Report from the Dock
With unseasonably cool weather through April 23, ice conditions in north-central and northeastern Wisconsin hadn’t changed much lately. But strong winds early last week began working on the remaining ice in those areas across the northern part of the state. While there was still plenty of main lake ice on the bigger lakes north of Tomahawk as of April 23, the wind shoved it around and the next stretch of warm days should take care of the majority of ice that’s left on any of the small to medium sized lakes. It’s likely the bigger lakes will quickly follow suit with the shorelines and current areas now open far enough to deteriorate the ice with any wind movement. The cool weather also slowed panfish action in those areas where it had started, and that combined with the wind kept many anglers off the lakes. Nicer weather was expected to arrive this week and that should get boat and shoreline anglers back at it. Look for crappies and panfish to be staged just outside those traditional spring locations, but expect them to start making a big push to the shallows as water temperatures begin to warm.
Guys are out trolling now with open water available. They’re catching browns and cohos, not a lot of steelhead yet. Rivers are starting to clear up a little bit. The smelt run started April 22, with perch and walleyes to soon follow. All Ashland city-owned beaches, piers and parks are closed, but guys are catching smelt by getting out in boats and using dip nets. Beaches and piers in Washburn and Bayfield are still open, but town officials are discouraging people from showing up. Fishing guides in all three towns are still booking clients.
Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.
River Rock, (715) 682-3232.
The ice is entirely gone after recent strong winds. While a few anglers have started looking for crappies, water temperatures remained cool and that’s likely prevented panfish from moving into shallow water. The catch-and-release bass season is underway and some people have found active bass in shallow water or just outside of the shallows.
Indianhead Sport Shop, (715) 822-2164
DOOR PENINSULA AND ALGOMA/KEWAUNEE AREA
Walleye fishing has been on fire as of late during the day and at night for boat fishermen and shore anglers. It’s been great from north of Sturgeon Bay all the way down south past Chaudoir’s Dock while casting with hair jigs, Rippin’ Raps, blade baits, tubes and paddle tails. Pike fishing has also been good and will be really getting once they all move into their post-spawn feeding patterns. Sturgeon Bay, Riley’s Bay, Sawyer Harbor and Little Sturgeon all are good areas to fish. Brown trout fishing is still going good on both sides of the peninsula by trolling and casting crankbaits and spoons from a boat and from shore. There is also still plenty of opportunity to get in on some good steelhead fishing in the Lake Michigan tributaries by floating and drifting spawn into pools.
Howie’s Tackle, (920) 746-9916.
Algoma Chamber of Commerce, (920) 487-3090.
EAGLE RIVER AREA
As we’re getting towards this most unusual fishing opener, we now have some lakes opening up. The shallow lakes and some of the lakes on the Eagle River chain are opening because of the current. We’ve seen boats on the river and Yellow Birch Lake. Right after the ice goes out, perch move into the shallows to spawn. Look for the warmest spots on the lake to find them now, and don’t hesitate to go really shalllow. Minnows or worms work equally well on light tackle. It’s still a little early to predict what will happen for the opener; as of April 22 it kind of looks like the fish will be in mid-spawn, but who knows? Start with jigs and minnows. Another idea is to try the Wisconsin River between Eagle River and the Rainbow Flowage. It is a hard area to fish with jigs because of the rocks, but throwing No. 11 or No. 13 Rapalas (gold) works very well on many years.
Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.
GREEN BAY/APPLETON AREA
No report. Closed due to COVID-19.
Smokey’s on the Bay Bait, Tackle and Guide Service, (920) 436-0600.
There was still some floating ice on the big lakes early last week but that was all expected to be gone very soon. The small lakes were open and while a few anglers have started fishing many of the traditional spring crappie spots, the bite has been slow because water temperatures were still cold. Most anglers are targeting panfish, catch-and-release bass and trout, and suckers. Remember that bass fishing is catch-and-release only until May 2 for largemouths and June 20 for smallmouths.
For those who prefer the woods to waters, toms are strutting and calling enthusiastically while on the prowl for hens. The turkey population in the area has boomed over the last several years and a successful season is expected. With minimal snow on the ground and things firming up already this spring, turkeys can get around easily compared to previous years.
Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.
Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.
IRON COUNTY AREA
The rivers are really high so they are pumping a lot of warm water into the lakes and the flowage especially when it’s sunny, Most of the lakes are open or very close to it. Some smaller lakes opened last week. Walleyes spawn when the water temp hits the low 40s so if the weather warms up as predicted and the sun stays out the water temps will hit the spawning range right around the May 2 opener.
Flambeau Flowage Sports, Mercer, (715) 476-2526.
LAKE MICHIGAN/METRO AREA LAKES
Fishing reports and DNR creel surveys are limited because of COVID-19.
DNR hotline, (414) 382-7920.
Smokey’s Bait Shop, (262) 691-0360.
Dick Smith’s Bait, (262) 646 2218.
LAKE WINNEBAGO AREA
Water temperatures on the river were sitting at about 42 degrees early last week and quite a few spawned out walleyes were coming back downstream. The walleye anglers also started to see some white bass moving upstream at the same time. The perch and crappies started moving into the channels last week and the bluegills will be right be them.
Critter’s, (920) 582-0471.
Fox River Bait, (920) 233-7409.
Dutch’s, (920) 922-0311.
D&S Bait and Tackle reopened last week with reduced hours, but is open seven days a week. The water is still pretty cold so things are still a little sluggish, but anglers caught some bullheads and crappies on north end of Cherokee March last week, along with some catfish in the river. Anglers also caught a mixed bag of bluegills and crappies on Monona Bay, along the tracks, and in “the triangles.” Lake Monona’s Squaw Bay has seen quite a bit of action at times; mostly on the warmer days. Mud Lake will heat up once the water warms up. The new catch-and-release bass season has been popular on Lake Mendota.
D&S Bait and Tackle, (608) 244-3474.
Dorn Hardware, (608) 244-5403.
MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA
Wisconsin’s “Stay at Home” order has been extended through May 26. State campgrounds are closed through April 30. Here in the Lakeland area, federal, state and local municipal boat landings remained open as of April 22. Guiding is considered “non-essential” by Gov. Tony Evers’ order, so unless otherwise notified, Island Sports Shop won’t be taking any bookings for trips between now and May 26. Also, it is not legal to operate a motorized boat (electric or gas) on the Michigan side of any Michigan/Wisconsin boundary water (i.e. Cisco Chain, Michigan side). So anglers must know where they are at all times when fishing this area. Most local bait shops remain open for curb -side business.
Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.
J and J Sports, (715) 277-2616.
PRICE COUNTY AREA
The ice has been off of most flowages in the Phillips area for about three weeks and panfish anglers reported seeing walleye spawning activity as of April 22. Guys were catching a few crappies in the afternoons and early evenings. Expect to find post-spawn walleyes on the May 2 opener; fish shallow wood with slip bobbers or run crankbaits on the flats. Crappies should be moving shallow on those same flowages by the opener, too.
Ross’s Sport Shop, Phillips, (715) 339-3625.