Fishing conditions are changing rapidly in northwest Wisconsin. The recent warm up has pushed water temperatures into the 60’s in many areas with lots of new weed growth, bug hatches, and early spring spawning hatches providing plenty of eating opportunities for fish. Being flexible and responding appropriately to these changes are the key to staying on fish. Here’s what we’ve been up to over the past couple of weeks.
Lake Superior – Chequamegon Bay – St. Louis River
As water temperatures warmed quickly into the 60’s it didn’t take too long before fish were nesting and on beds. It doesn’t happen all at once on Chequamegon Bay however and you can always find fish in all spawning phases at this time of year. Pre spawn, spawn, and post spawn tactics all work in 4′ – 7′ of water. Searching for hungry pods of fish is the approach we usually take, and it’s all about covering as much water as possible until you pin them down. You’ll have to experiment each time out with a variety of presentations until you figure out the flavor of the day. Jerk baits, hair jigs, slow sinking plastics, neko rigs, and swim baits are all possibilities, and I usually have everyone throwing something different until the fish tell us what they want. Neko rigged stick worms and Bait Rigs Grubmasters have been reliable producers lately. Big numbers and big fish can be expected on the right day, and we experienced that with Chuck Reynolds from Seaguar along with Chip Stringer and John Richter. We found a mud to sand transition with a hungry school of fish right before a front coming in. Talk about the perfect storm. Every cast produced a strike or a fish in the net during one of those feeding windows you always hope for. The bite definitely slowed after the front came through, but only after we had caught a pile of them with several over 20″. Great guys and a great time.
The walleye bite on Chequamegon Bay has been a bit inconsistent with a few fish being caught on crawler harnesses trolled in 4′ – 5′ of water, but the St. Louis River has been kicking out some good numbers of fish lately. Focus on shallow flats adjacent to the river channel in 3′ – 5′ of water pulling crankbaits like a T-Boned Minnow. Keep covering water until you find a school and try to replicate speed and depth while paying attention to the color and pattern they prefer. Hot colors and gold variations are always a good starting point. With lots of fish being caught, there’s also a chance at a Lake Superior giant with plenty walleyes still migrating toward the big lake.
Hayward Area Lakes
New weed growth is definitely the key to locating and targeting walleyes right now on the lakes around Hayward. Water temperatures have risen rapidly, even hitting the upper 60’s on some bodies of water, and new weed beds are alive with food sources. With so much available to them right now, the bite can be a bit inconsistent. You really have to stick with it on some days and keep bouncing around until you find a few that are ready to eat. Target 12′ – 15′ of water on clear lakes and 4′ – 8′ on stained water. Depending on the day, you’ll find them hanging on the outside edge or right in the weeds, so it’s important to cover all bases. Slip bobbers and Weedmaster jigs with leeches/minnows will do the trick. If fish really get fired up try swimming and ripping a paddle tail right through the weeds for aggressive strikes. Tom Huckaba and Bob Hoerner experienced a good afternoon of big fish after we had struggled all morning to locate anything. We landed on the right school at the right time around mid afternoon and stuck a bunch of solid 20″ – 25″ fish. There were even a few fat smallies mixed in with them, and every bite was an adventure. Tom and Bob earned every one of those fish, and they deserved it!
It’s been “Bass O Rama” around here lately with a ton of fish shallow and a ton of fun. Big numbers, big fish, and lots of sore thumbs from grip and grin pictures have been the story. There are lots of fish on beds, and we’re still witnessing active spawning with females coming in to drop eggs. Catching fish aside, it’s just plain fun to watch it all go down in shallow water on clear lakes. It also drives home how important it is to take care of these fish, especially now. Use good common sense when catching and handling them so we can continue to enjoy this incredible opportunity on our lakes. Site fishing is popular right now, but it’s not the only way to catch them. Back off those shallow spawning flats a bit, and you’ll still find plenty of fish in 5′ – 10′ of water with a shot at a bruiser that hasn’t come in to spawn yet. A Ned rigged plastic on an Odd’Ball jig dragged through the rocks is one of our favorites right now. Texas rig a 3″ stick worm for a near snag free presentation that absolutely drives smallies nuts. We had some great father/son trips recently with Mark & Levi Hayman, Jason & Jack Morrison, and Merle & Jack Erickson all dropping the hammer on a bunch of big fish. 21 1/2″ is the biggest we’ve seen so far, and that’s going to be hard to beat!
Don’t forget about the crappies! This has definitely been one of the best early slab seasons we’ve had in awhile with consistent patterns setting up on most lakes. Not only have we been getting lots of fish, but lots of BIG fish as well with several in the 13″ – 15″ class. Most bodies of water are in spawn to post spawn mode right now, and we’re still catching plenty of females that have yet to drop their eggs. We all love a good crappie fry, but it’s really important to release those whoppers and exercise good judgement on how many you keep. Small plastic tubes on a Panfish Cobra jig fished around weed growth in 4′ – 8′ have been all that’s needed. Suspend them under a slip bobber on a windy day to provide the perfect action. Good friends Mike and Tiffany Lee joined me on a day that we had a tough time getting much to go right. In fact, we ended up fishing four different lakes before finally lighting them up over an 8′ windblown weed bed. Sometimes it just goes like that, but the reward was a fantastic ending to the day. It just took us awhile to get there… The Lee’s were going to get their fish one way or another!
And just like that it’s June! Where does the time go?… School is finally wrapping up for most kiddos after a tough couple of months stuck in the house and staring at computer screens. Congratulations to all seniors who have graduated from high school during these crazy times. It’s time to unplug, get outside, and catch a bunch of fish!