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It's deja vu in Wisconsin as fishing opener nears

This is getting a little old.

The Wisconsin fishing opener is six days away, and people were still ice-fishing this past week. Many anglers think most lakes will remain ice-covered when the season opens Saturday. That was the case last year, too.

"Everyone around here -- we're all grumpy and gloomy," said Steve Genson at Hayward Bait and Tackle in Hayward. "Last year was pretty good. Tourism here was good. We just lost a whole month."

Wisconsin's inland fishing season opens Saturday for walleyes, northern pike, bass and trout. Muskie season opens May 24 in the northern zone. The smallmouth bass season in the northern zone is catch-and-release only through June 20.

Part of St. Croix Lake near Solon Springs was open on Wednesday, said Cheryl Dinda of the Bait Box in Superior. But Amnicon, Lyman, Minnesuing and Nebagamon all remained mostly or completely ice-covered, she said.

Rain during the week could help weaken the ice on lakes, Dinda said. Her customers can only wait and see.

"They're just hoping," she said.

Genson, who also operates Fish Hunts guide service in Hayward, said ice-out prospects this spring have been nearly identical to last year, when the ice went out well after the opener on many lakes.

"Lake Hayward just opened (Tuesday)," Genson said. "But Couderay, Grindstone and Round are most likely not going to be open. It was looking good, but then we had the snap of cold weather. We had so much snow and ice to get rid of."

The Trego flowage is open, as it usually is, with the Namekagon River flowing through it. The West Fork of the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward also was open already. Many anglers are expected to focus on the Chippewa Flowage when the season opens Saturday.

On the bright side, walleyes should be concentrated, said Jarrid Houston of Houston's Guide Service in South Range.

"The walleyes will still be in their spawning habitat," Houston said. "That will make fishing easier."

Houston fished through the ice on Lake Nebagamon last weekend, he said. The ice had pulled away from shore a bit, however, requiring broad-jumping skills on the part of anglers.

"We had to jump 6 or 7 feet," Houston said. "One of the guys we were with got wet."

It's hard for a bait shop and other fishing-related businesses to make up for a lost opening weekend, Genson said.

"When they don't come to the opener, then it's a couple more weeks (until the ice goes out and people begin fishing)," he said. "When it finally did get warm, everyone was busy putting in docks and doing things they usually do in April."

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