Wisconsin’s northern bass zone harvest season opens June 15 with anglers enjoying increased bass populations across the region and liberalized harvest rules in many northwestern Wisconsin counties and the Minocqua Chain of Lakes in Oneida County.
“Bass fishing is as good as it’s been in a long time,” says Steve Avelallemant, longtime fisheries supervisor for northern Wisconsin. “We’ve seen increases in abundance over time across the region and that means plenty of opportunities for anglers.”
Department of Natural Resources and university researchers and biologists are studying why bass are doing so well and if they are impacting other fish species. Bass fishing forecasts [PDF] excerpted from the 2013 Wisconsin Fishing Report detail recent population surveys for bass in many popular waters.
Avelallemant says the late ice out means anglers are still going to find bass on their spawning beds, particularly in the larger or deeper lakes where water temperatures warm more slowly. “Bass are very temperature-oriented but the temperature is warm enough to have some active bass,” he says.
The northern bass zone essentially includes those waters north of Highway 64 and 77 and allows harvest from June 15, 2013, through March 2, 2014. People can keep five bass in total, and the minimum length limit is 14 inches unless special regulations apply, so check the 2013-14 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations.
Waters in many northwestern Wisconsin counties now have no minimum length for bass.
In those areas where harvest regulations have been liberalized in recent years, there has been an increase in harvest of largemouth bass. “To this point, however, we have not seen any changes in populations that can be attributed to additional harvest,” Avelallemant says.
“Take your kids and enjoy the wonderful diversity of bass fishing opportunities we have in the northern zone,” says Jon Hansen, a fisheries biologist based in Madison and co-chair of DNR’s bass committee. If you’re hungry, “keep it local” and take a few bass home for a meal, especially in places where there is no minimum length limit.”
Bass fast facts
Bass are found statewide and largemouth and smallmouth bass are collectively among the most commonly caught fish, well behind panfish, but ahead of walleye, anglers’ favorite. Wisconsin anglers reported reeling in an estimated 10 million bass in the 2006-7 license year, the last year for which figures are available. That compares to 7 million walleye, 1 million northern pike and 1.6 million trout.
Bass and musky were the fish Wisconsin anglers reported releasing most often, with only 5.4 percent of bass and 5.59 percent of musky harvested, according to a statewide mail survey of anglers in 2006-7.
Image courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources