The talk through May was that we’d pretty much skip over spring altogether and simply go headlong into summer. You may debate the accuracy of that prediction (frost in the days leading to Memorial Day bolsters the case) but wherever you land, there is no doubt that this week brought full-on summer heat. That heat set the stage for this weekend, which in turn sets things up the Fourth of July weekend, less than a week off. Which seems impossible to believe!
So going into the last weekend of June, we now have lakes that are warm enough to swim in without bringing to mind those frosty Polar Bear Plunges of January.
Most people have caught up on long-delayed spring projects; most boats and docks are ready for July; and people have finally been able to make a transition to thinking about summer. And all agree it’s about time.
Looking forward to this weekend and beyond, all eyes are on water sports; that is simply the way it is in summertime Wisconsin. Kayaks and jet skis, stand-up paddleboards and fishing boats, swimmers and skiers and anglers all covet the open water that dominates the North. The courteous thing to do is respect others while on the water; the safe thing to do is be fully aware of other people to best avoid accidents.
And one other thing: heat and humidity can build to some very serious storms, and open water is not a good place to be when high winds, heavy rain and lightning come down. Get off the water when you see the big, dark clouds rise up. Storms can move pretty fast, so don’t assume you can wait a few extra minutes before you take cover.
Fishing has been very much a mixed lot this season. We have never really gotten on track after the late spring, and water temperatures are only now rising toward normal. Things have simply been topsy-turvy and what would seem predictable has been anything but. This week illustrated the situation well. One local guide found smallmouth bass, and lots of them, on a large lake in 30-plus feet of water. That’s what you’d expect for summertime. Yet another report we heard told of bluegills still on the beds, which you would have expected to have tapered off 10 days ago.
We do know that muskies have been slow and we’re hoping the heat will bring them on. We had the same hopes a week ago and things failed to pan out. But muskies should start turning on and taking top water lures as well as larger crankbaits and bucktails, plain and simple. The weather seems right for this and the big fish should be finding their appetites.
Walleye action has been surprisingly steady; we continue to hear of pretty good catches of decent fish that have been taking jigs tipped with crawlers and leeches (which is best seems to depend on the lake). Walleyes seem to be holding where they usually do in late June, in moderate depths in weeds along the break. Walleyes also will move toward fish cribs in this time frame.
We noted the smallies earlier. Those fish were in deeper water and had been feeding on mayfly larvae. Smallies and walleye often overlap (though that was not the case here), so you may get some crossover action. And walleyes feed heavily on big mayflies as well.
Largemouth bass have been slow for the most part and bluegills seem totally scattered, with some lakes finding them near spawning areas even as nearby lakes see them in deeper water in a post-spawn pattern. Best advice is to work good water with a variety of lures and at different depths.
Finally, mosquitoes are still pretty bad! Take a good repellent with you when you head out.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.