The annual holiday we anglers refer to as "The Opener" is finally upon us! At least that's the case for Wisconsin anglers. This year is the earliest possible opener for Wisconsin’s general fishing season, May 1. Minnesota’s is not until May 15.
If you plan on fishing legal gamefish in Wisconsin waters this weekend, plan on not being the only boat on the lake thanks to increasing fishing pressure as the pandemic plods on. What else makes this opener season interesting is the fact we are actually ahead of schedule in terms of water and spawning conditions.
It's no secret that ice out was a lot earlier than most years. The saving grace has been the cooler temperatures and good flurries of rain to help keep water temperatures from rising too fast. That means we should still be able to hunt out the usual fishing opener spots, at least for Wisconsin waters. More on that later. Let’s dive into this week's exciting fishing report.
Lake Superior continues to host a good amount of boat traffic from Chequamegon Bay to the North Shore. Not everyone is catching a lot of fish, but most are having the opportunity to tangle with a fish or two. According to Captain Jimmy of James Addiction, water temperatures are still on the colder side out of Duluth, but a few cohos and lakers are showing up, as well as the bonus brown trout.
We are still a few weeks until the Gitch bite will really be in full swing, but we are getting there. Most fish are still coming near the surface where the water is warmer, so bright colored stick baits are still the best deal. Smelters are still getting some fish, but for the most part the peak is now behind us. Dip netting the rivers is now the best way to go.
Lake Superior stream anglers continue to swing flies and hook into a few steelhead and the occasional brown trout and salmon. The recent rains have kept a good flow going, so the spring run is far from over.
The St. Louis River does not have a lot to report on as it stays on the silent side until May 15th for walleyes and pike. However, as mentioned the last couple of weeks, some fun rough fishing opportunities still persist. Freshwater drum, catfish and suckers continue to be taking live bait rigs. As far as perch and crappies, we are nearly up to the perfect water temperatures to get some business done.
Inland lake temperatures are just right for another start to the fishing season. The most sought-after fish this coming weekend for Wisconsin anglers will no doubt be walleyes, but don't be surprised to run into good pods of active panfish.
According to the forecast we have some warm temperatures coming this weekend and that will slide a lot of sunfish and crappies into near-shore, early vegetative areas. Best bait will be a worm chunk under a float or a slow-rolled soft plastic.
For crappies, it's hard to beat a simple crappie minnow presentation and concentrate efforts near some shallower brush piles. These tactics hold true for Minnesota waters as well while they wait out the May 15 opener. Don't be surprised to run into a few pike and walleyes while you are fishing for panfish, but the game fish will be better sought after in areas of spawning habitat — river mouths, shallow rock/sand shoals. The go-to bait for the opening weekend of walleye season is nothing more than a 1/8 oz Northland RZ or fireball jig tipped with a good-sized fathead minnow.
To all that are taking part in the annual Wisconsin tradition: Good luck, have fun and be courteous to each other.
Jarrid Houston of South Range is a fishing guide (houstonsguideservice.com) on Minnesota and Wisconsin inland waters, the St. Louis River and, in winter, on Lake Superior.