The 48th Governor’s Fishing Opener – the official beginning of Wisconsin’s big game fishing season – casts off May 4 on Bayfield County’s Lake Namekagon, a premier walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, musky and panfish lake.

The fishing opener has only been relocated once due to weather, which was 1996 when it was moved from this year’s host lake a few miles south to Eau Claire Chain of Lakes.

The angling event is held at various locations in western and northern Wisconsin each year and is sponsored by the Wisconsin Indian Head Country Tourism group. This event is by invitation only to media and state and local government officials.

The Department of Natural Resources and Indian Head Country met Wednesday and determined that with 60- to 70-degree days in the forecast, Lake Namekagon will have enough open water to fish, which seemed unlikely at the start of the week.

Opening day of the 2013 regular inland fishing season follows the coldest March on record and is shaping up as the polar opposite of the 2012 season opener, which followed the hottest March on record.

As of April 25, many lakes are still ice-covered in northern Wisconsin and water levels are higher than normal on many rivers, according to U.S. Geological Survey’s WaterWatch (exit DNR) website for current stream flows and flood watch conditions.

Anglers can find information about fish populations in specific waters in the 2013 Wisconsin Fishing Report. Forecasts are arranged by fish species.

Longtime DNR fish biologists and technicians share their predictions for the opener and their tips for catching fish given the low water temperatures and late spawning. A few excerpts are featured below and more tips for fishing when spring is late arriving [PDF] can be found by searching the DNR website for “Fishing Wisconsin.”

The 2013 hook-and-line game fish season opens May 4 on inland waters for walleye, sauger, and northern pike statewide.

The largemouth and smallmouth bass southern zone opens May 4, while the northern bass zone opens for catch and release only from May 4 through June 14, with the harvest season opening June 15. Statewide, the harvest seasons for bass have a minimum length limit of 14 inches with a daily bag limit of five fish in total.

Musky season opens May 4 in the southern zone and May 25 in the northern zone. The northern zone is the area north of highways 77, 64 and 29, with Highway 10 as the dividing line.

Regulations haven’t changed from last year; find the “2013-2014 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations” and “Inland trout regulations” by searching the DNR websie for “fishing regulations.” Opening day bag limits for the Ceded Territory are also available online on the regulations web page and anglers are encouraged to check back frequently for any updates or to sign up for free fishing regulations updates.

For the second year, anglers who have never purchased a fishing license — or who haven’t purchased one in 10 years — can get a discounted “first time buyers” license. The discounts are automatically applied when the license is purchased. Residents’ discounted license is $5 and non-residents’ is $25.75 for the annual licenses.

Anglers who recruit new people into the sport can get rewarded for their efforts. Wisconsin residents who have been designated as a recruiter three or more times within one license year are eligible for a discount on the license of their choice the next year.

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like it, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

Buying a license is easy and convenient over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website at all authorized sales locations, or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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