Outdoors this week
A fishing opener with open water and other outdoor tales
By Roger Sabota
Special to the Star Journal
Do you recall what the weather was like one year ago?
Those anglers who are serious about fishing were driving to boat landings looking out at a variety of lakes for some sign that there was some open water out there. The constant question I heard was, “Hey Rog, will the ice be out for opening?” There were a lot of anglers who spent the opening weekend watching tip-ups. Most of the large lakes that are deep and clear remained frozen during most of the first weekend of the season.
Those of us who were trying to shoot a turkey that weekend had a different set of factors to deal with. We set out several pop-up tents in an effort to keep warm as well as remain hidden. My tent was set up under some red pine trees where we had shot several turkeys in previous years.
We quickly discovered that as it began to warm up a bit the snow in the pine trees began falling to the ground.
As daylight began to conquer darkness clumps of snow started to fall. It is quite a surprise to be sitting quietly under a tree when a clump of snow hits the top of your small tent. The first few clumps that hit my tent certainly woke me up from a quiet, relaxed position. In spite of the snow and cold we did fill our tags.
From our vantage point this year the ice will be out and most of the snow should be out of the trees unless we receive more wet snowfalls like we recently experienced. More information about this year’s hunt will be relayed in several weeks.
Turkey hunting in Wisconsin is a very successful program. When turkeys were re-introduced to Wisconsin many of us were hopeful that we would get enough birds to have a huntable population. Several DNR wildlife managers told us that the climate in the northern area of Wisconsin was too severe to maintain such a population. Guess the turkeys didn’t receive that email.
We hunt the farm area of west-central Wisconsin for turkeys. It is much easier to see them in the farm area than it is in our area with red pine and popple cover.
The announcement that Wisconsin is going to enter into an effort with the DNR Fisheries Managers to re-populate the walleyes in the Minocqua Chain of Lakes was good. The population of walleyes in that Chain has been on a steady decline ever since a Federal Judge determined that Native Americans have the right to spear spawning walleyes.
One item that was not considered in the Federal Judge’s decision was the equipment available for spearers to use now as compared to the primitive equipment that they used in the past.
Another factor that has affected the walleyes in the Chain is the increase in the numbers of small mouth bass that feed on young walleyes.
Due to this regulation the anglers on the Minocqua Chain will not be permitted to keep any walleyes for the next five years. Although this very restrictive regulation is good for the walleye population it may not be looked at as a good thing for the tourism industry in the area.
It is my sincere hope that this experiment is a success. At one time not too long ago the Minocqua Chain was a place to go for excellent walleye fishing.
As mentioned at the beginning of these thoughts, last spring as the season opened we still had ice on some of the lakes that have clear water and are relatively deep. It seemed like the ice would never melt.
The weather last spring also caused some of the wildlife to be stressed. Some does that were carrying fawns through the winter and then into the spring did not give birth to twin fawns, as they often do, but rather had single fawns. Hopefully during this spring, following an extremely mild winter, we will be able to watch more spotted fawns.
Even though there are many challenges facing our deer herd, the bear population is doing very well. Several folks have mentioned that they are seeing bears in their yards raiding their bird feeders. About the only way to prevent that is to take the bird feeders in at night.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.
Water temps a big factor for anglers
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander.
We’ll open fishing season on May 2, at least for most species; muskies get a break for a few weeks. And while the opener doesn’t move the needle as much as it did years ago, it’s still a pretty big deal. Walleyes lead the parade in the early weeks; a lot of anglers will be on the water well before daylight chasing the big-eyed fish. Tradition dictates that.
What success anglers will find is up in the air. Water temperatures drive the opener, determining where fish might be located and, critically, how active they are as related to spawning. The cold weather this week messed things up a bit but there is hope for a gradual warming next week that should leave decent conditions for opening weekend.
Through last week panfish were coming on in the warm weather with crappies moving into shallower water as they prepared to spawn. Now it’s all slowed down and it’s take some warming temperatures to spur activity. The good news is that the forecast calls for some warming and if that comes in we expect a decent opener.
Water levels are decent on natural lakes but flowages are a mixed bag and some pre-opening scouting may be a good idea this year as some popular flowages are low. Levels can change quickly on all flowages but they can also provide some very good early season walleye fishing.
As it looks now, more than a week out, things are lining up for a good opener with lakes about where they typically are in early May.
Turkey hunting continues and reports are of good but not great hunting. Bad weather this week put a damper on the hunt and we expect success to drop off some.
This week really was pretty much a lost cause as below freezing temperatures and snow and cold rain slowed things. Best we can hope for is a return to more seasonal temperatures next week to lead into a good May fishing season.