If the pandemic has got you down, and it probably has, chances are you are looking for something to do this summer. You’re not alone. As of June, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has estimated sales of fishing licenses have increased by more than 100,000 over last year. Fishing is a cherished Wisconsin state tradition. You would be hard-pressed to find a Wisconsinite who has never wet a line. Yet, all of the available gear and the methods may seem highly intimidating if it’s been quite some time since you’ve felt the tug on your line. The following paragraphs provide insight and will serve as a beginner’s guide to fishing. Here are tips and tricks to land three of the most common species of fish in Wisconsin. You will see, it’s not about the amount of money spent on tackle but the memories you make when chasing that strike.
Most everyone’s first fish is the famous bluegill. This favorite fish is the gateway for many angler’s lifelong addiction. Thus its inclusion in a beginner’s guide to fishing. The distinctive coloring and aggressive nature when hooked make bluegills a favorite target for both the novice and experts. As a bonus, they are a staple at Friday night fish frys. In shallow water or down deep, bluegills can be caught year-round. The most common set-up is an ultralight rod, four to six-pound test line, and a bobber. Weight the line with a #8 split shot at least 12 inches above the hook, the smaller the better. Trout worms, a piece of nightcrawler, or wax worms can be an effective bait.
Starting near the shoreline, cast out and wait. Pop the bobber occasionally, for additional action- but not too much. Keep slack out of your line and if you just can’t wait, slowly reel in. Once your bobber disappears or you feel that telltale tap-tap on your line, set the hook with determination. You’ll know when you have a bluegill hooked when your line begins to pinwheel on the retrieve. Experiment with different presentations and depths. Bluegills remain significantly active throughout the day and school with other panfish as well.
If panfish is not your pursuit, consider targeting the largemouth bass. These predatory fish populate most Wisconsin lakes, thus they are included in a beginner’s guide to fishing. The warmer the water, the more they compulsion to feed because of their increased metabolism. Thus, landing a largemouth bass through the ice is a rarity indeed. But it is not uncommon to hook into a bucket mouth while bobber fishing. Because of their strike-first and ask questions later tendencies, largemouth bass remain consistently targeted. Some of the most memorable action comes during summer evenings, near Lilly pads, with topwater lures. The explosion through the water is something to behold, as well as the ensuing battle.
Because of their size and ferocity, a medium action rod is a solid choice. You can’t go wrong with a 10 or 12-pound test line. Those fishing for bass also gravitate to braided line due to its strength and the tendency for bass to hang up in the weeds or on structure. Opt for a 5-0 offset hook and ‘wacky rig’ a plastic worm hooked horizontally through the center. Cast over weed beds, along weed lines, and around structure. Let the lure fall and gently retrieve it, lifting your rod tip from the 2:00 to 12:00 position and reeling in the slack. When you feel pressure on your line, set the hook. Most strikes come on the fall. Largemouth bass tend to leap out of the water, so be prepared. Keep tension on the line while they are in the air, or you will be very disappointed.
What beginner’s guide to fishing doesn’t include the Northern pike? Their name loosely translates from Latin to the wolf of the water. Ever the apex predator, rarely will a week pass when an avid angler will not land this lengthy fish. Northerns will strike at pretty much anything used as a lure or bait. The more flash and vibration the better, and think big lures for big fish. Spring, summer, fall, and winter- the northern remains active year-round. Either casting, trolling or through the ice on a tip-up, pike can be caught. A strike and hook set is often followed by vicious head shakes. This only intensifies as the distance from the boat decreases. But sure to handle a hooked northern behind the head or inside the jaw through the gill plate. Be wary of their sharp teeth which have ruined many uncareful angler’s trip.
Northern pike may grow to well over 40 inches. This requires stout tackle such as a medium-heavy or heavy action rod with braided line and a leader. Consider casting or trolling with a larger lure that puts off a significant amount of vibration and flash. The Dare Devil lure has been in play for decades and still provides a solid selection. Target shallow weedy bays, points, and mid-lake humps. As table fare, northerns eat very well as a firm white meat, which can be fried, boiled, or pickled. Just be certain to remove the ‘Y-bone’ which present in this fish.
If you are looking to take up a new hobby, or rekindle childhood memories, consider fishing. Wisconsin is blessed with thousands of lakes. This can provide hours of entertainment for you and your family. As you have seen, fishing does not require hundreds or thousands of dollars of tackle and a wealth of knowledge.
Even experienced anglers need to revisit the basics from time to time. This beginner’s guide to fishing contains information useful for the novice angler. However, those with years of know-how would do well to stare at a bobber for a few hours and rekindle that fire which was started years ago.