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Protected walleye lake now open to harvest

Outdoors report

IRON MOUNTAIN — Anglers are reminded that smallmouth bass harvest season begins today in Wisconsin’s northern zone, which includes Michigan boundary waters.

While the catch and release season is open year-round, this harvest season runs through March 2. The daily bag limit for bass on the Menominee River is five fish with a minimum length of 14 inches.

Walleye enthusiasts may be interested to learn that a northern Wisconsin lake has an open walleye season for the first time in 20 years.

The Northern Highland Fishery Research Area is located near Boulder Junction in Vilas County, within the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. Established in 1946, its five lakes — Escanaba, Nebish, Pallette, Spruce and Mystery — are continuously managed for experimental fisheries research.

After 20 years of limited harvest, Escanaba Lake this year has an open walleye season that opened June 8.

From 2003 through 2022, walleye harvest on Escanaba Lake was rare due to a trophy harvest regulation that included a 28-inch minimum length and a daily bag limit of one fish. These regulations were in place to allow the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to study the effects of low harvest pressure on walleye populations.

Now, research objectives have changed to study the effects of increased harvest levels on a formerly unexploited walleye population. This new study is estimated to continue through 2032.

Anglers are needed to harvest enough walleye to meet the annual quota. Walleye anglers can monitor the remaining walleye quota available for harvest when visiting at the Escanaba Lake Check Station.

The new walleye regulations in place on Escanaba Lake are:

— 15-inch minimum length.

— 20-24-inch protected (no harvest) slot length limit.

— Daily bag limit of three walleye, with only one walleye over 24 inches allowed.

— Summer fishing hours through August will be from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

There is a mandatory creel survey of all anglers fishing the Northern Highland Fishery Research Area. You can find out more at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/research/projects/NHFRA.

Little Bay de Noc and Gladstone’s Van Cleve Park will host a fishing tournament today organized by Wisco BASS — an acronym for “Bass Anglers Single Series.” There are 58 entrants, the Escanaba Daily Press reported.

Weigh-in at the park is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time today and the public is invited to watch. Find out more about the group at wiscobass.com.

Upper Peninsula Recreational Off-Road ATV Riders, or UPROAR, will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Big 10 Sports Bar & Grill in Quinnesec.

The Michigan DNR reported this Upper Peninsula activity:

Little Bay de Noc: Walleye anglers reported slow fishing; however, some anglers caught a few while jigging at Black Bottom. Smallmouth bass anglers reported good fishing and were catching quality fish. Baits that resemble gobies were productive.

Manistique: Anglers targeting salmon reported limited success and noted that few fish were remaining in the area, as well as limited bait. Anglers anticipate that will change as the summer progresses. Some anglers had luck fishing for lake trout.

Marquette: Anglers leaving the lower harbor and trolling from the Chocolay River out to Laughing White Fish Point continued to do well on both lake trout and Chinook salmon. The upper harbor saw an increase in anglers on days when the lake allowed for fishing, with good numbers of lake trout caught while jigging or trolling around White Rocks and out toward Granite Island. Anglers fishing for salmon were trolling in around 40 to 50 feet of water and usually at higher trolling speeds. There still were some coho salmon being caught from the lower harbor out toward Shot Point. Trolling hot pink crankbaits or green multicolor moonshine glow spoons worked well for salmon at a little higher trolling speeds, around 2.8 to 3 mph. Lake trout were still being caught while jigging white plugs around the northeast side of White Rocks and when trolling green/silver flasher flies between White Rocks toward Granite Rock or Clay Banks at lower speeds, 2 to 2.2 mph, in around 120 to 180 feet of water.

Au Train: Reports show that a few Chinook salmon were still being caught. Lake trout continued to see better and better numbers. On days when the wind blew northwest, most fish seemed to be caught in around 40 feet of water along the coast of Scott Falls Honey Hole to 5-Mile Point. When the wind was blowing from the south or east, more lake trout seemed to be caught around 100 to 120 feet north to northwest of the Au Train Island trolling toward the Laughing White Fish Clay Banks. Hot pink or chartreuse spoons or crank baits and green/silver flasher flies were reported to be good color combinations.

Keweenaw Bay/Huron Bay: Anglers in Keweenaw Bay and Huron Bay had a successful week of fishing. Anglers fishing early in the mornings were able to find salmon on their highest lines and lake trout throughout the water column. All lake trout and salmon caught while trolling were caught using artificial baits. Some anglers opted for jigging and also had great success. Jigging events returned large lake trout and some lake whitefish as well.

Traverse Bay/South Portage Entry Canal: Anglers reported catching lots of lake trout and salmon. Anglers who found salmon were trolling with lines down to 75 feet all the way to the surface. Anglers fishing for lake trout found them spread through the whole water column. Whitefish were caught during some jigging events as well and were found anywhere from the middle of the water column to the bottom. Fishing in the morning was the most productive time of day in this area.

Ontonagon River: Over the past week, fishing on the river was reported to have slowed down. Reports show that walleye were being caught in low numbers. Successful anglers had the most luck when trolling in the early mornings.

Ontonagon/Silver City/Union Bay: The fishing from these ports was slow over the past week, despite healthy angling efforts. Reports show that anglers were catching lake trout in low numbers. These fish were found at varying depths while trolling.

Black River Harbor: The harbor saw low angling efforts over the past week. Reports show that those fishing were catching lake trout in low numbers. Angler reports show that fish were being caught in varying water depths while trolling.

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