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Northern Wisconsin Fishing Reports

Northern Wisconsin Fishing Report - April 17th, 2015


This report is for the Ashland side of Chequamegon Bay. We find ourselves between seasons at the moment, as the remaining ice on the bay is no longer safe, yet there is still too much of it for any open-water action.

The ice has gone out at Saxon Harbor, and anglers are already trolling from there. In the wake of the state’s early season steelhead opener on the Brule River from U.S. Highway 2 to Lake Superior on March 28, steelhead are now being caught in the local rivers. After a crazy high-water spring season last year, 2015 is shaping up to be quite the opposite, but the rivers should be fishing well through April. Low and slow is the name of the game early in the steelhead run.

All of the fish currently in the Brule will be holdovers from last fall. The best way to get at them is to fish smaller flies (stones, prince nymphs, X-legs, and, of course, egg patterns) under an indicator in the slow holes and bends.

Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.

River Rock, (715) 682-3232.


Anglers are eagerly awaiting the full return of open water. Ice has pulled away from shore on most lakes – more so on smaller lakes than the big lakes – and ice fishing was mostly over with as of April 7. Unless things take a big turn for the worse, all ice should be gone in time for the fishing opener on May 2.

Northern Highland Sports Shop, (715) 385-2134.


Fishermen have been having good luck on panfish on all area lakes, where they are also awaiting the inland game fish opener on May 2. Things are shaping up for a good opener, in terms of water temperature and early weed growth. Turkey hunting should be pretty good in the area this year, as they’re still grouped up, but numbers appear decent.

Bait on Broadway, Menomonie, (715) 231-2194

Buroker’s Taxidermy and Bait, Eau Claire, (715) 835-0847.

Bill’s Sport Shop, Chippewa Falls, (715) 723-9033.


Following a weekend of several reports of anglers breaking though ice, one needing rescue, thankfully no fatalities occurred. Ice fishing is nearly over for the season. 

Big Arbor Vitae Lake still held fishable ice on the south shore as of April 7, as did a few other lakes with protected bays, but with ice thickness of 11 to 14 inches of porous ice, conditions won’t remain safe for long.  Last weekend’s forecast for temps in the low 60s will end any question of ice fishing.

The pond behind our shop was nearly 70 percent open on April 7. Historically, once the pond behind the shop is ice-free, Lake Minocqua follows in seven to 10 days.

Keep in mind that while the Tomahawk/Minocqua chain will have a zero bag limit on walleyes for hook-and-line and tribal spearing starting this opener, the ceded territory lakes should see a three-walleye bag limit over the entire area.

Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.

J & J Sports, (715) 277-2616.


We are now entering that period where there is no fishing to be had, unless you travel out of the area to one of the big rivers. The ice had grown pretty well during this period of snow and colder weather, and will stay this way now that there is again a snow cover on top. We’ll need a period of nicer weather to get rid of it now – probably two weeks or so. It always seems like a long winter at this time, when we really are watching for open water and the chance to get our boats out and enjoy some early panfish fishing. We were all freaked out by the extremely extended period of ice last year, but it is doubtful that we will get anything close to that this year. 

There is precious little ice fishing still going on. A few anglers have figured out how to get on the ice sheets on some lakes. They reported ice thickness of 8 inches or so of firm ice, but this can change quickly. Usually, this involves the use of planks to get from the shore to the ice, then maybe a sheet of plywood to make sure you don’t break through. If you do this, be careful, especially on windy days as the ice sheet can move and leave you much farther from the shore than you expected at the end of your fishing. 

The crappie fishing has been quite good on some days, especially in the evening. Minnows under tip-downs or jigging with small, flashy jigs have been the best approaches. Daytime fishing has been better than average for those who have gotten out.

It is most enjoyable to look forward to open-water fishing now. It will be a few weeks until that happens, but it will be good right from the start. Perch come onto the shorelines immediately after the ice goes, providing great action while they spawn. Very light tackle works best – 4-pound line with small jigs and small bobbers are necessary in that shallow water. Look for cover areas for these perch like brush, downed trees, piers, boathouses, and the like. We have found that fathead minnows work better than the smaller crappie minnows for larger perch. The warmest water (usually on the north side of the lake) attracts fish the best. Action can start the day the ice goes out.

Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.


What remains of the ice cover is unsafe and as a result, fishing reports are going on short hiatus until open-water fishing is a viable option. Barring unseasonably cold weather, it could be a matter of a couple weeks – or a few days. Until then, spend time with pre-season prep so you are ready to go when game fish seasons opens May 2.

“This year,” says Pat at Happy Hooker, “We should have a ‘real’ game fish opener on Saturday, May 2, as scheduled. Although main parts of the lakes remain frozen now, there is a lot of movement on shorelines and in shallow bays. 

“Look for warmer water in shallower lakes or shallow bays on deeper lakes and use smaller lures, lighter tackle, and slow retrieves. Fish walleyes with light line and light-action rods with slow-moving jigs or small crankbaits. For crappies, use small jigs or minnows under bobbers.” 

Guide Dave Dorazio at Outdoor Creations says ice fishing has ended on the Chippewa Flowage and most area lakes. “Warm temperatures melted the ice along shorelines, making it tough to get on or off the ice, and with the water rising, most main-lake ice is not safe,” he said.

Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.

Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.


Fishermen are – mostly – patiently waiting for open water. In the meantime, they are prepping their boats and fishing gear for the May 2 inland fishing opener. As of last week, nearly all area lakes still had some amount of ice floating around. In most cases, there was enough ice to keep anglers from launching boats in search of panfish. In many cases, ice sheets blocked the boat launches.

Turtle River Trading Co., Mercer, (715) 476-0123.

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Central Wisconsin Fishing Reports

Central Wisconsin Fishing Report - April 17th, 2015




Brown trout fishing has been going quite well along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Bailey’s Harbor all the way south to Algoma. The best depths have been anywhere from as shallow as 3 feet out to about that 20- foot mark. There also have been some decent catches of nice lake trout and an occasional rainbow. The best baits have been Mauler Spoons, Rapalas, Thundersticks, and smaller-size Husky Jerks. There is still ice on the bay side of Door County, but that should be gone very shortly, and that will open up a lot of brown trout opportunities just in time for the Bailey’s Harbor Brown Trout tournament that will be April 23-26.

Pike action has been going OK in the Sturgeon Bay ship canal for the shore fishermen and boat fishermen. The fishing should get better as the pike retreat from the creeks and shallow bays and start putting on the feed bag. The best techniques are drifting with bottom-bouncer rigs with suckers, drifting and jigging Odd Ball jigs tipped with Tuffy fatheads, and trolling or casting large crankbaits.

Since there is still some ice on top of the spring walleye spots, the reports have been fairly slim, but there are still opportunities to hook some nice fish for shore fishermen and boaters alike. Shore fishermen generally do well by casting soft-plastic swim baits or suspending crankbaits right downtown in Sturgeon Bay in the public fishing areas. You will see the boat fishermen doing the same thing. Boat anglers also are slow-trolling long lines behind their boats in those same areas until the outer bay areas break free from the last of the ice shelves. The best crankbaits to have in the box right now are Rapala Husky Jerks, Smithwick Rogues, Flicker Shads, and Matzuos.

Howie’s Tackle, (920) 746-9916.

Algoma Chamber of Commerce, (920) 487-3090.


The walleye run on the Fox River is now on. Anglers are catching fish from shore, by wading, and from boats. All standard lure presentations are working. You don’t have to fish right below the dam to find walleyes.

    Smokey’s on the Bay Bait, Tackle and Guide Service, (920) 436-0600.


The annual walleye run is under way on the Mississippi River. Anglers are finding walleyes and sauger scattered in the usual spots – below the dams, in backwater shallow areas, and along wing dams.

    Schafer’s Boats, (608) 781-3100.

    Bob’s Bait & Tackle, (608) 782-5552.


The Wolf River at Fremont and Winneconne has produced many walleyes and a few white bass. A river rig or jig baited with a fathead, lake shiner, or Gulp minnow have been catching walleyes.

Critter’s, (920) 582-0471.

    Fox River Bait, (920) 233-7409.

    Dutch’s, (920) 922-0311.


The ice is finally off Castle Rock and Petenwell flowages. Anglers on Petenwell have been fighting cold weather and high winds with only undersized fish to show for their efforts. The Buckhorn Bridge area has been producing a mixed bag of perch, crappies, and undersized walleyes. Be cautious launching in this area due to low water conditions. The areas below the Castle Rock and Petenwell dams have been producing undersized walleyes, with an occasional large female being caught. Water temperature was at 39 degrees. Fish have been found stacked in deeper-water holes below Castle Rock dam, where they are waiting for higher water temperatures and flow.

Lake Mason has been producing limits of crappies for boat and shore fishermen. Finding structure, preferably wood, is the key to catching these crappies. Minnows and wax worms have been the baits of choice.

Petenwell Landing, 608-565-7212

Castle Rock Dam Bait Shop, (608) 339-2967.

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Southern Wisconsin Fishing Reports

Southern Wisconsin Fishing Report - April 17th, 2015


Surface water temperatures on the area lakes and rivers were in low to upper 40s last week. The Rock River in Fort Atkinson and Jefferson has produced pre- and post-spawn walleyes, catfish, white bass, and crappies. Anglers caught the most fish near deeper holes, while larger fish were caught in shallow water. A light jig dressed with a minnow or a 3- to 4-inch plastic tail, such as a Moxy, Pulse R, ringworm, or twister, produced fish. A three-way or slip-sinker rig with either a floating jig, streamer fly, or No. 4 hook baited with a minnow was effective, as well. Many catfish were caught on a river rig baited with a nightcrawler, minnow, or stinkbait. Crappies were found under fallen trees and brush. Use a small fathead minnow baited on a No. 6 hook or a light jig suspend under a small pencil bobber. White bass were caught by casting a light jig baited with a fathead minnow, half of a nightcrawler, or 3-inch twister tail. Three-way rigs with a streamer fly and pencil sinker also produced fish.

The Fox River at De Pere is the destination for anglers looking for trophy walleyes, as there is a 28-inch size limit (only one can be kept now). Pre- and post-spawn walleyes have been caught. Anglers did best using a jig dressed with a 4-inch plastic tail or minnow. Casting crankbaits worked best at night.

Panfishing on the area lakes will improve as warmer weather arrives. The key to catching panfish in the spring is to look for the warmest water and green weeds. Prevailing winds will help determine in which part of the lake to look for the warmest water. During warm, sunny days, bluegills and crappies may move into shallow, dark-bottom bays, channels, and marsh areas in search of warm water and food. Afternoon and evening hours are the best times to fish, when the water will be warmest. Small baits, slow presentations, and light line must be used.

Bluegill anglers did best using ice-fishing jigs or light ball jigs baited with spikes, wax worms, red worms, or small plastic tails. A black ant fly tipped with a wax worm also works excellent. Suspend these under a casting bubble or rocket bobber and make long casts for best results.

Crappies were caught on a small fathead or wax worm baited on a rocker ice jig or No. 8 Aberdeen hook suspended under a small slip bobber or rocket bobber. Casting a jig dressed with a small plastic tail can also work.

Lake Michigan harbors have produced brown trout. Casting a darter jig dressed with a 4-inch Gulp minnow was effective. Soaking a spawn sac or shiner minnow suspended under a float worked, as well.

The Root, Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Pike rivers have produced a few steelhead. Soaking a spawn sac under a slip float will produce, as will flies, wax worms, and small spinners.

DNR hotline, (414) 382-7920.

Smokey’s Bait Shop, (262) 691-0360.

Dick Smith’s Bait, (262) 646 2218.


Strong north winds have slowed fishing. The water is still cold. On the bright side, there are lots of walleyes on Lake Wisconsin’s Tipperary Point and at the railroad trestle on the Merrimac side. Crappies are hitting on Lake Wisconsin at Harmony Grove (at the fingers). Walleyes are active by the Dells dam and on Hwy. A and also at the Sauk-Prairie dam. Panfish are stacked on the north side in 4 feet deep on Crystal Lake. River walleyes were caught on jigs dressed with plastic tails or minnows, slip sinker rigs and minnows, or by casting crankbaits.

Wilderness Fish and Game, (608) 643-5229.

McFarlane’s True Value, (608) 643-3321.

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