Here's what to expect when you hit the water for the opener.
1.) Water temps in the low to mid 50's. Nighttime temperatures will dictate most of what happens next weekend.
2.) Limited new growth of weeds, and very few piers are in. Water is high in many areas.
3.) Live bait, fished slowly is going to be a great way to kick off the season. I'd fish for pike or walleye and wait until the weather stabilizes a bit if you want to target bass.
Shallow dark bottom bays will be where most of the action is on Saturday. Live bait will be a key presentation option. Targeting Musky, Pike and Walleye will be more productive than chasing bass in the morning. Sunday's weather looks a little better, and if the sun comes out, the later afternoon bite could really pick up.
My post on local highlights of the 2017 DNR fishing preview is here. There's information on several local lakes and includes picks for panfish, bass, walleye and musky fishing opportunities this year.
Panfish: Crappies and Bluegills have transitioned into shallow water, and the bite has been steady on the sunny or warmer afternoons. Primary pattern working for keepers is to find the schools that are relating to weed clumps in shallow water.
Newer, green weeds, reeds or small wood laydowns are attracting the most fish right now. For crappies try small fuzzy jigs tipped with waxworms, small fatheads or rosie reds. Bluegills have been biting on plastics tipped with waxworms or spikes, as well as redworms, leafworms or pieces of nightcrawler. If the bite is tough, downsize your presentation to an ice fishing jig or #10 or #12 red hook, and keep the bait above the fish (this is key for a tough bite!)
Hot tip: Sunken trees and cribs in deeper water that is close to a shallow drop will holder better size fish right now.
Best Lakes For Panfish: Ashippun, Silver, Kessus Buelah, Golden, the Genessee lakes, Lake Five, Okauchee (Bay Five, the Channel, Icehouse and Stumpy Bay), Garvin and the Nehmabins.
Trout: Stocked trout fishing is always very popular for opening weekend. Here's a an earlier post on the stocking of our local lakes and the complete DNR list is available here.
Stocked trout are easy to catch before too much pressure gets put on them. Watch for them swimming in groups just below the surface and cast ahead of them. They'll hit a variety of tackle/bait options but the use of gold really will help. I typically use a gold ice fishing jig with live bait under a small balsa bobber.
Bass: Largemouth are in an early prespawn pattern. Small schools of them are chasing baitfish in the shallow water. For the best action look for LM to be along the first drop offs or at the edges of shallow bays. Later in the day they may move to the backs of spawning coves. Lindy or split shot rigs with nightcrawlers or suspending large shiners under slip bobbers are your best live bait options. Texas rigged plastic lizards, wacky worms and jigs with a chunk trailer will be good options if fished very slowly. Slow rolling spinnerbaits or ripping rattletraps around weedy cover could produce some reaction strikes.
Best lakes for largemouth: Okauchee, Silver, Nagawicka, Golden, Pine, Pewaukee, Moose, Kessus, Pretty and School Section.
Smallmouth remain in deeper water for the most part, although a few have been seen making foraging runs into rocky areas during the middle part of the day. Look for them to be suspended in the water column in deep water near points and other rocky structure. Suspending Jerkbaits, swimbaits, slow rolled spinnerbaits or twister tail grubs in natural pattern are good options for chasing suspended smallmouths. If you can find some fish on the rocks, lindy rigging with leeches or nightcrawlers should do the trick.
Best lakes for smallmouth: North, Lower Nehmabin, Oconomowoc, Nagawicka. Pine, Lac La Belle.
Walleyes are roaming shallow flats chasing baitfish. This indicates typical post-spawn behavior patterns, which matches the water temperatures on our local lakes. Bottom bouncers with spinner harnesses, lindy rigs and jigs will all catch these fish. I'd consider using a mix of live bait in the form of nightcrawlers, leeches and small suckers. Look for walleyes to relate the edges of shallow water, but especially at the junctions of rock/sand transitions. I'd run live bait rigs to find fish, then fish an active area hard with crankbaits like a Shad Raps or Frenzies, husky jerks or floating rapalas.
Best lakes for walleye: Lac La Belle, Pewaukee, Pine and Oconomowoc. A few fish are still being caught on the Rock and Crawfish Rivers. Note: Each lake in our area has different regulations for walleye size/bag limits...make sure you know what's what for where you are fishing.
Northern: Pike are past their post spawn blues and are feeding aggressively. Typically with these conditions small pike will be all over shallow water and you can expect the big pike to be relating to the first break. This is prime time to chase pike with live bait. Use slip bobbers and suspend large shiners and suckers around weed edges or near areas with visible panfish. Casting with lipless crankbaits, buzzbaits, spooms or spinner baits, especially around shallow weeds on he edge of the sandy flat areas can be dynamite. Remember the best color for pike is red/white.
Best lakes for pike: Forest, Emily, Kessus, Moose, Golden, Nagawicka, Fowler, Lower Gennessee, Okauchee.
Musky: The fish that seem to be chasing active baitfish are relating to green weed growth in mid-depth water. You never lose out by floating a sucker or the largest shiners you can buy. I'd downsize my presentation, stick to jerkbaits, gliders or smaller bucktails for the opener this year, and concentrate your efforts on any scattered weed clumps you can find. Advice from me: Slow down, be methodical when working an area and be ready to make lots of casts to get neutral fish to bite.
Best lakes for musky: Pewaukee, Lac La Belle, Fowler, Okauchee, Garvin and Oconomowoc.
Don't forget about the new DNR Catch and Release Record Program
I have openings for guide trips or fishing lessons during May. Email me for more information.
Be safe out there. I'll see you on the water.