We are a week away from the opening of the inland fishing season, when most species (save for muskies and bass) will become legal fare once again. Given that the panfish action in the past few weeks has been slow at best, dismal at worst, that’s good news for anglers. In this area, the opener is focused mainly on one fish only: Walleye. Walleyes dominate the talk of the pre-opener, and dominate the opening weekend fishing action. Walleyes drive fishermen to brave the elements to be on the water at midnight and tough it out in the darkness for a chance at the big-eyed fish.
In a normal year we’d be near the prime spawning time for walleyes. This, however, had been anything but normal. The heat of March drove water temperatures up, and fish moved in early to spawn. While there are always exceptions to the rule, the prevailing thought now is that walleyes will have spawned some time ago and now, after some time to recuperate, will be back looking for food. If that is the case, this could be a very good opener.
We’d expect walleyes to be in deeper water than usual, and we’d probably start there, just off the drop-off, and work with jigs moved very slowly. We’d also use small crankbaits and minnow imitations (Rapalas and the like) to cover more water, working from the shallows out to deeper water. Lakes will vary depending on water temperatures, with shallow, dark water lakes being a good bet versus deeper, colder lakes. Overall, though, we expect a solid opening as long as the weather cooperates. If a cold front hits, all bets are off.
Panfish remain slow, and the feeling is that we need some warmer weather to turn them on.
Turkey season is now about halfway along, and reports have been mixed. The population seems unusually spread out, with some areas showing very good turkey action, while others that produced birds last year are very slow. We can’t explain why, but that does seem the case. Turkeys are, through the past week, coming to calls and decoys but more and more the toms are with hens, so mid-day is often productive, as by then the toms have left the hens and moved on their own. A tom with a live hen is difficult to draw to a call; one on the prowl for a hen is often more workable.
The cool weather has put a damper on bicyclist and kayak and canoe enthusiasts, but we expect a gradual warming trend as May comes on, and when that happens we’ll be back to where we usually are in late Spring.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.