The last week has presented some challenges as weeks with unstable weather tend to do. The cold nights and on again-off again rain didn't make things any easier to contend with.
Warmer days, or days with sunshine at least...had very active fish moving in the shallow water. Days like yesterday (Thursdsay), where it was nice in the morning and lousy in the afternoon have the fish feeding actively in a limited window of time.
Water temps are all over the place. Protected bays are in the mid to high 60's while open water areas might be as low as the high 50's, but the larger issues I've seen on the water the last two weeks have been:
1.) Lack of weeds. Weed growth is way behind for this time of year.
2.) Lack of baitfish. Finding areas with baitfish consistently has been a challenge.
This means if you can find an area with good, green weeds AND visible baitfish, there will be lots of fish nearby. Finding these spots, however, is like chasing unicorns and rainbows right now.
That said, fishing has been slow, but steady. Just a bit more work than you would expect for this time of year.
Panfish are on the move into shallow areas, especially on
warm, sunny afternoons. The bite can be really good, especially if you can find some fish in the
mid afternoon to early evening. Start you search in shallow, dark bottom bays with scattered weeds,
woods or reeds. The fish may be very tight to shore, but don't overlook the first break into deeper water. In areas with
current, look for schools of fish in deeper holes and outside turns,
even if these areas are very small. Remember the largest panfish will
always be in the bottom of the school, so if you're catching fish, but
they are small, try getting your bait a little deeper.
hit on a variety of live bait but plastics will outperform
live bait, and will usually help keep some of the smaller fish off your
For crappies, tail hooked minnows, skirted grubs, road runners, or
waxworms on an ice-fishing jig will really produce. (Try: Okauchee,
Oconomowoc, Lac Labelle, Silver, Golden, School Section, Middle Geneesee.
Largemouth are in various stages of the spawn. The heavy pressure early in the season and the unstable weather messed with them some, and delayed some of the second and third wave spawners. Lots of fish are still
cruising the flats, especially on the nice days, while some males are still up on the nests, especially in
areas where the water is warmest. Because weeds are hard to come by, look for LM in shallow areas
with rock, sand or muck.
Protected bays with wood laydowns or weeds will really concentrate fish. Flapper grubs are
a great option to find fish, before slowing down to make tighter
presentations. Jig and
chunks/ jig and craws/ jig and eels will catch less fish, but are a
great way to catch a bigger fish, especially when fished tight to cover.
Slower presentations like wacky worms, texas rigged lizards or tubes
are all great for probing areas, but spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits,
and crawfish imitating shallow diving crankbaits will all catch fish
right now. Tip: if the bite is really tough....a buzzbait fished tight (and I mean tight) to cover will trigger strikes.
Using live bait? Leeches, nightcrawlers or large shiners are
your best option. (Try Okauchee, Oconomowoc, Pewaukeem Moose, Kessus, Golden, Silver, Fowler,
Pine, and Lower Nashotah)
Smallmouth bass are starting to appear in rocky
areas, cruising and foraging. Look for them in the usual early season spots, but
don't be afraid to look for them as deep as 25 feet, where they will be
feeding on schools of yellow perch. Spinnerbaits are a great way to
cover water, tubes are a great way to look for fish around the dropoffs
and on the shallow rockbars. Lindy rigging with large shiners can really
produce some amazing fish this time of year. (Try Lac Labelle, North and Oconomowoc)
Walleye: Look for walleyes in shallow water,
around rocks or sand, or at the end of longer points especially early in the morning, and later in the
evening. In the daylight hours, schools of fish will be cruising the
sand flats in 8-15 feet of water. Live bait rigging, (Lindy rigs with
small suckers!) jig and minnow or jig and leech combos, or trolling with
shad or minnow imitators are your best approaches. (Try Oconomowoc, Lac
Labelle, Pewaukee, Fowler)
Northern pike were chasing bait fish around shallow weeds, especially near marshy areas, and will aggressively
bite spinners, buzzbaits, lipless crankbaits or live bait suspended
around shallow weeds.(Try: Moose, Kessus, Okauchee, Fowler, School
Section, Pretty and Nagawicka)
Musky fishing has been slow but steady for the guys putting in the time. Most fish are in 5-12 feet of water, and are
biting on swimbaits, gliders, jerkbaits and bucktails. Remember to do your figure
eights on every cast right now, as lots of anglers were reporting lazy
follows this past weekend. Personally, I like to use smaller baits in a
black and blue, or black and orange combination at this point in the
year. (Try Okauchee, Garvin, Lac Labelle, Fowler and Pewaukee for Musky)
Whitebass and Catfish
were starting to bite more aggressively on the Rock River. Look for
them around wood on the bottom, or in the channel turns. Stink bait,
cutbait or nightcrawlers were all producing for cats, spinners flies and jig/livebait combos for the whitebass.
Trout fishing was consistent on the stocked lakes and ponds around the area, but the schools are starting to get a bit depleted...so if you're hankering for trout, put a day on your calender for next week.
Good luck out there.