Early season fishing 
business going well

By DAN DURBIN - Special to GM Today

May 7, 2009

The opening weekend for fishing is over and the results are in: Fishing wasn't too bad and believe it or not, business wasn't too bad, either.

In fact, Becky Smith, of Dick Smith's Live Bait and Tackle in Delafield, said her license sales are up 22 percent from this time last year.

"People are fishing," she said. "I'm not certain if it's because people are laid off or because fishing is a great family sport that doesn't cost much money, but we're seeing a lot of people come through the doors right now."

Smith admitted sales have been slow on bigger ticket items, but lures, live bait and other smaller items are selling well.

"It's nice to see some positive things happening in the industry again," she said.

Over the weekend, Smith said people were coming in with mixed reports, but that trout fishing on Nashotah and Lower Nemahbin offered the best action.

"It's a great spot to take the kids," she said. "The trout were biting in deep water anywhere from the surface to about 15 feet down. The best action was on small and large fathead minnows."

Bass fishing was mixed, with people catching fish by either finessing them real slow with jig-'n-pig combinations, or ripping crankbaits for a reaction strike.

"Just like every year," she said, "people are having the best luck in the warmest part of the lake anywhere you can find green weeds. That's where the baitfish will be congregated, so that's where the game fish will be, too."

Water temperatures around these parts are in the low 50s, which is pretty cold, but the next 10 days should provide more consistent action as crappies, panfish and bass move in to spawn.

"The muskie action was good on Pewaukee, but I didn't hear of any huge fish being caught," Smith said. "Crappie action has been good, too, and I think this weekend will be excellent with the full moon coming on the ninth."

Joe Hills, of Musky Mike's in Okauchee, said the water temperature is still pretty cold, but crappies are being caught.

"They're getting them in two to four feet of water," he said. "The bass are staging on the breaks, but should be moving in soon."

Hills also said license sales have been up and smaller products are selling.

"It's been a very busy opener," he said. "We've been selling a lot of live bait and the artificial plastics have been moving well, too. There were a lot of people on the lake this weekend. On Saturday both the public launch and the Golden Mast were filled up."

John Laimon, of Smokey's Musky Shop in Pewaukee, said his boat rental business has been good.

"I've rented out more boats this year than I have probably in the past 17 years," he said. "My guess is because it's a very cheap date for the whole family."

For $49, a family of four can rent a boat, including a motor and gas, for a 10-hour day. You can bring your own food and drink, and there are free grills at both of Laimon's bait shops for use.

"And fishing has been really good," Laimon said. "One of my employees went out on (Pewaukee Lake) Saturday and caught 17 legal bass and six legal muskies. People haven't been targeting the bass out here for a while, but the bass are here."

Laimon said walleye fishing has been slow, but bluegill and crappie action has been hot.

"One of the wardens measured a 15-inch crappie last week," he said. "We're seeing huge schools of bluegills and crappies this year. You have to sort through them, but you can easily get a fish fry out of them."

Down in Mukwonago, bass and bluegills were being caught on Lake Beulah and Phantom.

(Dan Durbin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Freeman. Call Durbin at 644-7940, or e-mail him at ddurbin@bastdurbin.com if you have a story idea.)