DULUTH – This has happened many times before, including as recently as 2018, when Mother Nature delivers a freezing spring and ice persists on many northern Wisconsin lakes well into May.
This year, it will once again be unclear whether the far northern lakes are losing their ice in time for the Wisconsin general fishery opening at 12:01 p.m. Saturday, May 7 for walleye, pike and d other species.
Levi Potter of Hayward Bait and Tackle said he believed most, if not all, of the lakes in the Hayward area would be fishable by the opener.
“Some of the smaller lakes that have water flowing through them are already open, like Lake Hayward, and even the larger lakes now have open water around the edges,” Potter said Wednesday. go, but I think they will be open in time.
If the lakes are not accessible, or even if they are, another option is to fish the rivers. Most northern Wisconsin rivers have lost their ice, and many offer prime fishing opportunities for walleye, pike, panfish, muskellunge and bass – either from shore, canoe or small ship.
Options include the St. Croix, Totagatic, Chippewa, Namekagon, Yellow, Bad, and Red Cedar rivers. And even the smaller streams, especially where they enter or empty out of local lakes, also provide good big game fishing opportunities early in the season, said Jarrid Houston, columnist for News Tribune fishing and local guide from South Range, Wisconsin.
“The St. Croix River starts at Solon Springs and is probably my favorite. The Totagatic near Minong has always been a fun river and can be robust with fish in some years, especially around the dam areas,” Houston noted. much success over the years for the opener, especially areas near the “Big Chip” Chippewa Flowage.
“The Namekagon River near Trego can be a spring blast for many opportunistic bites. The same is true of the Red Cedar River near Rice Lake. The Yellow River has a fair amount of fish near Big Yellow Lake and is also a great spot all season in open water.
Some of these rivers have landing stages for small boats and canoes, while others are better suited to fishing from shore, Houston noted, but “all are nice running waters and all have fish.”
Across the Minnesota border, virtually all lakes in the northern half of the state were still covered in ice Wednesday. Pickerel Lake in southern Aitkin County opened on April 24, five days after its average freeze-up date, and was the northernmost ice-free lake in the state. Minnesota fishing opens May 14.
Anglers are reminded that the entire St. Louis River estuary, even on the Wisconsin side, remains off-limits and closed to walleye fishing until the Minnesota general fishery opens on May 14.
Wisconsin fishing seasons 2022
- General inland fishing: May 7 to March 5, 2023.
- General indoor trout: May 7–Oct. 15.
- Largemouth bass, North Zone, authorized harvest: May 7 to March 5, 2023.
- Smallmouth bass, North Zone, authorized harvest: June 18 to March 5, 2023.
- Large and smallmouth bass, catch and release: any other time of the year.
- Musky, northern zone, authorized harvest: May 28–Dec. 31.
- Musky, southern zone, authorized harvest: May 7–Dec. 31.
- Northern pike: from May 7 to March 5, 2023.
- Doré: from May 7 to March 5, 2023.
- Free fishing weekend: June 4-5.
Where to buy a license
In Wisconsin, children 15 and under fish without a license every day. The same goes for anglers born before 1927. For everyone else, a variety of license options can get you out on the water quickly and easily. First-time license buyers get a discount, as do those who haven’t purchased a license in 10 years or more. Obtain your license at gowild.wi.com or from licensing agents at stores across the state.
Find a landing stage or a fishing site on foot:
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has created a statewide inventory containing over 2,000 identified public access sites for boats and over 100 developed shore fishing sites. It’s an app. Go to dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/fishing/boataccess.html.
Recruit new anglers, get rewards
Wisconsin is trying to get veteran anglers to recruit new people to the sport. You can recognize the person who introduced you to the sport by reporting it to the DNR. The agency will then reward him with points for a discounted license the following year.
Wisconsin residents who have been named recruiters three or more times in a license year are eligible for a discount on their license of choice the following year. Call 888-936-7463 and be prepared to give your client number and your recruiter’s client number. Recruitment Points are only available to Wisconsin residents.
New Northwestern Wisconsin Fishing Regulations for 2022
- Butternut Lake Muskellunge (Ashland/Price counties): minimum length 40”; daily bag limit of 1.
- Flambeau River, including the waters of the North Fork Flambeau River, between Turtle Flambeau Dam and Thornapple Flowage Dam (Ashland, Iron, Price, Rusk, Sawyer Counties) Walleye: 15” minimum length limit; 20 to 24 inch walleyes cannot be kept; only one over 24 inches can be kept; daily baggage limit of 3.
- Loretta Lake Sunfish (Sawyer County): daily bag limit of 25 total.
- Namekagon River, from Trego Dam to confluence with St. Croix River (Burnett, Washburn counties) Muskie: minimum length 50”; daily bag limit of 1.
- Walleye from Sand Lake (Sawyer County): 15” minimum length limit; 20 to 24 inch walleyes cannot be kept; only one over 24 inches can be kept; daily baggage limit of 3.
- Schoolhouse Lake (run as a chain with the same regulations as Lake Durphee in Sawyer County) Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass: no minimum length limit; daily limit of 5 bags total across the chain. Panfish: daily bag limit of 15; no more than 5 of each species in the whole chain. Walleye: 18″ minimum length limit; chain-wide daily limit of 3 bags.
- Walleye from the South Fork Flambeau River (Price, Rusk and Sawyer counties): minimum length 15”; walleyes 20-24′ cannot be kept; only one over 24 inches can be kept; daily baggage limit of 3.
- Tiger Cat Chain of Lakes (Sawyer County) largemouth bass and smallmouth bass: no minimum length limit; Protected slot 14-18 inches; a single one can be over 18 inches long; daily limit of 5 bags total.
For a complete list of Wisconsin fishing regulations, go to dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/fishing/regulations.
John Myers reports on the outdoors, the environment and natural resources for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at