The DNR's 2019 Season preview is available at this link.
Here's what to expect when you hit the water for the opener:
1.) Water temps in the mid 50's.
2.) Limited new growth of weeds, and less than average number of piers are in. Water is flowing 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.
Panfish: Crappies and Bluegills have started their transition 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, or a hook and float combo with 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, 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. (Complete List 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, neko or ned rigs 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, but it never hurts to have natural pattern floating minnowbait (like a number 9 or 11 rapala) to twitch on the surface near roaming fish.
Best lakes for largemouth: Okauchee, Silver, Nagawicka, Golden, Pine, Pewaukee, Moose, Kessus, Pretty.
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 or grubs on a mushroom head, wacky or ned rigs should do the trick.
Best lakes for smallmouth: North, Lower Nehmabin, Oconomowoc, Nagawicka. Pine, Lac La Belle.
Note: There's an Anglers Choice Tournament on Okauchee on Sunday.
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, but don't overlook the classic spring pattern of hitting rocks with the lip of a number 5 or 7 shad rap. Look for walleyes to relate the edges of shallow water, but especially at the junctions of rock/sand transitions.
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 has always been red/white, but if the sun gets out, flash and shiny can draw some big strikes.
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. If casting I'd downsize my presentation, stick to jerkbaits, gliders, smaller bucktails or oversized bass squarebills like a Manns 1 minus or Megabass Grenade 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.
Getting ready: Need bait, equipment, or a fishing license? Do yourself a favor and buy from one of the locals.
Musky Mikes (Okauchee)
Dick Smith's (Delafield)
Other Useful Links
Local Fishing Reports from Lake-Link.com
Becky Smith's handy list of shorefishing locations, boat ramps and boat rentals is online at at www.Dicksmithslivebait.com
The DNR maintains a database of printable lake maps online.
There's also a easy to use reference to find boat launches at the DNR Website.
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Taking a Kid Fishing this weekend? The DNR Suggests these spots:
Ashippun Lake Park
Location: In Oconomowoc, WI. Take Capitol Drive west to State Highway 16, go west on 16 to County Highway P, then take P north to County Highway K, go west on K to McMahon Road. Watch for "public access" sign.
Notes: Run by Waukesha County Parks. Park has picnic area, restrooms and shorefishing.
Location: Located on Crowbar Drive, south of Kelsey Drive. Go west from Highway Y.
Notes: Public park with ballfields, restrooms, picnic area and boat launch. Not much shorefishing, due to marshy area near shore.
Lac La Belle
Location: At the Fowler Lake Dam, on Highway 67, one-quarter mile north of State Highway 16 in the Oconomowoc, WI. Located just northeast of the beach and park on Lac La Belle. The beach and park are on Highway 16, just west of Highway 67.
Notes: Disabled accessible public fishing pier.
Little Muskego Lake
Location: Access from Idle Isle Park in Muskego, WI on the northeast side of Little Muskego Lake. Take Martin Drive to Hardtke Drive to the park.
Note: Idle Isle Park has a beach, picnic area, restrooms, accessible public fishing pier and boat launch.
Lower Phantom Lake
Location: In Phantom Glen Park in Mukwonago, WI. Take County Highway ES (Main Street) to Andrews Street, then go west into the park.
Notes: Public park with picnic area, restrooms, disabled accessible public fishing pier and boat ramp.
Location: Trout pond located on the west side of Highway 67, between Piper Road and Road X. About 3 miles north of Eagle, WI.
Notes: No facilities, but there is a picnic area with restrooms just a short distance to the south. DNR manages as a children's trout fishing pond. Although it is officially category 3 (3 bag and 9 inch length), there is a voluntary regulation for adults to catch and release, and kids are allowed to keep one trout of any size. Designed to encourage adults to take kids out and teach them to trout fish.
Location: In Nagawaukee County Park. Take County Highway C, three-quarters of a mile north of Interstate 94 in Delafield, WI.
Notes: Public beach, picnic area, restrooms and concessions, camping, shorefishing and boat launch.
Nemahbin Lakes, Upper and Lower
Location: Southeast of Oconomowoc, WI, off of County Highway DR.
Notes: County owned access on frontage road between the two lakes, Highway DR. shorefishing on Upper Nemahbin from the road right-of-way. DNR owned carry-in site on Lower Nemahbin off Sugar Island Road.
Location: Village park in downtown Pewaukee, WI.
Notes: Public park with beach and public fishing pier. Can also access Pewaukee River just below the dam. On Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Pewaukee. Boat launch and shorefishing from county park and boat ramp at the west end, on Highway E.
Local Shore Fishing Locations
Moose Lake: Shore and pier fishing is available at the Moose Lake Public Launch area. This launch has a nice park like area available to shore fisherman. The Launch area is just off Highway C, across from Cedar Bay road.
Lac La Belle: Public Fishing Pier Located in Memorial Park in downtown Oconomowoc.
Nashotah Park: Just off of the corner of HWY C and HWY R in Nashotah there is a park and ride. Across HWY R, there is a low fence that marks access to the Forest Lake area of Nashotah Park. Anglers have to hike down the hill, but the entire shoreline of the small lake is available for shore-fishing.
Fowler Lake: There is space for shore fishing by the Labelle/Fowler Dam, at the boat landing and in the Riverside Park. The lake is just off HWY 16 in Downtown Oconomowoc. The boat landing is behind city hall.
Nagawicka Lake: Two areas allow public shore fishing access. There is some space at the public launch in the County Park off of HWY 83 near Delafield. A second option allows you to access St John's Bay and a section of the Bark River. Take HWY C to where the Military Academy is. There is a small park just south of downtown Delafield on the east side of the road.
Pewaukee Lake: Located in Nagawaukee County Park on the west side of the lake. From I-94, north on State Highway 83 for 1/8 mile, east on County Highway DR 1 1/2 miles, north on County Highway E to park entrance. Park fee is charged. There is also a public fishing pier along the city strip near the beach on the east end.
Ottawa Lake: Located in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. From State Highway 67, west on County Highway ZZ for 1/3 mile to park entrance. State Park sticker required for entry.
Upper Genessee: Carry in boats and shore fishing are available. Parking is in a small gravel lot, just south of I-94, on the east side of HWY 67.
Paradise Springs: Located in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. From downtown Eagle, west 1 mile on State Highway 59 to County Highway N, north on N for about 1/2 mile to site. State Park sticker required for entry. Artificial lures only.
Lower Phantom Lake: Located in Phantom Glen Park. From County Highway ES, west on Andrews Street to park entrance.