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Anglers anticipate a great Wisconsin opener

This one ought to be something.

In typical years, the Wisconsin fishing opener occurs on the heels of ice-out. The water is frigid. The fish are usually sullen and sluggish.

But this year's opener, May 1, could be like nothing most northern Wisconsin anglers have ever seen. The ice will have been out a month or more. Water temperatures are already in the mid-50s. Walleyes and bass and crappies ought to be ready to go in another six days.

"There's nothing that compares to how early [spring] is," said Ted Sellers of Northwest Outlet in Superior. "It's going to be awesome."

Fishing guide Chris Beeksma of Iron River agreed.

"Everyone I'm talking to thinks that because of the weather conditions, it's going to be fabulous," said Beeksma, who operates Get Bit Guide Service. "The water temp is up. They'll [walleyes will] be way post-spawn. It should be one of the best openers in many years."

The opener is as early as it can be in Wisconsin, and this year it's two weeks ahead of Minnesota's May 15 opener.

Many anglers in northwestern Wisconsin typically wait for the St. Louis River to open concurrently with the Minnesota opener. But with the quick warm-up and improved prospects this spring, they might be enticed into fishing inland lakes.

"It's going to be more of a multi-species opener," Sellers predicted. "The crappies will be up in full feeding mode. You'll have a back-up plan if you struggle catching walleyes. Crappies will be an easy option.

"Smallmouth and largemouth will be pre-spawn, not on their beds, but they'll be feeding. Of course, it's catch-and-release [for bass until June 19]."

Beeksma thinks walleyes will be well past their notorious post-spawning funk, when they tend not to feed aggressively.

Look for walleyes over emerging weed beds, Sellers said. Fish them with slip-bobbers and leeches or slip-bobbers and minnows, over the weeds.

Walleye limits are five on some lakes, but in territory ceded to the U.S. government by the Lake Superior Chippewa under 1837 and 1842 treaties, limits have been reduced on many lakes. Check signs posted at landings.

The northern pike limit is five north of U.S. Highway 10, and bass fishing is catch-and-release only through June 18. Muskie season opens May 29 north of U.S. Highway 10. Inland trout fishing on streams also opens May 1. Check regulations for limits and minimum size requirements on various species.