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Wisconsin Fishing Report – July 16, 2020

Report from the Dock

Water temperatures continued to climb lately, with a lot of 80-degree, stagnant water being reported statewide up until about July 12, when things started cooling a bit up north. Surface temps finally dipped below 80 degrees on July 13 in some northern tier counties. The warm water certainly made catching fish more difficult, especially during the day. In the rest of the state, you’ll want to cover water with crankbaits or some form of live-bait rig for walleyes on structure in 20 feet or more in many areas. The one exception has been during the evening and nighttime hours when some fish are being caught shallower, mainly along breaks and weedlines in less than 12 feet. Regardless of your timing, plan on putting in some time to catch walleyes at this point. Even northern pike and panfish, at least those bigger fish, seem to be most active along deep weeds or deep structure early and late each day. Muskie reports have been limited, but it sounds like there hasn’t been many people after them throughout this stretch of heat. Avid muskie anglers are well aware how fighting and handling these fish when water temperatures are this high can stress them out, so muskie anglers have kind of pulled back from fishing for them when the water gets too warm.

Panfish and a few crappies are biting on the 8-foot weeds of Big Round Lake and White Ash Lake. Leeches are turning some walleyes during low-light periods on the 16- to 20-foot rocks and humps of Lake Wapogasset. Spinners and crawlers are producing walleyes on the St. Croix River in 18 to 20 feet. Look at Deer Lake, Wapogasset, or the Apple River for muskies.

Country Store, (715) 268-7482.

ASHLAND AREA

A mayfly hatch started percolating on Chequamegon Bay last week, so the walleye bite is expected to slow down. But the trolling bite on Lake Superior has been very good, along with the smallmouth bite along Long Island in about 15 feet of water. On the inland lakes, the crappies seem to be leading the way on overall action, but bass and northern pike are also doing pretty well. The only bad news on the inland lakes has been the warm surface temperatures, but overnight lows have been in the 50s up north and things are beginning to cool down a bit.

Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.

River Rock, (715) 682-3232.

CUMBERLAND AREA

Largemouth bass remain active on the weedlines or shallow slop areas of most lakes. Look for crappies and panfish in 12 to 15 feet at Upper Turtle Lake and Beaver Dam Lake. Hit Silver Lake for smallmouth bass. Brown trout are being caught on Beaver Dam with spoons about 20 to 30 feet down over deep water. Bucktails are raising a few muskies on the weedlines on Rice Lake and Sand Lake. 

Indianhead Sport Shop, (715) 822-2164

EAGLE RIVER AREA

The locals are asking visiting muskie fishermen to check surface temperatures before pursuing those big fish. Muskies don’t often fare well upon release when surface temps extend beyond 80 degrees. It’s best to not even fish or them in those situations. Surface temperatures started easing their way down by July 14, so things should get back to normal soon. In the meantime, there are plenty of panfish and bass providing good action.

Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.

FLORENCE COUNTY AREA

The hot temperatures over the last couple of weeks, including the Fourth of July holiday, really slowed down the fishing. There was very little panfish action being reported in the area. The heat, however, didn’t stop the bigger game fishermen from landing some real nice catches. A 45-inch northern pike was hauled in on a sucker while another angler had some luck when he hooked into a 42-inch muskie that weighed 25 pounds. Trout action has been good. Fishermen were reporting nice catches of brookies using worms and spinners. The walleye bite has been fair. Anglers having the most luck are fishing with leeches along the edges of weed beds in about 6 to 8 feet of water.

Whisler Outdoors, (715) 528-4411.

GREEN BAY/APPLETON AREA

Fishing on Green Bay has been pretty tough the last couple of weeks due to the influx of the alewives into the system. Guys are still catching walleyes, but not the big numbers or the bigger fish as have been seen in the recent past. Hopefully the alewives will be gone soon. On a good note, perch fishing has picked up on the east and west shores of the bay; minnows and pieces of crawlers seem to work the best. There have been reports of nice muskies being caught on the west shore weed flats. The warm water temperatures stress these monsters out quickly and they can die very easily. It may be best to avoid muskies until water temperatures drop a little bit.

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

HAYWARD AREA

Crappies are being found suspended along the weedlines on Nelson Lake and the Chippewa Flowage. Walleyes are being caught with a bobber and leech or Jiggin’ Raps on the 14- to 19-foot weedlines of Round Lake, Lake Lac Courte Oreilles, and Grindstone Lake. The flats on the Chippewa Flowage are holding bluegills and small baits have been best for the few muskies being caught on area lakes. Recent rains brought temporary relief for the anglers and fish dealing with very warm water temperatures. Some fish have moved to the shallows, at least for the short term. Most muskie anglers are foregoing fishing until temperatures cool to reduce mortality on big fish stressed by the warm water. Smallmouth bass are around humps and drop-offs in 5 to 12 feet, with Ned rigs, 5-inch wacky worms, and topwaters working well.

Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.

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

IRON COUNTY AREA

The walleye bite has been tough, most are being caught on weedless jigs and a combo of crawlers or leeches. Depths have varied from 4 to 12 feet, mostly on woody humps or in the flats on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. Some bluegills have been seen in the shallows yet and others are being caught over cribs in 11 feet, so they are all over the place. Smallies have been mostly over wood in depths from 6 to 10 feet. Live bait has been most effective, but tubes and Senkos are also working well. The muskie report has been slow, but with the heat it’s a safe bet for the fish not to be focusing on them. The mayfly hatch is finally complete and the bite overall is slowly improving, but more than 5 inches of rain in five days has impacted the bite as well.

Flambeau Flowage Sports, Mercer, (715) 476-2526.

LAKE MICHIGAN/METRO AREA LAKES

Bluegill fishing was best along weed edges in 8 to 18 feet of water, with the larger bluegills holding toward bottom. Smaller bluegills were found in shallower water around weeds and piers. Crappies were suspended along outside weedlines in 12 to 18 feet of water or over deeper water. Northern pike action has been great. Fish the deeper weedlines or structure near baitfish. A sucker or golden shiner baited on a circle hook with a heavy fluorocarbon leader and slip sinker worked best. Largemouth bass are in their summer patterns. During early morning or evening hours, fish the weed flats in 5 to 10 feet of water using swim jigs, spinnerbaits, shallow running crankbaits, inline spinners, or topwater baits. Smallmouths were found along breaks or cruising shallower rock bars. Walleyes were active along weed edges in 8 to 18 feet of water, along with deeper structure in 20 to 30 feet. Leeches, nightcrawlers, jumbo fatheads, baby chubs, or golden shiners worked best for bait. Muskie fishing has picked up in the last week. They were found along weedlines or deeper structure. Catfish were caught from the Rock and Crawfish rivers, along with lakes Koshkonong and Mendota. A sucker, nightcrawler, leech, or stinkbait fished on a slip sinker rig worked best for bait.

DNR hotline, (414) 382-7920.

Smokey’s Bait Shop, (262) 691-0360.

Dick Smith’s Bait, (262) 646 2218.

LAKE WINNEBAGO AREA

Channel cats have been providing the best action around Lake Winnebago lately, with a lot of fish being caught near the Oshkosh convention center,  under the Main Street bridge or out in Miller’s Bay or Asylum Point Park. Things have been fairly quiet on the white bass and walleye front. For catfish, guys are using crawlers and cutting up chunks of frozen suckers. The yellow perch should start kicking in any day now on Winnebago.

Critter’s, (920) 582-0471.

Fox River Bait, (920) 233-7409.

Dutch’s, (920) 922-0311.

MADISON AREA

Water temps were into the low to mid 80s. The perch are still in tight to the weeds and mostly on the west side of Lake Mendota, but it’s been a tough bite. The walleyes and smallmouths have been cooperative, though, with quite a few legal walleyes showing up. They’ve been on the weed edge out to 15 feet. Bluegill shore fishermen have been doing well along the convention center and railroad tracks. Lake Monona largemouths have been active on deep weedlines. Early morning topwater bite for smallmouths on Mendota. Lake Waubesa panfish bite has been a little quiet, but those being caught are relating to weeds and rocks – no suspended panfish yet. There have been some good perch reports from Lake Kegonsa, but in isolated spots and not all over the lake.

D&S Bait and Tackle, (608) 244-3474.

Dorn Hardware, (608) 244-5403.

MARINETTE/OCONTO AREA

The walleye bite has really been taking off lately. Anglers have been trolling crawler harnesses out of County Park 2 in Oconto, or heading more south towards Geano’s Beach. If crawler harnesses aren’t working, anglers are switching to jigging on or near structure. In the weeks to come, there are several, back-to-back large walleye tournaments out of Oconto and Marinette harbors. These tournaments include AIM’s, Battle on the Bay, National Walleye Tour (NWT) (all out of Oconto) and Master Walleye Circuit out of Menekaunee Harbor in Marinette. The community will more than likely see a spike in angler’s pre-fishing these tournaments.

Perch, catfish and bass have been just a few of the species where the fishing has been spectacular. Anglers are finding jumbo perch out on the bay, catfish in the Lower Menominee River or bay and bass on the Lower and Upper Menominee River. Lastly, and most importantly, brown trout, steelhead (rainbow trout) and chinook salmon are starting to show up around Washington Island and the Trout Bar.

A&K Bait and Tackle, (715) 732-9595.

MINOCQUA/WOODRUFF/LAKE TOMAHAWK AREA

A reprieve from the heat helped cool the lakes a little last week; lake surface temps dropped from the low to mid 80s to the mid 70s.

Largemouth bass: Very good over  8- to 12-foot cabbage flats on jigs and creatures, wacky worms and Tokyo rigs. Morning and evening topwater action has been hot on Whopper Ploppers and Jitterbugs.

Smallmouth bass: Very good on drop-shot rigs with 3-inch Gulp Alive Minnows and 3-inch Senkos along outside cabbage and coontail edges along adjacent sandgrass flats. Smallies have also been tucked into cabbage beds of 7- to 8-foot depths.

Bluegill: Very good. Cast a Mepps 00 to draw attention, then fish small leeches below floats in weeds in 6 to 8 feet. Try poppers in the evenings.

Crappies and perch: Good. Crappies are holding in the upper portion of tall, narrow-leafed cabbage in 8 to 14 feet. Perch have been on cribs and wood.

Walleyes: Good, but depends on conditions. On cloudy/windy days or early mornings fish weeds of 8 to 14 feet with crawlers or the largest leeches you can find. Anglers fishing deep humps using Jigging Raps are finding it’s too harmful with high water temps; they can’t safely release these fish. It’s best to stop this technique until waters cool.

Muskies: Good to fair. Many anglers are opting to forgo muskies due to high surface water temps and stress on these big fish.

Special report: Bullheads, and big ones, are going crazy on flowages on crawlers or minnows. There is nothing wrong bullheads; they are good fried and great smoked.

Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.

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

PRICE COUNTY AREA

Anglers were able to scratch out some catches of walleyes, perch and crappies during the stretch of intense heat, with live bait working the best in almost all cases. Muskie anglers backed off the big esox during that stretch because surface temps went up past 80 degrees, but things have been cooling a bit with overnight lows in the 50s and the bite – for all species – is improving.

Ross’s Sport Shop, Phillips, (715) 339-3625.

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