Things may look a little different this year, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the outdoors. Although we needed to put the Outdoor Report on hold because many of our staff are working from home and limiting travel, we still want to keep you connected to the outdoors, especially with parks reopening and the fishing opener this weekend. Below are a couple highlights from this week. Remember to practice social distancing and stay close to home.
Parks Reopen May 1
At the direction of Gov. Evers, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reopened 34 state parks and forests with special conditions on Friday, May 1.
Under the governor's Badger Bounce Back Plan, the DNR will modify current operations to maintain the safest environment for visitors and staff.
To minimize overcrowding, allow for social distancing requirements and to promote a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors, a variety of conditions are being put into place at all state park system properties until further notice starting May 1.
An annual park sticker and/or trail pass will be required to visit state parks and trails and state parks and forests will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, a change from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. You can read more here on all the new conditions being put in to place at state parks.
We are beyond humbled by the overwhelming amount of support we are receiving for Wisconsin state parks.
The DNR call center is experiencing a high volume of calls in the wake of the reopening announcement, and we appreciate customers patience and understanding as we work to increase capacity and improve the customer experience. There may be delays - please keep trying.
Fishing Opener May 2
Gov. Evers' Safer at Home order recognizes outdoor activity as essential. As such, the 2020-2021 Game Fish season opener will proceed as planned on May 2. All regulations and license requirements apply.
The DNR reminds anglers to fish close to home and practice social distancing,whether fishing from a boat, dock, or shoreline. It is recommended that only anglers living in the same household should fish within six feet of one another.
The majority of northern waters should open up by the fishing opener, especially with the mild weather and rain in the forecast this week. Given the later ice-out, walleye will be lingering closer to shore and still in spawning mode on the larger lakes.
Opening day looks promising for northern pike, musky and walleye in southeastern Wisconsin waters.
Walleyes have completed their spawning activities on lakes in the central and western parts of the state, and larger lakes should provide good to excellent walleye action.
In the waters of Green Bay and the Lake Winnebago system, walleyes are done spawning and will be on the prowl for food over the next few weeks. White bass will be running on the Wolf and Fox rivers.
Good luck to all anglers heading out this weekend - stay safe!
Fishing Conditions Expected To Vary Statewide
Wisconsin's southern, west-central and eastern waters are open, but in the state's northern waters, the spring thaw is still a work in progress.
Much like last season, spring is running about one to two weeks late in northern Wisconsin. The majority of northern waters should open up by the fishing opener, especially with the mild weather and rain in the forecast this week. Given the later ice-out, walleye will be lingering closer to shore and still in spawning mode on the larger lakes.
Trout anglers continue to report success during the early season. With good base flows and no heavy precipitation predicted, anglers can continue to expect good fishing on area trout streams.
With cooler temperatures and water levels above average on large rivers, anglers may see slower fishing for panfish, bass and catfish on southern lakes and large rivers. Water temperatures remain in the high 40s and low 50s. Walleye, musky and northern pike fishing should be good.
Water temperatures are below average for Driftless Area smallmouth bass streams. Anglers can expect slower action until the waters warm.
Anglers should expect heavy traffic at parking lots in fishery areas as well as boat launches. With the increase in fishing license sales in March and everyone staying home for the last month or so, folks will be eager to hit the water and we will probably see heavy use at most of our open public access sites. Please continue to practice social distancing (recommended 6 feet from each other).
Opening day of the 2020 gamefish season looks promising for northern pike, musky and walleye in southeastern Wisconsin waters.
New harvest opportunities for northern pike are found on Okauchee Lake with the implementation of a protected slot length limit. There is no minimum length limit on Okauchee lake, but northern pike from 25 to 35 inches may not be kept. The daily bag limit on Okauchee Lake is two, but only one may be greater than 35 inches. Catch and release pike opportunities can be found on Big Muskego and Eagle Lakes as a healthy northern pike population continues to thrive on these two systems. Big Muskego and Eagle Lake have a 40-inch minimum length limit and a daily bag limit of one for pike, creating an excellent choice for those seeking fast pike action.
Lake Emily and Fox Lake in Dodge County offer high-density northern pike populations with quality fishing opportunities. New in 2020, the northern pike regulation for Lake Emily is only two northern pike may be kept and pike from 25 to 35 inches must be released. The northern pike regulation for Fox Lake remains at a minimum length of 32 inches and a daily bag limit of one fish. The northern pike regulation on Big Cedar Lake in Washington County has also changed to two northern pike may be kept and pike from 25 to 35 inches must be released.
Musky are doing very well on Pewaukee, Geneva and Okauchee lakes, with numerous trophy-sized fish captured annually. Pewaukee has an above-average musky density while Okauchee maintains a moderate density with a slightly better size structure. Lake Geneva continues to develop as a premier musky lake with excellent growth and trophy potential. Try Okauchee Lake for muskies if you are looking to battle with a trophy fish or Geneva and Pewaukee if you are looking for more action. If you're looking for musky waters less traveled, try Lac LaBelle, Oconomowoc, Illinois-Fox River or Silver Lake in Racine County.
Walleye fishing opportunities are continuing to improve in southeastern Wisconsin as a result of substantial fingerling stocking efforts from 2013-2019. A complete list of lakes included in recent large fingerling walleye stocking efforts can be found on the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative webpage. Some of the more popular walleye initiative lakes in southeastern Wisconsin include Pewaukee, Geneva, Golden, Nagawicka, Nemahbins, Keesus, Little Muskego, Lauderdale, Whitewater, Rock and Ripley. Walleye in southeastern Wisconsin have an 18-inch minimum length limit and daily bag limit of three.
Anglers heading out to fish for walleye in Lake Koshkonong and the Rock River should note that a new walleye regulation of 18-inch minimum length and three fish daily bag limit went into effect in 2020.
Lakes are open in the central and western parts of the state. Walleyes have completed their spawning activities and should be ready to eat. Larger lakes like Lake Wissota, Petenwell and Castle Rock flowages and Lake Dubay should provide good to excellent walleye action.
Panfish will be plentiful in warm shallow bays on numerous lakes in central and western Wisconsin. Anglers will also find plenty of opportunities to harvest fish on the Mississippi River, with walleye and perch being the most sought after fish species during the opening weekend.
In the larger waters of Green Bay and the Lake Winnebago system, the walleyes are done spawning and will be on the prowl for food over the next few weeks with some fish left in the rivers, but the majority of the fish moving downriver. The upriver Winnebago pool lakes (Poygan, Winneconne and Butte des Morts) should be good as well as near the major river mouths in Green Bay (Menominee, Peshtigo, Oconto and Fox). In the inland lakes of the northern border counties walleye will just be completing their spawning and should be found in shallow areas near their spawning locations. The border flowages of the Menominee River have good populations of walleyes with restoration efforts over the past 5 or so years. Similarly, Shawano Lake has also had walleye restoration efforts with an increase in walleye populations and has been producing good catches in recent years.
White bass will be running on the Wolf and Fox rivers, and panfish (bluegills and crappies) should be biting in the shallows and bay areas throughout the Winnebago system. Throughout inland lakes the bass and panfish will not be spawning yet, but if you look for the warmer water in protected bays and northern shorelines, you should be able to find active fish.
Inland trout fishing is good throughout the spring period, and the highest quality and numbers of trout can be found in one of our many natural reproduction streams throughout northeast Wisconsin.
Anglers can find information about fish populations in specific waters in the 2020 Wisconsin Fishing Report.Forecasts are arranged by fish species and listed in alphabetical order by county.