Lack of rain and HOT weather around southeastern Wisconsin has caused many muskie anglers to subscribe to a self-governed ban on fishing the last couple of weeks. Delayed mortality of these beasts has been the primary concern, but according to Sue Beyler, a regional fisheries biologist for the Wisconsin DNR, there are ways anglers can still fish for muskies right now that increase the odds of a safe release.
“It’s not a bad idea to fish for something other than muskies for another couple of weeks around here,” she said. “But, if you are going to fish for them, doing so in shallow water will increase the odds of a safe release.”
The reason for this is that the main factor that causes fish to die is when they are caught in deep water, and are reeled up to surface temp water, which on Lakes like Pewaukee and Okauchee, are above 80-degrees right now. Their systems simply can't take the temp change.
“If the fish is already swimming in shallow, warm water, there really isn’t the stress put on them because they don’t experience the drastic change from deep to shallow water,” she said.
Most people know that the majority of game fish right now aren’t going to be found in skinny water. The answer? Fish them at night. And don't fight them any longer than you have to. And release them as quickly as possible – even going to the length of not removing them from the water, if at all possible. Cut hooks in the water, then release fish over shallow water so that you can wade with the fish until it takes off.
“Night fishing is a great option for catching fish this time of year,” she said.
The reason is because the surface water cools a bit after dark and game fish will move in to feed on baitfish, which are still hanging shallow around weeds, docks, and bars.
Muskies aren’t the only fish in danger right now. There have been some northern pike that died on shallow lakes like Big Muskego, Fox and Beaver Dam.
While Beyler is an advocate of catch and release, right now she said that anglers might want to think twice if they catch a walleye deep and plan to release it.
“Around here, most people keep legal walleyes,” she said. “But if you catch one right now in deep water, the chances of it dying are pretty high. They taste good, too.”