have to target your fish at a little faster trolling speed and use loud baits that rattle, wobble, and are very bright colors.  I would recommend a hot ‘n tot.  As the water gets really warm you can target pan fish on the lake or river. The hotter the water the better.  These pan fish will stay in structured areas like wood, rocks and heavy weed cover.  My go to method is to pitch custom made jigs in bright colors using leaches, crawlers and red worms pitching jigs into open pockets of cover. 

On both lakes there are many lodging areas from camping to hotels.  On the west shore of the Petenwell Flowage is Wilderness County Park. The east side of Petenwell is the Adams County Park.  Castle Rock has Buckhorn State Park, Juneau County Campground and also Adams County Park.  For other lodging in this area there are Carl’s Cabins and the Wilderness Inn. Also on Petenwell, there is Wilderness Bait and Tackle store.  From live bait, to food, beer, snacks, firewood, hunting and fishing licenses… Wilderness Bait and Tackle has it all.  Feel free to call us at (608)565-3180.  On Castle Rock, call Jim at the Buckhorn store, gas, food, bait and tackle etc.  For booking information of guides please contact Jesse Quale with Green Water Walleyes Guide Service at (608)547-3022.  Also check him out on facebook and Lake-link.com. 

Jesse Quale, Green Water Walleyes, (608)547-3022, email: greenwaterwalleyes@yahoo.com or visit www.GreenWaterWalleyes.com

May is the beginning of the most consistent walleye bite that we have seen in months. Their bellies are empty from the recent spawning cycle. The water is warming and the weeds are greening up. May can be the most consistent walleye fishing that you will find.  In the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, fish are eating their way back down stream and we are catching limits most days.  On the Puckaway and the Winnebago systems, walleyes are in areas where the water is a few degrees warmer and where the weeds are starting to grow, because that is where they find their food. June starts a new pattern for these waters, the bugs begin to hatch in the mud flats and the food source will drive the entire food chain to these areas, which means many different species are on a feeding frenzy.  At the end of the June, this feeding frenzy tapers off on most waters, however, Big Green Lake is just beginning its weed growth and water warming pattern so we can go through the whole cycle one more time. 

Captain Justin Kohn, All Seasons Adventures, (920) 229-3494, visit www.AllSeasonsAdventuresInWI.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/allseasonsadventures 

Upper Rock River System:

The Rock River, near the Blackhawk Island area, will continue to produce post spawn walleyes, along with numerous white bass, crappies, and catfish. With heavy bank cover, rock bottom, moderate current, deep holes, and a nearby marsh present, this area is a fish magnet. For walleyes, jigging a 1/8 oz Kalin’s gumball or Northland Tackle stand-up jig tipped with a leech or half crawler works best. Chartreuse, white, and purple jig colors have historically been the most successful, but anything is worth trying. Both dragging jigs while drifting and vertical jigging can catch fish. Cats are commonly caught when working crawlers and you may even land one of the monster flatheads that swim this area.   For crappies, slip bobbering river bank structure with a small minnow seems to work well, but be prepared to move frequently to stay on fish. Many anglers use cane poles to reach crappies located in downed trees strung along the river bank.   White bass can be caught with numerous presentations, including those described above. However, when super aggressive, white bass can be seen popping at the surface. This is the time to cast surface or shallow running cranks. Time it right and you’ll be in for some fast action. Last spring we had days where clients boated 100 plus white bass in a few short hours.            

Lake Koshkonong:

Known as “The Dead Sea” to some anglers, Lake Koshkonong can actually offer some great fishing during this time of year. Although some post spawn walleyes will hang out in the upper river area for quite some time, others scatter into the main lake basin and lower river system. With limited lake structure present, walleyes seem to constantly roam the mud flats and stop when they find food.   However, eyes do commonly relate to the rock pile, located in the middle of the lake, and the clam beds in the lower river mouth, near Newville. Jigging walleyes in these areas can be very productive. Jigs tipped with live half crawlers or artificial Uncle Josh Meat crawlers work great.   If short biters or bottom structure keep ripping off your live bait, Uncle Josh Meat crawlers actually work better because of their ability to stay on the hook. Try using a slow cast and retrieve bottom bouncing technique if anchored. If drifting, try a dragging technique if drift speed is less than 2 mph. This mid-lake rock pile area also holds a variety of other fish. Using a slip bobber presentation with live crawlers can produce bluegill, perch, crappies, cats, along with walleyes.   If trying for walleyes in the mud flats, trolling is the most productive way to fish. Salmos, Flicker Shads, and Rapala Shad Raps are lures of choice. Fire tiger color is a popular choice, but we’ve also had great luck with blues, purples, and gold colors. With an average depth of four to five feet, it doesn’t take much to get trolling lures to the bottom. Letting out 30 feet of line or less will get you in the strike zone and the use of planer boards will help get lines away from the boat, a necessity when fishing these easily spooked shallow fish. Check lines often, mud and debris can commonly foul up lures. When trolling the mud or around the rock pile, it’s common to also catch white bass and pike in this great system. 

Madison Chain:

The Madison Chain of Lakes offers great pan fishing opportunities during the months of May and June. Both crappies and bluegills can be found in various shallow weed areas, both post and pre-spawn. Check lakes often and watch where weeds first begin to develop. Crappies will move to those locations first to spawn, typically when water temps are in the mid 60 degree range. Weeds located in 3 to 8 feet of water with a sandy bottom present are preferred, but crappies will make due in other locations if needed.   Males come into spawning areas ahead of females and will stay longer too. After females spawn, they retreat to deeper water and the males will follow later. We use 6 foot medium light rods with 4 to 6 pound test monofilament line. Using a slip bobber tipped with a live minnow works best to catch these guys. Crappies will strike from below, so keeping your minnow a short distance from the bobber will trigger bites and also keep bait from entangling weeds. Please practice selective harvest with these easily caught fish, especially with egg bearing females.

When water temperature hits the mid 70 degree range, look for bluegills to move into the 2 to 4 foot depth and make beds in the sand. We use 5 foot ultra light rods and 4 pound test monofilament line. Slip bobber presentations work, but we’ve done better by pitching soft plastics from Northland Tackle and Uncle Josh Meat Pan Fish Leeches. Dark colored artificial baits seem to work better than bright colors on sunny days and vise versa on cloudy days. Simply flip out the jig over beds and weed edges and use a popping motion as its retrieved back to the boat. Sight fishing these fish on their beds is very easy. Again, please practice selective harvest, our fishery depends on it! 

Adam Walton, Pike Pole Outfitters, (608)290-3929, email: awaltonjfd@gmail.com or visit www.PikePoleFishing.com