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.
BOULDER JUNCTION AREA
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.
CHIPPEWA FALLS / EAU CLAIRE / MENOMONIE AREA
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.
MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/ LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA
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.
EAGLE RIVER AREA
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.
IRON COUNTY AREA
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.