We’re back doing what we do, and so are the fish. May started out cold with north winds off Lake Superior that just wouldn’t go away, but the forecast looks good. Warm temperatures are on the way, and there’s just a ton of fishing opportunities right now. Inland lakes in the Hayward area are heating up, and the Lake Superior trout/salmon bite has been excellent. Don’t forget about those big Chequamegon Bay smallies. Here’s where we’re fishing, what we’re catching, and how were doing it.
Hayward Area Lakes
Fishing season in Wisconsin officially opened up on May 2nd, and the cool temperatures since have kept most lakes in the low 50 degree range and even upper 40’s on some larger bodies of water. We’re pretty much on track for typical spring patterns and bites, and it’s always fun to watch shallow water come alive this time of year.
Most walleyes have completed the spawn at this point with patterns all over the map. You can certainly find some fish shallow in less than 10′ of water relating to emerging weed growth or close to rock and gravel structure. You’ll also find fish recovering in deeper water up to 30′ on some lakes. Shallow fish will tend to be more aggressive right now and probably more worth the effort. Cast suspending jerkbaits or lipless crackbaits to wind blown rock/gravel structure and work aggressively . For a slower approach, try pitching Slo Poke Weedmasters tipped with a small minnow to new weeds or along developing edges. Focus on active fish right now, and don’t get stuck in the same spot too long if they aren’t cooperating. Check out this big 27″ mamma my daughter Morgan and Hall of Famer Terry Peterson teamed up on during opening weekend using a jig and minnow in 10′. It was quite a show to watch!
Smallmouth Bass are in prespawn mode waiting for water to warm up a bit, but you can catch some of the largest fish of the season right now. Slow is usually the best approach early in the season working along breaks close to rock/gravel spawning areas. Small suspending jerkbaits, plastics like flukes, hair jigs, and slow rolling Grubmasters are all proven techniques for big fat bass. A stiff wind can certainly fire up a school of fish using aggressive techniques, but easing off the gas is generally the way to go until things heat up. When you you catch a fish, stop the boat and work the area thoroughly as there’s probably more around. It’s not unusual for several fish to be schooled up in tight spots before the spawn, and depths from 5′ – 10′ are the areas to target on most lakes.
Crappies, crappies, crappies. This is definitely one of our favorite spring bites with opportunities to catch some huge slabs coming into shallow spawning bays. Look for the warmest water you can. It doesn’t take much to make a difference with even half a degree being a factor. Boggy or swampy shorelines in northern bays are good spots to start. Even better if there’s an inlet or outlet close by. Any type of weed growth will hold fish, and 5′ – 7′ depths are good starting points for pre spawn fish. Suspend a Panfish Cobra jig tipped with a small plastic under a slip bobber using the wind to drift your approach over schools of fish. Keep moving and poking around until you find the right school. If you don’t have any wind, keep that bobber moving with subtle twitches as you slowly reel it back to the boat. Play with depth settings on your bobber to dial them in, and I usually begin about half way down in the water column. Keep a few for a fry, and throw those big girls back so we can keep on catching them.
Lake Superior – Chequamegon Bay
Our early ice out has allowed us to get after trout and salmon several times, and the near shore trolling bite has been really solid. Cohos, splake, browns, and lakers are all accessible right now in the top 20′ of the water column with water temperatures ranging in the mid to high 40’s. Flat line trolling crankbaits like the Psycho Minnow has been super effective with lots of fish and some big fish hitting the net. Look for the warmest water you can along the south shore, or around the Apostle Islands and Bayfield Penninsula. Slightly colored “tea” like water will help concentrate fish. Try working shorelines from 10′ – 20′ for lakers and browns with schools of cohos starting to suspend out in shipping channels and over deeper water. Cover ground around 2 mph and play with lure color and selections until you find the right combination. Ray Ammundson and Andy Miller tangled with some tough fighting lakers that we found the other day on 10′ sandy flats. Pretty cool fish and good stuff on the big lake!
Even though we haven’t had a chance to get after them yet, smallmouth bass are definitely migrating shallow on Chequamegon Bay. Fish are congregating in 4′ – 8′ of water with temperatures climbing into the 50’s. Just like our inland lakes, go at them with a combination of suspending jerk baits, slow sinking plastics, hair jigs, and grubs. They can be a bit moody this time of year, and you’ll have to experiment with sizes, color, and speed until you nail down the flavor of the day. Stop that boat when you find one to pick of a few more from each school. Fish will come in waves over the next few weeks with chances at some real whoppers over 20″. We’ll be out there soon, and I can’t wait to get after them!
Maybe now more than ever, it’s time to go fishing. Use common sense, be safe, and have fun. Just like we always do… Good luck on the water!