Warm spring bodes well for anglers
MADISON – The 2010 regular inland season is opening on the first date possible – May 1 -- but the fish and the anglers are already waiting and eager.
“The fishing opener is a great opportunity to take kids fishing and start to build their appreciation of Wisconsin’s great outdoors,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank. “We are working hard with our partners to deliver great angling opportunities for all, from first-timers to pros.”
With most of the state experiencing an early spring, fisheries biologists say water temperatures are warmer than in the past few years.
“The ice is out statewide, and the fish will be at a later stage of spawning than normal,” says Mike Staggs, director of DNR fisheries management. “Anglers may need to change their tactics to match the warmer conditions, but the fish should be feeding and we expect a good fishing opener and a great season.”
The anglers are ready.
“I am really looking forward to the opener this year. I don't know if it is too any e-mails, too long a winter, or what, but I am ready,” says Scot Stewart, who can be found fishing when he’s not on duty as fish supervisor in the DNR South Central Region.
“Panfish in the Madison lakes should be outstanding. Muskie management has paid off in a number of waters around the region. Bass, walleye, pike are all there. Trout fishing in southern Wisconsin is the best it has ever been. Explore a new river. Get out there and enjoy it and take someone with you to enjoy it with you.”
Other fish managers had equally encouraging predictions for anglers based on the results of the spring surveys they are just conducting and last year’s results. Check out the 2010 Wisconsin Fishing Report for the forecast for dozens of the most popular waters in Wisconsin, and find the up-to-date conditions report filed by fish managers in the last few days.
The ice went out on lakes in the Woodruff area a full two weeks earlier than usual. Initially we thought the fish would not be ready to spawn and would thus avoid our netting gear for spring surveys. The eggs need time to develop and photo period/day length has some say in that process. We figured the fish would "dribble" in, but were surprised with typical catches each day. But we set nets immediately after ice-out and found the fish were spawning as they would have had it been two weeks later. Currently, walleye are well past the peak of spawning except for the large, deep lakes like Trout (Vilas County) or Tomahawk (Oneida County). I would expect spawning to go on in those for another several days to a week yet, but well before the opening of fishing in a few weeks. In a "normal" year, we still see some active males and post-spawn females hanging shallow and up on the rocky shorelines during the fishing opener. This year I don't know if that will be the case - anglers may have to adjust their tactics to more of a mid-May presentation. Fish might take jigs and minnows yet, but trying leeches would not be out of the question by then either. Our weather has been mild and the long range forecasts are calling for continued above-average temps. – Mike Vogelsang, fisheries supervisor, Woodruff
Spring arrived early this year and the fish should be much more active by opening weekend. Spawning was earlier for northern pike and walleye, so along with warmer water temperatures these species will have moved into their active feeding patterns. – George Boronow, fisheries supervisor, Northeastern Wisconsin
South Central Wisconsin
Panfish in the Madison lakes should be outstanding. Muskie management has paid off in a number of waters around the region. It will be a good year. Bass, walleye, pike are all there. Trout fishing in southern Wisconsin is the best it has ever been. Explore a new river. Get out there and enjoy it and take someone with you to enjoy it with you. – Scot Stewart, fisheries supervisor, South Central Wisconsin
Walleye and northern pike are done spawning and out actively feeding. Musky are just starting their spawn. Pre-spawn, largemouth bass are schooling-up, congregating in shallow bays actively feeding on panfish attracted to warming waters found there. Smallmouth bass are in rocky shallows, searching for emerging crayfish. Having left their egg-skeins draped on submerged shoreline brush, yellow perch are done spawning. Come opening day, musky should be done spawning, and all game fish should be actively feeding as they put-back weight lost over winter or through spawning. Fish shallow along drop-offs early and late for walleyes and northern pike; and in shallow bays mid-day for bass. Smallmouth bass will be near rock, pier pilings and boat-lift tracks; largemouth will be over dark bottom hiding in ambush near emerging aquatic plants. - Randy Schumacher, fisheries supervisor, Southeast Wisconsin
Eau Claire area: Walleyes have completed their spring spawning ritual and anglers should find them on the feed up and down the Chippewa River and it’s impoundments. Shallow flats adjacent to spawning areas are your best bets for larger fish. Panfish have been moving into the warm shallow water on area lakes. Small jigs or worms under a bobber will bring action. Largemouth bass have also been seen moving into the shallows. Small lures and light line will provide the best action. Local trout anglers should find conditions tough with water clarity being the issue. Lighter rains causing some runoff will “dirty” the water making the trout less spooky and easier to catch. – Bob Hujik, fisheries supervisor, Lower Chippewa and Central Wisconsin basins.
La Crosse area: Anglers fishing for trout in the La Crosse Area will find streams in the best shape they have been in my 30 years here. Anglers fishing the early catch and release season have found good numbers brown trout in the 14-18 inch range and occasinal brook trout over 12 inches. Many anglers have personally told me they have had days where they caught and released more that 20 trout. One angler released a brown that was 26+ inches (but I forgot where he said he caught it). Water levels in the streams are good and should remain that way well into the summer. This is a good time to explore some new water that you haven't fished before. (Fact: There are more than 220 classified trout streams (1,000 miles0 in the four-county area. Creel surveys have shown that average angler fishes for about 2.5 hours before quitting or moving to another stream. With our season being about 210 days long, an angler could fish a different stream every single day and he/she would still not be able to fish all the water available). Just be sure to ask permission when wanting to access private land. - Dave Vetrano, fisheries supervisor, La Crosse
Wausau area: Fishing in central Wisconsin is expected to be good even with the early spring. The walleye in the Wisconsin River should be feeding very well by now; they have been done spawning for two weeks, well ahead of schedule. With the very warm weather, I expect the panfish to be biting better than on a normal opener, since the water has been above 60 in many of the bays and backwaters of the Wisconsin River for a week or more. Also, musky anglers in Central Wisconsin can now start fishing the Stevens Point Flowage South of the new Hwy 10 bridge on the opener, instead of when the Northern Season opens. – Tom Meronek, fisheries biologist, Wausau
Season dates and regulations
The hook-and-line game fish season opens May 1 on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.
The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens May 1, while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from May 1 through June 18. Anglers are reminded that artificial lures and barbless hooks must be used if fishing for bass during the catch-and-release bass fishing season in the northern zone and any other water body that has bass catch-and-release regulations. From June 19 to March 6, 2011, there’s a minimum length limit of 14 inches with a daily bag limit of five fish in total.
Musky season opens May 1 in the southern zone and May 29 in the northern zone.
The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line.
The seasons for rock, yellow and white bass, panfish, bullheads and rough fish, catfish, cisco and whitefish are open all year. Check the “2010-2011 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations" for special regulations listed by county, for regulations on the Great Lakes and boundary waters, and for tributary streams to Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The complete guide is also available at DNR offices and license agents.
It’s easy to buy a fishing license. You can purchase online; at DNR license vendors; or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).
Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license, nor do people who exhibit proof they are in active service with the U.S. armed forces and are a resident on furlough or leave.
About 1.4 million licenses are sold each year to adult anglers in the state and Wisconsin trails only to Florida in the number of days nonresident anglers spend fishing here. Anglers have 15,000 inland lakes, 42,000 miles of streams and rivers plus the Great Lakes shoreline and 260 miles of the Mississippi River to fish. Sportfishing generates $2.75 billion in economic benefits, supports 30,164 jobs, and generates $200 million in state and local tax revenues.
Governor’s Fishing Opener in Polk County
The 45th Governor’s Fishing Opener, officially kicking off Wisconsin’s big game fishing season, takes place at Lake Arbutus in Jackson County on Saturday, May 1. Joining Gov. Jim Doyle at the event this year will be DNR Secretary Matt Frank, DNR Fisheries Director Mike Staggs, local legislators and officials, and media from in and outside of the state.
Former Governor Warren Knowles started the tradition in 1965 to officially open the state's fishing season. The angling event is held at various locations in western and northern Wisconsin each year and is sponsored by the Wisconsin Indianhead Country Tourism group. This event is also by invitation only to key people in the media and state and local government officials.
Anglers are reminded of rules to help stop the spread of VHS
Anglers are reminded to follow rules that help prevent the spread of the deadly fish disease viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS. Earlier this year, evidence of viral hemorrhagic septicemia was detected in fish from Lake Superior by Cornell University scientists using sensitive new molecular methods. And just last week, the DNR learned from Michigan that the virus had been detected in lake herring from Wisconsin waters of the Apostle Island. In both cases, the testing was done on fish that had not died of VHS nor showed any symptoms of the actual disease.
For more information on VHS and steps that all water users can take, visit VHS Prevention.
Eat smaller, younger fish
With walleye spawning done in much of the state, many anglers will be hoping to reel in their limit of this tasty fish. It’s a good, low cost source of nutrition and a brain booster to boot, but make sure that those who eat the fish are following Wisconsin’s fish consumption advisory. A 2009 video (avaialble on the linked page) shows how you can eat your catch and reduce your levels of environmental contaminants such as PCBs and mercury. Inland waters are covered by the same general advice with the exception of about 100 waters where more stringent advice applies.
Fishing in Wisconsin by the numbers
Fifty-three percent of the adults responding to an October 2009 statewide UW-Madison Badger poll say they fish.
The latest statewide mail survey shows that anglers in Wisconsin catch an estimated 88 million fish and keep about 33 million of them, or a little more than one-third. While walleye is the top target, panfish are the most frequently caught and consumed. Learn more online about fishing in Wisconsin.
Connect with fish
Be the first to hear where fish are biting and more by subscribing to fisheries email updates or following [fishwisconsin] on Twitter [Exit DNR].
Correction on two popular Vilas County waters
The 2010-2011 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations incorrectly lists a slot size limit on walleye for North and South Twin lakes, which are connected. There is no slot size limit; the lakes are under the statewide 15-inch minimum size regulation.
Also, Kentuck Lake has a minimum length limit on musky of 40 inches. The size limit was incorrectly listed in the pamphlet.