Spawn incomplete despite warm temps
Thanks to an unseasonably warm March, many anglers thought that come the season opener this Saturday, that many gamefish would be done spawning and already in early summer patterns. After interviewing several bait and tackle dealers in metro-Milwaukee, and doing a bit of fishing myself last weekend, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
In fact, after an entire weekend of bass fishing on Puckaway and Buffalo lakes in Marquette County (where gamefish are open all year long), we didn’t catch one bass that had spawned. Didn’t even find a single male with a beat up tail.
John Laimon, owner of Smokey's Musky Shop on Pewaukee Lake, said that while he was catching fish after fish right off his pier in March, a lot of the shallow water is now vacant.
“When we had the 70-degree weather a few weeks ago the fish had moved in big time,” he said. “I was getting really good bluegills right off my dock. Most were in the 6-7 inch range. Now the fish have mostly moved out deeper.”
Laimon did say that a few people are catching some bluegills and the fish aren’t that hard to find.
“We just need some warmer weather in order to get them to bite better,” he said. “You can find schools suspended of the first break. A lot of the fish came in shallow and were flushed back out when the cold weather came so they’re sort of staging out there. Honestly, my advice for people would be to wait for some warmer weather before heading out. “
The good news is that there is some 70-degree weather expected this week, and that could be enough to send the fish to the shallows.
Becky Smith, of Dick Smith’s Live Bait and Tackle in Delafield, said that the warmer weather, combined with a full moon this weekend, could be just what the doctor ordered.
“Usually three days before the full moon and three days after is really good fishing,” she said. “Sure, we did have a few fish spawn during the warm spell we had, but most of the fish other than walleyes are still in pre-spawn mode so good fishing is about to start.”
Smith said that while the fish are in normal seasonal patterns, that the weeds in many area lakes are ahead of the game, which could be a clue as to where to fish, come the opener.
“The warmer weather we had got the weeds going early,” she said. “I’ve heard they are already cutting the weeds in some areas on Pewaukee. One of the keys to getting fish early in the season is finding new weed growth and anglers should be able to find some good weeds this weekend. Most of the clear lakes, like Nagawicka and Oconomowoc, for instance, should have respectable weedlines already and that’s where I would look for the fish.”
Panfish, and game fish, should be suspended on these weedlines patiently waiting to move into spawn. They aren’t going to move a lot to chase your lure, but slow moving presentations should be able to get them to bite. Try anchoring or slowly drifting on these spots with jigs and minnows or crawlers. A good mixed bag of fish could be the reward.
Greg Nickolaus, owner of Musky Mike's in Okauchee, said the early crappie action Okauchee Lake is known for hasn’t happened yet.
“They are getting some bluegills in Bay 5 and Stumpy Bay,” he said. “But the crappies haven’t showed up yet. They should though any minute and the warmer weather this week could be all it takes.”