The final opening of the inland gamefish season is this weekend, as bass season opens on Saturday. Up until now it’s been catch-and-release; now you can keep a limit. Not that many do; bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, are not renowned as a table fish. But they are both hard-fighting fish that put walleyes to shame in that department. And, with the late opening and tight bag limits these days, the population in this area is healthy.
The two species of bass often seek different areas of a given lake, with largemouth generally favoring shallower water with an abundance of cover. Smallies tend to drift to deeper areas, often near the same weedbeds adjacent to sandy areas that walleyes prefer. Smallmouth bass also do well in rivers, the Wisconsin in particular. They spawn late, which is why the opening date has been pushed back into June as opposed to the May opener we used to have.
The warm weather this week should have largemouth in fine form for the weekend. We’d look for them in moderate depths to start with, but as sundown comes on, we’d move toward the shallower waters near good cover of weeds or downed trees. A minnow imitation worked deeper during daylight and near to lily pads toward dark should produce fish. As the sun drops below the tree line, surface lures, loud, splashy offerings, often do well.
Smallmouth are commonly deeper, and we’d go after them with deep-running crankbaits. On rivers we look for deeper holes or eddies behind rocks and toss shallow-running minnow imitations swimming jigs tipped with a plastic grub.
Bass fishing should be decent this weekend as long as the weather holds up.
Walleyes and muskies continue to be slow this spring, and nobody has a good idea as to why that is. Bottom line is that even very good fishermen are having difficulty putting together a string of good catches lately. We can offer up little advice, save to keep on trying the traditional places for walleyes, usually in mid-depths near submerged weedbeds. Typically we see a shift from minnows to crawlers or leeches as the preferred dressing for jigs in mid June. We’d give that a shot and hope for the best.
Musky action continues to lag behind what we expect for June, and there seems no clear pattern emerging as to where they are or what they are taking. Bucktails always are a safe bet, and on overcast days with some chop on the water surface lures often work well. As with the walleyes, we’re not seeing any real consistent tactics for success on big fish. We would work along the edge of the drop-off with bucktails or larger crankbaits and see what transpires. If nothing, we’d move out with deeper running lures and in the evening work along the edge of the shallows with top water lures.
We are nearing the longest days of the year, and the weather continues to improve (although everyone does acknowledge we could use some rain). Summer is a too-short season, and the best advice we can offer up is to get out and enjoy things, whether your taste runs to fishing, kayaking, bicycling or just cooking out in the back yard.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.