The day so many anglers have waited for is finally almost here! Game fish season opens in Wisconsin tomorrow. Of course, in the north, where I live, musky season isn’t open yet and smallmouth is catch and release only until June… but it still marks the beginning of what every angler hopes is another successful season. It does not matter if you are on the water in search of dinner, or to bring home tournament winnings. If you love fishing, this weekend is something that gets you excited.
Now, that is not to say that all of us head out on opening weekend. Quite the contrary. To me, I prefer to let the tourists and the weekend warriors fill the boat ramps (sometimes for up to 20 minutes while they prep their boat, which should have been done long before they moved into the actual launching lane….). This year I don’t have a tournament that I’m prefishing for, so I might just stay off the water on Saturday. If I were to have prefishing plans, though, I’d launch at first light and attempt to be off the water by 11. But, for many bodies of water in northern Wisconsin, that can be the best idea anyway. For the most part, you have the water to yourself with other fishermen when you fish early. The later in the day it gets… well, I think it goes without saying.
I’d really like to wish everyone a successful weekend, but more than that I hope you all stay safe. I’ve already seen an ambulance go by three times this evening, and most people aren’t even on the water yet. If you haven’t towed your boat anywhere since last fall, please check over your wheels, tires and trailer. Sometimes we get so excited to get out fishing finally that we forget the simple things. And, to be honest, a bunch of the people towing a boat to their opening day destination don’t tow anything that often. If a trailer tire blows, it can cause a huge issue the they aren’t prepared to deal with. It can happen. I think many of us have seen it. A lot of these problems can be rectified by doing some basic maintenance before leaving home. It’s not only a good idea, it could save a life.
I also hope everyone stays safe once they get to the water. No one who doesn’t already wear their life jacket all the time wants to hear, “wear your life jacket,” but I’m going to say it anyway. I want you to be here tomorrow and next week and next year, reading my blog and wondering if I ate lead paint as a child (I think I might have, but you can hardly tell anymore!). Things happen on the water, and they happen quickly. Our best defense is a good offense, as the saying goes. Wearing a life jacket, especially when water temps are low – most reports I’ve heard are in the 50s – may save your life. I recently read that it is not hypothermia that kills 75% of the people who fall into cold water. The biggest killer, they say, is the involuntary gasp reflex when a person hits that cold water. It’s a reflex, and it’s not something you can prevent. It just happens. With that reflex, water enters your lungs. If you are wearing a life jacket that can hold your head above water, your chances of expelling that water and getting back to safety are much, much better. I wear an automatic inflatable, pretty much from the time I step on the dock until I have the boat back on the trailer. I don’t swim, so it’s really important to me. But, even if you see yourself as a strong swimmer, life jackets are still a good idea. If you should happen to fall out of the boat and hit your head – I won’t finish that. I’m sure you can fill in the blank.
But, enough about life jackets. I hope you wear one. I hope you make everyone in your boat wear one. Okay, one more thing: I heard this statistic and I think it’s probably pretty close. I was told it came from the Fish and Wildlife Service, but I don’t know that to be true. So, here it is: 90% of fishermen who drown (males) are found with their zipper down. So, don’t think drowning just happens when you’re running across the lake, hit a big wake wrong and fly out of your boat. Is it true? Who knows for sure, but it’s a fun fact, so I like to throw it out there.
From what I’m hearing, the weekend should set up pretty well for fishing. We’ve got a pretty good front coming through right now as I write this and the temperature is dropping, but that’s to be expected when the mercury head over 80 in May (Wait. do they still use mercury?). The wind has picked up quite a bit from the time I sat down at the keyboard, and I am hearing a bit of thunder. The radar looks ugly to the north. From Park Falls through Minocqua and Eagle River are getting a pretty good size thunder storm and it seems to be heading my way. That could change things up a bit for fishing tomorrow, but I think it will still be a great day. The walleye are done spawning in many lakes and should even be coming out of their post-spawn funk. So, if that’s what you’re targeting, I hope you find your dinner. Make sure to check the signs at the launch ramps for any size and slot limits.
For pan fishermen, you should also be sure to check the signage at the ramp. There are three new panfish regulations in place that might change the number and kinds of fish you can take. The regulations have changed bag limits on 93 lakes in Wisconsin and are part of a 10-year management plan. The idea is to see which plan on various types of lakes achieves the goal of more panfish and larger panfish.
The 25/10 rule states that 25 is the daily bag limit of panfish, but an angler may take no more than 10 of any one species.
The Spawning Season 15/5 rule says that only 15 panfish may be taken during the months of May and June, and only 5 of those may be of any one species.
Under the 15/5 rule, only 15 panfish may be kept and only 5 of those may be of any one species.
Obviously, not all lake are affected by these rules. But anglers should make sure they check any signage at the launch ramp, or check with a local bait shop, to see if bag limits on their destination lake have changed.
I wish you all good luck and tight lines this weekend. And remember – hook sets are free!