Opening of the general inland fishing season on Saturday

Wisconsin’s general fishing season is scheduled to open the first Saturday in May.

Many Badger State anglers are grateful that this year falls on May 7, the latest possible date.

As winter conditions persist into spring, each passing day, even each hour, helps make more northern waters accessible for the 2022 opening.

“It was tight out there for a while, but now the ice is out of her,” Shell Lake’s Dave Zeug said, speaking from Shell Lake in Washburn County, the site of the this year’s Governor’s Fishery Opening. Zeug is a member of the local organizing committee for the event.

Zeug said Shell Lake opened on April 27 or 28. The forecast for the next few days is favourable, including high temperatures in the 60s.

“I think we’re off the hook,” laughed Zeug. “We’ll see if the water warms up enough to make the fish more active.”

On Tuesday, the water temperature on Shell Lake was 39 degrees, Zeug said.

It will go down as one of Wisconsin’s last springs in recent history, joining 2013, 2014 and 2018.

I remember 2014 vividly. It was the year I joined a group including former Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Director Mike Staggs and ice-fished on Namakagon Lake. near Cable when the Governor’s Fishery opened.

It was the only time in over 40 Wisconsin fishing openings that I used an auger to wet a line.

The lake had about a foot of snow and slush over at least 12 inches of solid ice.

This is not the kind of new experience that I want to repeat.

But there will likely still be mostly ice-covered lakes in Wisconsin on Saturday.

“It’s late, yes,” said Minocqua’s Steve Heiting, the recently retired editor of Musky Hunter magazine who has lived in Oneida or Vilas County for 27 years. “It will be an opening, at least in the far north and northeast, when you want to check in advance the conditions of the lake you want to fish in.”

Speaking by phone on Wednesday, Heiting said the spring of 2022 was so late that he hadn’t yet gone out to fish for crappie near his home. Most years he is out on the northern lakes to catch the popular panfish in late April and sometimes mid-April.

Colder than normal water temperatures delayed fish spawning. Walleyes are likely in the middle now on most northern lakes, Heiting said.

“I think anglers who know how to catch spawning walleye will have a great opening up north,” he said.

Walleye is Wisconsin's most popular game fish, according to surveys conducted by the Department of Natural Resources.

Although it was colder than normal, ice left the southern two-thirds of the state weeks ago and by Wednesday water had warmed to the low 50s on many lakes around the southeast Wisconsin, said Mike Smith of Dick Smith’s Live Bait and Tackle in Delafield. .

“Spring has been a challenge with the weather,” said Smith, whose family, starting with his parents Dick and Nancy and continuing with himself and his sister Becky, has been in business for 40 Wisconsin fishing openers. . “But the anglers who come out are doing pretty well and I think Saturday will be good too.”

Smith said walleye in southern Wisconsin waters have mostly finished spawning and should be hungry, while bass and crappie are pre-spawning but can also be caught.

He suggested looking for bass and crappie in the bays on the north side of the lakes, where the sun helps warm the water the most, and in areas with fresh weeds.

“Fishing conditions are looking good,” Smith said.

Oconomowoc fishing guide Erik Lennartz found the best fishing lately in the afternoon after the water temperature rose even slightly.

On a recent trip to a southeastern Wisconsin lake, he said his group caught and released three bass at 11 a.m., then made another 25 between 11 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Lennartz said the end of spring is evident by the low amount of aquatic vegetation he sees in the lakes this week. Many years cabbage weeds are near the surface on Lake Pewaukee in the first week of May; this year, they are just inches off the bottom.

“I don’t think there’s a reason to go out at dawn right now,” said Lennartz, who owns and operates guide service Tactical Angling. “I would say have a quiet morning and then get out for the best action. There’s plenty of fishing left over the year, so pick your times and spots and enjoy.”

The DNR has the following advice and reminders for anglers ahead of the 2022 general fishing season:

– All residents and non-residents over the age of 16 are required to purchase a license to fish in Wisconsin. Licenses can be purchased through Go Wild, DNR’s licensing portal, or from a licensing agent.

– Always wear life jackets.

– Practice safe and sober boat operations.

– Know the regulations.

– Release your holds responsibly.

– Minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species by removing plants and animals from your boat before and after launch, emptying all water from compartments, and never removing live fish from any body of water.

About Patricia Kilgore

Check Also

Rob Phillips: Columbia fish numbers strong, supported by shad and sockeye salmon | Outdoors and leisure

The folks who oversee fish counting procedures at dams on the lower Columbia River have …