May 10, 2015

Scouting Report

Northern Wisconsin

Mercer Area

There are a lot of great lakes to choose from in the Mercer area where I live.

I've had the good fortune to keep busy in my guiding business, fishing strictly the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.  Its 14,000 acres of water, 66 island campsites, and mostly undeveloped shorelines make it a big draw to our area.

The last two years had much of the flowage covered in ice on opening weekend.  This year is more typical with the ice going out around mid-April. Opening weekend can have a lot of walleyes still relating to the river channels on both the north and east end of the flowage. Fishing these channels with an 1/8-3/16 oz. jig and fathead minnow can produce good walleye numbers. After the spawn, fish spread out and occupy a lot of the diverse wood and rock structures the flowage has to offer. In May and June, I often fish shallow water; usually less than 8 feet, with the dark, stained water, fish can be caught shallow even during the middle of the day, especially days with a good chop.

I usually fish live bait when guiding; casting a 1/16 or 1/8 oz. jig and minnow through May, switching to crawlers in June. Slip bobbers also work very well and help keep the bait just above the wood structure that the fish often relate to.

Drifting and casting crankbaits is another fun method to catch May and June walleyes, there are a million baits to pick from, a lot of the Rapala line are proven fish catchers, newer baits that work well are Berkley Flicker Shads and Salmo Hornets.

Some of the most exciting fishing is smallmouth fishing; especially early to mid-June. The Turtle Flambeau flowage has some of the finest smallmouth fishing in the state. My favorite way to fish them is with top waters, catching bass in shallow water on top waters will have you anxious to get on the water the next day. It is catch and release only until the season opens in mid-June.

Last year, we did real well on some of the classics like Jitter Bugs and Baby Torpedo's, but my favorite became a bait by Rapala; the skitter pop #5's and 7's both did well. Often, people only do catch and release for bass. I do a lot of shore lunches for customers and occasionally have some bass on the menu. I have yet to have someone who didn't find smallmouth to be very good table fare. If we elect to keep a few, I try to keep them just over legal size (currently 15") and release the bigger fish. Some people are of the thought that more bass should be taken out of the flowage in order to keep a good balance between walleye and bass.

Jeff Robl, Bobber Down Guide Service, 715-776-0140, www.BobberDownGuideService.com

Fishing around Northwest Wisconsin during the May to June period can be like having too much of a good thing; there is seemingly no end to the angling opportunities here. Smallmouth bass are shallow and big fish are very catchable.  Walleyes are over their post spawn funk and are beginning to set up on summer spots. Early season muskies are often on the chew. Crappies are spawning in the shallows and the big bluegills will be right behind them. What's a multi-species angler to do with so many options? 

Chippewa Flowage

On the Chippewa Flowage, this is a great time for a mixed bag type of outing.  Jigging for walleyes around sunken bogs, emergent weed growth or timber/brush can produce nice fish.  We like mixing in a few soft plastics on our jigs along with a steady diet of fathead minnows for the walleyes.  The Flowage has a tremendous population of crappie, sporting huge numbers of 9 to 11 inch fish with a few bigger ones mixed in. We often fish walleyes in the morning before switching over to crappies after lunch. Slip bobbers and tube jigs are all you really need to catch a mess of slabs.

Lac Courte Oreilles

Over on Lac Courte Oreilles, good numbers of nice walleyes can be found occupying the deep edges of the weed lines. Jigs tipped with fatheads (early in May) give way to leeches by mid-June.  Berkley Gulp Alive Minnows are a great second option to run on at least one rod, as some days the walleyes show a definite preference for one over the other.  Trolling crankbaits in the 10 to 15 foot zone can many times trigger the biggest fish of the day while covering large amounts of water. Smallmouth bass can be found on gravel/sand shorelines looking for spawning areas.  Tubes, soft plastic lizards and grubs will work on these fish as will spinner baits and shallow running crankbaits when fish are active. Smallies at and over 20 inches are not uncommon on LCO.

Dozens of waters in the area support very good musky fishing. And, the early part of the season is a great time to chase them.  Typically, dark water flowages warm up quicker than clear water lakes in spring offering better overall chances at contacting aggressive fish day in and day out.  Be prepared to do a lot of trailering from one lake to another to stay on the hot bite.  Bucktails, twitch baits, and small jerk baits are tough to beat during most early seasons when choosing lures to throw.

Jim Stroede, Jim Stroede Guide Service, 715-520-7043, www.JimStroedeFishing.com

Wisconsin River and Flowages

Fishing the Wisconsin River and its flowages, like Lake Mohawksin in Lincoln County and Boom Lake in Oneida County, is an exciting time to fish for walleyes, bass, and musky.  Once the spawning process is done, walleyes and bass can be found feeding on minnows along shorelines and weed flats in the warmest parts of the lake. For walleyes, live bait rigs and crankbaits work well. For bass, shallow crankbaits, spinner baits, and soft plastic worms “wacky rigged” are excellent choices for catching big bass. 

With the northern zone musky season opening May 23rd, you can bet that there will be lots of musky fishermen out chasing the fish of 10,000 casts.  Bodies of water like the Eagle River Chain in Vilas County may be a bit cooler than Lake Alexander in Lincoln County or Lake Wausau in Marathon County, but don’t overlook fishing for muskies on any of these lakes during the early part of the season. This time of year is sometimes overlooked by some, and it shouldn’t be. You will find muskies cruising the shallow shorelines and shallow flats with new weed growth. Depending on water temps, small to medium sized bucktails, jerk baits, and twitch baits work very well when fished at a slow to medium retrieve. As the water temps start to rise, you may want to start increasing the size and speed of your baits. Once we get into June, it is a great idea to add a top water bait to the equation as the water temperatures start to rise.

And hey- whatever the species of fish you are targeting, take the time to introduce a kid or an adult who hasn’t had a chance to enjoy the sport of fishing and, “Make it a great day in the outdoors.”

Todd Shulz, Musky Moon Guide Service, 715-212-9745, www.MuskyMoonGuideService.com

West Central Wisconsin

Well the opener is here, and everyone is excited to get after some game fish, myself included.  Here is what is happening in the Chippewa Valley.

Lake Altoona

For those living in the Eau Claire area, this is some pretty good perch fishing and it is about as close as it gets.  For being so close to the city, Lake Altoona really doesn't get very much fishing pressure.  In early May, this can be a pretty fun lake to bring the kids to.  I personally like to drift the shallows near the mouth of the Eau Claire River.  Use mini mites or flu-flu's, tipped with either waxies or pieces of crawler.  Small gulp minnows also work.  To help zero in on fish location, mark your catches with your GPS.

Red Cedar River

This is becoming one of my favorite early season "floats.”  I like to float the river in between Tainter and Menomin lakes.  This isn't your typical river float because it is deep enough to use a gas motor. I usually start by the landing at Cedar Falls (do not go upstream or you will hit rapids!) and throw spinner baits for bass and northern pike.  Husky jerks will pick up some decent walleye from the shallows.  There are some shallow spots, so use caution.

Lake Wissota

Right now is a good time to catch walleyes on a jig and minnow presentation.  The Yellow River near the "K" bridge along with the Yellow River Bar, and various areas in the Chippewa are good bets.  Speaking of the Chippewa, now is a good time to target smallmouth!  Focus on shallow areas, with rocks and gravel.  Crawfish imitations will work wonders, as well as senkos, and crankbaits.

Chris Powell, Chippewa Valley Guide Service, 715-577-9771, www.Lake-Wissota.com

South Central Wisconsin

Lake Koshkonong

  • May and June are fantastic months to fish Lake Koshkonong. As the water warms up, so does the action.  Being a shallow lake, warming trends often affect this lake sooner than other large Wisconsin lakes.  Post spawn females have their feedbags on in early May and are willing to hit nearly anything offered to them.  They can sometimes be tricky to locate in the main lake basin but, once located, hang on!  To cover space quickly, try trolling #5 Flicker Shads or #5 Salmos.  Rapala Shad Raps also have their place on certain days.  If you’re looking for walleye, but white bass seem overly aggressive, try trolling slower and up size your crankbait.  With the average depth of five feet, fish may spook easily when trolling.  Move your set away from the boat with planer boards to help eliminate that problem.  As the season moves on, crankbaits will continue working, along with crawler harnesses.  Experiment with colors, but perch patterns seem to consistently work well.  When the wind is right, drifting the rock pile located near the middle of the lake will produce a variety of fish as well.  A simple 1/8 oz. chartreuse gumball jig or stand up jig dragged across the rocks is hard to beat.  Try tipping jigs with minnows early in the season and switch to nightcrawlers as the water warms.  Casting Kalin’s Sizmic Grubs and Vibration’s Tackle Echotail lures can also produce fish on the rock pile.  Along with walleyes, be prepared for large pike to hit these lures.

Upper Rock River

  • The Upper Rock River system will continue producing nice sized walleye throughout May. Again, post spawn females will travel back down river toward the main lake and feed aggressively.  Vertical jigging or dragging this area will work well.  Work the deep holes and their edges in this area.  Depending on current speed, use the smallest weight needed to maintain occasional bottom contact.  Live minnows and a variety of plastics work well as do nightcrawlers as the season moves on.  For plastics, try Kalins Sizmic Grubs or an Authent-X Moxi 1/8 oz. jig.  Casting paddle tail plastics towards the banks and slowly working them back to the boat will help pull fish sitting in cover.  If using live crawlers and finicky fish, keep nipping off the tail, try adding a stinger hook or switch to Uncle Josh Pork Crawlers.  The pork crawlers are very durable and won’t easily be ripped off.

Lower Rock River

  • The Newville area can offer some pretty good action in late May and June. Try bottom bouncing or dragging the area where the river exits Lake Koshkonong.  Live bait seems to work best in this area.  It is shallower here compared to the upper river, but there is plenty of rocky structure between the HWY 59 and I-90 bridges.  As of now, the area between Lake Koshkonong and the HWY 59 bridge can be trolled. This rule may expand in the near future. Trolling here can produce some nice fish, but it may become difficult as boat traffic increases with warmer temps.  As stated in previous reports, the Indianford Dam and Monterey Dam both offer great fishing opportunities for a variety of fish and are easily accessible from shore.  Indianford Dam can be found just outside Edgerton, Wisconsin while the Monterey Dam is further south in Janesville, Wisconsin.  Casting minnow tipped jigs, cranks, and plastics works well here.  Slip bobbers, tipped with small minnows or crawlers also work well in eddy areas or calm water.   Local bait shops are located near each dam. Trep’s Bait & Tackle can be found above the Indianford Dam and It’s A Keeper Bait & Tackle is near the entrance to the Monterey Dam.  Both owners will likely have additional tips to get you on fish. 

Madison Chain of Lakes

  • May crappies and June bluegills draw many anglers to these waters. There is no super secret spot here.  Simple rule is… find some weeds and fish will be nearby.  A basic live minnow under a slip bobber works well on weed edges for crappies, as do lightweight jigs slowly popped through cover.  Small 1/32 oz. or 1/16 oz. jigs tipped with Uncle Josh panfish leeches or Northland Tackle Bloodworm jigs have worked magic for us in the past.  Darker colors like deep purple, black, and dark browns seem to do well.  Working the shallow sandy areas will produce bluegill as the temperature warms.  Wax worms, red worms, and Uncle Josh pork leaf worms under a slip bobber will do the trick.  Working small jigs through weed beds, as stated above, will also produce fish.  Please be selective when targeting any spawning fish, especially bluegills that can be easily picked off their beds.

Captain Adam Walton, Pike Pole Fishing Guide Service, 608-290-3929, www.pikepolefishing.com,

Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages

May and June are my favorite times of the year on both the Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages.  You can catch many species of fish. Crappies and white bass are spawning in the river during the month of May.  However, not all crappies and white bass will spawn in the river. A lot of the lake fish (white bass and crappies) will spawn from Mother’s Day weekend to Memorial Day Weekend.  Target these fish in the river around wood or shallow, rocky areas.  Slip bobber with minnows or small jigs and plastics worked around the structure will work the best. 

By now the walleyes have worked their way back out to the main flats and humps on the lake.  Running crankbaits and planer boards will pay off. I like to run smaller baits to try and match the size of the spring hatch.  I also like to troll at a slower speed like 1.5 to 1.7 mph.  When targeting walleyes on the lake you will want to cover a lot of water.  Try zigzagging through an area.  Stagger your baits from a couple of feet below the surface to the middle of the water column.  You are trying to gain the attention of the suspended fish.  These fish are the most active feeding fish.  To take advantage of the fish that have come out to the main lake after spawning, try vertical jigging and rig live bait on the most northern end of the lakes.

This time of year, on both flowages, is also a great time for muskies.  Muskies will be in the shallows before and after spawning.  Muskies can be targeted below the dams, in the river and on the main lakes.  Target muskies directly below the dam, fishing deep water along the banks or over weed flats.  Fishing muskies in the river, along the shallow wooded bank areas or in shallow back weedy bays will prove success.  On the main lake, target muskies along rip rap shorelines or main lake points.  Use a variety of baits from bucktails, top waters, crankbaits and jerk baits. 

Catfish are another species that are plentiful on both flowages.  Fishermen will target catfish on the lake, river, and below the dams.  Deep water or shallow water; they are everywhere.  (I like to joke with clients about letting their kids swim with the catfish.)  Use crawlers, chicken liver, or stink bait to target catfish and channel cats.  Channel cats are not picky eaters, the stinkier the better, often times you will catch them trolling crankbaits too.  Flatheads, on the other hand, are meat eaters. They want live bait like chubs, suckers, bluegill and perch.  Deep holes in the river and fast moving current near the dams are the areas to focus on

Jesse Quale, Green Water Walleyes, 608-547-3022 For more information check us out on Facebook: Green Water Walleyes Guide Service and feel free to give us a like. You can also see us on the web, www.GreenWaterWalleyes.com or www.Lake-Link.com.  

East Central Wisconsin

Wolf River

The Wolf River is sometimes over looked at this time of the year. It holds a large number of walleyes throughout the summer. These fish can be caught by casting crankbaits along the shoreline and in the submerged timber. A popular crankbait is the flicker shad or shad raps. Jigs and minnows or jigs with twister tales can also produce large numbers of fish.

Lake Poygan

Fishing on Lake Poygan will really start to turn on the first few weeks of May. Trolling is one of the most popular ways to catch these fish. Walleyes will be the primary target, with locational white bass and crappies also being caught. Trolling with boards is one of the most productive ways to fish this body of water. Shad Raps, Flicker Shads, and Salmos are going to be the best baits to use. As the water warms up, switch to crawler harnesses.

Fox River

Fox River, from Lake Poygan to Lake Winnebago, will also produce large numbers of walleyes and white bass. The same techniques that one uses on the Wolf River will also be very effective on the Fox River. Another way to catch fish on the Fox River is to pull bucktail flies. This is done on a Wolf River system, but instead of a minnow, a bucktail fly is used.

Lake Winnebago

Fishing the reefs and rock piles of Lake Winnebago will also begin to heat up this time of the year. Trolling and slip bobbering will be the most effective way to target these areas. When slip bobbering the reefs and rock piles, minnows, nightcrawlers and leeches will be the baits of choice. Trolling using Flicker Shads, Shad Raps, and Salmos proves to be effective .

Fox River from the dam to the Bay of Green Bay

Walleyes will start to leave the rivers sometime around the end of April. These fish are caught around the mouths of the rivers and along shorelines in 4 to 12 feet of water. Jigging with plastic twister tails and ring worms will be very effective in early May. Another way of producing nice catches of fish is to troll with boards. Again, baits of choice on the Bay are Flicker Shads, Shad Raps, and Salmos. If you have any questions about any of these techniques please feel free to give me a call, I will help you in any way I can. Thanks for reading, and please be safe on the water.

Captain Jim Klein, Bills and Gills Guide Service, 920-680-7660
Wolf River/Fremont Area

May and June are when the Wolf River and the Fremont area really blossom.  Walleye, white bass, panfish, bass, northern and catfish are all really biting.

So let's begin with post spawn, hungry, aggressive walleyes.  I fish the "down run" by dragging jigs with a half nightcrawler.  I cast 25 to 30 ft. upriver, float down river while dragging the 1/8th oz. jig on the bottom.  This is a tricky technique because it takes patience in telling the difference between the bottom and a light walleye bite. I use non-stretch 10 lb. test Suffix 832 braid and a long sensitive rod for this technique. When dragging, I'm usually fishing river flats.

When the white bass and fishermen move into the river, I move to Lake Poygan and Winneconne.  I start trolling the lakes and casting the cane beds. I troll with #5 Flicker Shads, Shad Raps and my "go-to," #4 Salmos. I troll at speeds of 1.5 to 2.5 mph. I stagger my baits in the water column by letting different amounts of line out behind my planer boards. I cast the cane beds with small weedless jigs and a jumbo leach. Slip bobbers are also effective when fishing the cane beds.

May also brings the famous Fremont white bass run, bringing in fishermen from all over the surrounding states. This is when the river gets busy. Many techniques and lures work for these popular fish. Wolf River rigs with a fly, tipped with a minnow are a staple for white bass fishermen.  Casting these rigs into the current and jigging them back is how they work best. Demon spinners or in-line spinners also work in shallower and warmer water. Red and white hair jigs tipped with a minnow work very well too.

Mid to late May or early June, depending on water temperature, the bluegills begin to move onto their beds to spawn. Bobbers with a red worm, chunk of nightcrawler or wax worms all work well. Some people even use small ice jigs to add color to their presentation.  Also, at this time, the crappies move into the fallen down trees on the river. Small jigs, tipped with a small minnow or even a plastic tail work best.  Try to vertical jig between the branches of the trees for these tasty fish.

The bass and northern action heat up as well with the warmer temperatures.  Top water frogs, spinner baits, and plastic worms work very well for bass. I mostly fish the sloughs and bayous for these fun fish. Spinner baits, weedless spoons and small suckers on large bobbers work best for early big northern action.  Usually, the backwaters are great spots for northern too. 

Last, but certainly not least, catfish start biting as soon as the white bass move into the river. Wolf river rigs and slip sinker rigs are my favorite methods for big catfish.  Cut up minnows and chicken livers are my bait of choice.  Later into June, stink bait also works well. 

When fishing the wonderful Wolf River area please remember, “If you brought it with you, take it home or dispose of it properly.”  Littering our river system is no way to preserve it for the future. And remember that boating safely is no accident.

Tight lines and good fishing to all. 

Captain Patrick Morack, Moracktion Guide Service, 920-216-9085