Wis. DNR Outdoor Report: Good Fishing in the North

Posted at: 06/19/2014 5:59 PM

The blue flag iris was blooming this week at Pattison State Park.
The blue flag iris was blooming this week at Pattison State Park.
Photo: Wisconsin DNR Photo/Kevin Fiend

Heavy rains resulting from strong storms - including several confirmed tornadoes in southern Wisconsin - put a damper on outdoor recreation in the last week and once again have waters on the rise. Areas of south central Wisconsin received significant storm damage, with many trees down. Tornadoes and strong winds damaged or destroyed homes in the greater Madison area.

Water levels had been receding prior to these storms, with the first large expanses of sandbars appearing on the lower Wisconsin River this season, but that is expected to change as water levels are on the rise from the recent rains, which totaled up to 5 inches in some areas after several days of rain. Mississippi River water levels are expected to rise one foot in the next 4 to 5 days.

The heavy rain also closed the all-terrain vehicle trails in the Black River State Forest and Jackson County, with some trails under several inches of water. Mountain bike and horse trails are also closed on some state park properties so call ahead to destinations to confirm trail status.

Prior to the storms, some very good fishing continued to be reported in the Northwoods, with northern pike activity at an all-time high on some Bayfield County waters and walleye and panfish activity continuing strong at many locations. Bass are now finishing up spawning on northern waters, though some largemouth were still seen on their nests guarding schools of young, but they should be dispersing soon. Smallmouth bass and musky activity was increasing on river systems, but due to the higher water, fish are scattered and not just in the deeper holes where they are typically found. The mayfly hatches have just begun on many waters and walleye anglers are changing bait tactics from minnows to leeches and crawlers.

Smallmouth bass fishing was still fantastic around Door County with anglers fishing from boats and shore finding success all up and down the peninsula. Chinook salmon anglers launching from Algoma, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Two Rivers reported good catches with some limits reported. Trollers out of southeastern Lake Michigan harbors reported action slowed some this week with fish more scattered and the best success coming from deeper water.

Even though things have greened up and more natural food is available, wildlife managers continue to receive reports of nuisance bear activity from around the state. If bears continue to visit your area, they urge you to take down bird feeders and remove any other sources that could attract bears such as garbage, pet food or grills.

Many more does are on the move with fawns now, and twins and triplets are being seen across southern Wisconsin. White-tailed bucks are beginning to develop antlers in velvet. Turkey poults are also becoming more numerous as are sandhill crane colts.

There continue to be many reports of snapping and painted turtles laying eggs so please watch for turtles nesting along roads and if you see a turtle crossing a road, and can do so safely, move the turtle to the side of the road in the direction it is heading.

The blue flag iris was blooming this week at Pattison State Park in the northwest while yellow lady slipper orchids are blooming at Potawatomie State Park on the Door peninsula.

Regional reports

Bayfield County - Walleye, northern and panfishing has been phenomenal the past two weeks. Both crappie and bluegill are being caught in the shallows on many local inland lakes including Lake Owen, Namakagon and the Eau Claire Chain. Those using leaf worms and leeches are having the best success. Walleye fishing has been good on the Eau Claire chain, and leeches seem to be working best. Northern activity has been at an all-time high. Those using artificial baits and large earth worms are having the best success. A warning to those traveling the area to be extra careful traveling the roads. Due to the heavy mosquito hatch deer have been seen laying near many roadways in an attempt to rid themselves of the large swarms. Please don't feed the bears, and consider bringing in bird feeders at night. Also think about keeping all garbage and pet food inside to help keep the bears from becoming a nuisance.
- Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond

Pattison State Park -The blue flag iris' are in full bloom as of this week. Besides huge hatches of mosquitoes, deer flies and stable flies, we've seen several hatches of mayflies in the last week. Snapping turtles are common roadside sights now.
- Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Sawyer County - Fishing has been consistent on both lakes and river systems in the area. The Chippewa River (east and west fork), south fork and north fork of the Flambeau River have been fluctuating between very high to high recently so fishing has been tough on those bodies of water. Extra weight is needed to keep live bait down. Live bait of all selections has been working well with crawlers getting more of a variety of fish. Smallmouth, musky and catfish are all increasing in activity this past week on the river systems. Due to the higher water, fish are scattered throughout the river systems and not just in the holes as they typically are during the low water during the summer. Most are casting artificial lures to locate fish and then spending time at those locations with live bait. Due to the higher water, recreational canoeing and kayaking conditions are good. Law change: The east fork of the Chippewa River had a regulation change this year. Years past there was no size limit on walleye. This was wrong and recently changed. All walleye on the entire east fork of the Chippewa River in Sawyer County must meet the 15 inch minimum size requirement and the bag limit is still five. This new law is posted at all landings.
- Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter

Burnett County - Newly formed waterfowl families can be observed actively feeding on seeds and invertebrates. Does and fawns can be observed feeding in the green fields. Wildflower viewing in the Grantsburg area is currently very good. Currently the Grantsburg area has a very robust insect population, so think ahead for camping and hiking activities. The St. Croix River has moderate to high water levels for up-coming canoeing and fishing trips. Please think about removing bird feeders to avoid unwanted black bear encounters.
- Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg

Interstate Park - The St. Croix River remains high. Buoys have not been placed at the Lake O' the Dalles swimming beach due to high water. The Beach House facility will remain closed until the buoys are in place. Watch for large birds including bald eagles, turkey vultures, red tailed hawks and great blue herons soaring overhead. The eagle nest can be viewed from Eagle Peak, and the heron rookery can be observed from the Camp Interstate Shelter. Deer are easy to spot throughout the park. Blooming wildflowers include wild geranium, Virginia waterleaf, rock cress and jack-in-the-pulpit.
- Julie Fox, natural resources educator

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Fishing success has been steady in the last week with some nice catches of walleye, bass and panfish being reported. Walleye action has continued to be good with many anglers having consistent success on 13 to 17 inch fish in the later evening hours. The mayfly hatches have just begun on many waters and this usually signals a change in bait tactics from minnows to leeches and crawlers. One of the most productive rigs is a leech on a floating jighead, fished near weed edges and muck/hard bottom break lines. Largemouth and smallmouth bass success have also been steady, with most of the fish having completed nesting and quickly recovering from the stress of spawning. Largemouth are settling into their early summer pattern of cruising the weed beds and have been active on surface baits and soft plastics. Many male largemouth have still been observed guarding their schools of young, but those should be dispersing in the next week or so. Smallmouth have been a bit more of a challenge as the larger fish seem to be hanging in deep water following the rigors of spawning. But look for them to start move to mid-depth woody cover and becoming active on finesse plastics and small crank baits. Panfish action continues to be very good with some nice catches of bluegill, perch and crappie still being made. Many bluegill are still on their spawning beds and most should be finished up in the next week or so. Crappie have been active along any emergent weed lines and a small minnow a foot below the bobber has produced some nice catches. Musky action has been so-so, and anglers are reporting quite a few follows and sightings, but not a lot of hard hits. The most consistent action has been on live bait (medium suckers) that are floated behind the boat.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - The north fork of the Flambeau River is at a normal high, but the south fork is still on the high side. Turtles are winding down with their egg laying process, but still seeing them along road sides. We are seeing fawns, young turkey and goslings. The butterflies are out, and monarchs are laying eggs. Mosquitoes and dragonflies are out in full force. Daisies and lupines are blooming.
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate