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Even warmth not expected to clear ice away from lakes in northern Wisconsin
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A recent spate of seasonal—and even warm—weather isn’t likely to mean open water across the northwoods as anglers preparing for the inland fishing season on Saturday.

The forecast calls for a return to unseasonably cold—and even ice-making conditions after today’s warmth and that may put a halt to the melting on Pelican, Pickerel, Rolling Stone, Moose and other lakes across the region.

Despite a recent warming in the weather, many lakes north of state Highway 64 remain covered in ice, Heath Benike, a state Department of Natural Resources fish manager in Eau Claire said.

Although some northern lakes have thawed, most will still be covered by ice on Saturday, when the statewide fishing season kicks off, said DNR spokesman Kevin Harter. Many still had snow on them as of late last week, and that would have to melt before the ice underneath it can do so, he said.

“I think it’s going to be real hit-and-miss right now,” he said.

Officials said the annual Governor’s Fishing Opener is still expected to happen, despite some lingering ice on Lake Namekagon north of Cable.

“Obviously there’s optimism and hope,” Harter said.

There was some good news for anglers, who will likely find spawning walleyes — more male than female ones — in shallow water on gravel shorelines over next week. Benike said once a lake thaws, they might also find bass, panfish and northerns in shallow bays on calm, sunny days.

Anglers could also consider trout fishing if their favorite fishing holes are still frozen by Saturday.

Opening day of the 2013 regular inland fishing season follows the coldest March on record and is shaping up as the polar opposite of the 2012 season opener, which followed the hottest March on record.

Mike Staggs, Wisconsin’s fisheries director, said that anglers planning to travel for opening day will want to call ahead to local bait shops or check online sources to learn about ice conditions, water levels and fishing conditions and take appropriate precautions.

Dave Seibel, longtime Antigo area fish biologist, said that he expected that northern pike will be post-spawn and feeding heavily in bays and emerging plant growth. Walleye will be at peak spawn or immediately post-spawn and will be transitioning from spawning habitats to feeding habitats. Post-spawn walleye like to feed in shallow bays with emerging plant growth and woody habitat. Muskellunge and perch will be at peak spawn. Crappies and bluegills will be in the shallows enjoying the sun warmed water there and the food life that results from it.

Trout streams will likely still be running high and cool from spring melt waters and rains. Cool water trout fishing may be better in the afternoon, once the water has had a chance to warm and the bug life activates, he says.

“Whatever the weather and water temps, there is only one opening weekend,” Seibel said. “Get out and enjoy it and have a safe and memorable time on the water.”

The 2013 hook-and-line game fish season opens Saturday on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.

The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens Saturday while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from Saturday through June 14, with the harvest season opening June 15. Statewide, the harvest seasons for bass have a minimum length limit of 14 inches with a daily bag limit of five fish in total.

Musky season opens Saturday in the southern zone and May 25 in the northern zone. The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line.


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ICY LAKE--Despite the recent warm weather, there’s no danger of any boat leaving a wake on Pelican Lake any time soon, with much of the popular fishing spot remaining ice-covered as the season opener approaches Saturday. Temperatures are expected to dive after today’s warmth, compounding concerns about ice-covered waters for anglers. This photo, taken this morning at Keeler’s Landing on the west side of Pelican Lake, shows fog rising from the ice-shrouded lake, with open water only extending a handful of feet from shore.
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Mail to: Fred Berner
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