Outdoor Notebook: Opening weekend of inland fishing is here
During the Spring Conservation Congress meetings, the DNR asked those who participated in the meetings if they were in favor of changing fishing regulations. The change would do away with closed seasons. If approved, anglers could fish for game fish all year with no closed seasons. My personal reaction to this change is to say that it would not be the best for northern Wisconsin.
Over the past few years the deer herd across Northern Wisconsin has been reduced to the point that many hunters see very few deer during the nine-day gun-deer season. As a result, we do not see the large groups coming to our area to hunt deer. That situation leaves motels and resorts with lower occupancy when they used to be full. Because of Native American spearing of spawning walleyes, the bag limits of walleyes have been drastically reduced. On many of our northern Wisconsin lakes and rivers, the bag limit has been reduced to two walleyes.
In spite of these negative aspects, opening weekend of the game fish season still attracts numerous anglers to northern Wisconsin. During Memorial Day weekend the musky season opens, and quite a large group of serious anglers again journey to northern Wisconsin to fish. While traveling on Highway 51/39 during the opening weekend for walleyes, you will observe a large number of boats being towed north on Friday and traveling south on Sunday.
If the fishing season were to be open year around, the north would miss the large influx of business we now experience with opening weekends.
Enough of my opinion. Please think about what has been mentioned.
The question I am being frequently asked is, “Where will the walleyes be on this opening weekend?” In a normal year (whatever normal is) the ice usually leaves our lakes a week or so prior to opening. This year the ice has been melted for more than a month prior to opening.
Walleyes spawn over rocks. The better spawning areas for walleyes have gravel with hardball sized rocks. Once they complete the spawning process, they follow the warmer water and begin feeding in those areas where green weeds are starting to form.
Several angling methods are effective for catching walleyes over weeds. Perhaps the easiest method is to float slip bobbers over the tips of weeds. A fathead minnow hooked lightly and floated beneath a slip bobber may provide some exciting fishing.
Experienced jig fishermen can usually catch walleyes by jigging in the newly forming, green weeds. It is difficult to keep the minnows on the jigs when jigging in weeds. Another effective method is to cast crank baits over the weeds during low light conditions.
While most of the angling activity is for walleyes during early season, fishing for northerns and crappies takes the attention of many anglers. If you are looking for action, think about targeting northerns. On sunny days the northerns will be cruising the shallow weed beds in search of minnows.
Anglers can anticipate good action from northerns by casting spoons, stick baits or spinner baits. Some anglers prefer to watch bobbers that suspend large minnows swimming just above the weeds. Northerns are extremely good eating if you fillet them correctly to remove the bones.
Those anglers who enjoy good action and a tasty meal may want to concentrate on bluegills and crappies. Most crappie anglers use small crappie minnows. I prefer to use a pinky jig.
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For us, this weekend will be spent turkey hunting. In addition to hunting, which is one of my favorite pastimes, Turkey hunting provides an opportunity to spend time with our son, Craig, and his son, Jack. In the past it has been much more rewarding to watch Jack shoot a turkey than to shoot one myself. Wood ticks are abundant around here, and I am sure that we will have to contend with them where we hunt.
Whatever you do this weekend, have fun and be safe.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column appearing in the Star Journal.