Demoralizing. Depressing. Never-ending. The list of adjectives for the 2013/2014 winter could probably stretch a country mile. What began as excellent first-ice opportunities for walleyes, pike and panfish quickly escalated into a blur of snow and sub-zero temperatures. Thankfully, spring has finally graced us with her presence and with it the arrival of the 2014 Wisconsin fishing opener. The Badger state is host to seemingly innumerable angling opportunities, even after the seemingly 5 month arctic extravaganza we all just survived. With May 3rd rapidly approaching, here is a look at some of Wisconsin’s finest fishing prospects from some of the state’s most accomplished guides as it relates to the impending opener.

The Bay of Green Bay: Arguably the state’s hottest walleye fishery, the Bay of Green Bay will indeed be open for business this weekend. With a length of 120 miles and an average width of 23 miles, the Bay of Green Bay is not only Lake Michigan’s largest bay, but the largest freshwater estuary in the world; that being said, expert Green Bay angler and full-time fishing guide Captain Brett Jolly urges anglers looking to probe the 332,000+ acres of water to exercise caution this time of year. “There is a great deal of floating ice on the bay right now,” he warns. Jolly continues, “Where that ice moves to over the course of a day is based on wind direction, especially with gusts as we’ve had this year. I’ve watched guys literally get trapped by ice flows due to shifting winds,” he continues, “Anglers really need to be aware of the environmental conditions if venturing out on their own. In addition to ice flows, the lower bay harbors a number of navigational hazards for the unsuspecting angler.” The risk is worth the reward however as Captain Jolly and his clientele have already boated myriads of trophy walleyes this spring. “With the water being so cold, it’s crucial to find areas of warmer water such as at the mouths of rivers or on shallow flats,” advises Captain Brett. “Right now we’re banging fish, even in the cold water, by pulling stickbaits in 6’-14’ feet of water. Use your kicker to maintain a speed of 1.3-1.6 mph for best results,” he adds. As for lure color – “I’ve got a number of Rapala Husky Jerks in ‘secret’ colors from Big Eye Custom Lures,” he adds with a smirk. Not all Captain Jolly’s fish are coming on crankbaits however; “Today the jigging bite turned on, with almost every fish being caught on a jig and Kalin’s Seizmic Grub,” he notes. While the magic color was chartreuse and purple, the jig head size ranged from ¼-1/2 ounce depending on the depth of water. As a final note Brett adds, “Respect the fishery – there is no need to keep a fish over 23”. Keep a few smaller ones to eat, but let the big ones go to grow.”
For more information contact: Captain Brett Jolly, 715-581-5678, Email:,

Vilas County: Not all of Wisconsin’s resident anglers will be able to launch a boat this coming Saturday. “My report in a nutshell - pretty dismal,” laments well know Vilas county fishing guide Rob Manthei. Manthei, who along with his wife Kaye own the ever-popular Fibber’s Bar & Restaurant and St. Germain Lodge & Resort reports that, “Vilas County is still ice covered.” “With this week’s forecast the soft opener looks bleak,” he adds. As to where Vilas County anglers might find open water Manthei does offer the following: “The Wisconsin River and parts of the Rainbow Flowage will probably be the targeted waters by most;” he quickly points out, “This is two years in a row Mother Nature has hampered the much awaited opening day.” There is at least one thing to look forward to this Saturday if you’re in Rob’s neck of the woods – Kaye’s famous prime rib served up at Fibber’s.
For more information contact: Rob Manthei, 715-477-2042, Email:,

Hayward Area: Fishing enthusiasts everywhere need no introduction to the name Dave Dorazio. Dorazio, a legendary Hayward-area guide, has been causing fish of all species nightmares for decades. When it comes to the 2014 Wisconsin Fishing Opener, “I'll be fishing the Chippewa Flowage. Due to the cold spring, many of the clear water lakes in the Hayward area (LCO, Grindstone, Round) will still have some ice for the opener,” says Dorazio. “The Chip is a flowage and the moving water helps take out the ice; the Chip will be ice-free by May 3rd,” adds Dorazio. As for water temperatures this opening weekend, Dave is expecting surface temperatures in the mid 40 degree range. What about the walleye, perhaps the state’s most sought after game fish on opening weekend? “The walleyes will mostly be done spawning, but many male fish will still be up shallow,” notes Dorazio; he continues, “My plan is to keep moving and catch the fish that are shallow, using my Minn Kota to work fairly quickly along the shores.” As for likely walleye-holding locations, Dave’s plan is to target areas that are flatter and have some cover (wood, gravel, bogs) as they seem to hold more fish. “The most popular bait will be an eighth ounce jig head tipped with a fathead minnow in fluorescent colors (orange, chartreuse, pink) as they work well in the Chip's stained water; also, try casting a crankbait,” the legendary Northwoods guide adds, “My favorites are a #5 Rapala Shad Rap or a #9 Countdown Rap.” Although conditions may not be ideal given the late harsh winter and cool spring, Dorazio does offer one final suggestion, “Keep moving - the more water you cover, the more fish you'll contact.”
For more information contact: Dave Dorazio, 715-558-4591, Email:,

Door County: A licensed charter captain since the age of 18 and 5th generation native of Door County, Captain JJ Malvitz plies the waters of Door County on a daily basis while operating JJ’s Guide Service. Recognized by B.A.S.S. as the number one bass fishing destination in the Midwest, Sturgeon Bay is where Captain JJ begins his spring search for smallmouth bass. “As the shallow waters begin to warm, smallmouth begin their spawn routine,” notes Malvitz. “Right away work the shallow rocky shorelines casting Rapala and Storm crankbaits, Trigger X plastics and VMC finesse hair jigs,” adds Captain Malvitz, “There are incredible fishing opportunities to be had!” For the walleye angler, Malvitz recommends a combination of both casting and trolling. “Begin by trolling the rocky shorelines with Rapala Shad Raps and Storm Smash Shads,” begins Malvitz. “There is a lot of good water to cover, so trolling is a great option to locate areas holding numbers of active fish. If the trolling bite is off, try casting jig and Trigger X combinations to provoke strikes from less aggressive fish,” suggests Malvitz.
For more information contact: Captain JJ Malvitz, 920-493-2953, Email:,

Wausau Area: The Wisconsin River offers a veritable smorgasbord to anglers – if you like to fish for it in freshwater, there is a good chance it swims within Wisconsin’s hardest working river. With water temperatures projected to still be in the mid forty degree range Wausau-area anglers are going to have a couple of solid fishing options. Yellow perch, which typically spawn in water temperatures ranging from 45-52 degrees, should be readily accessible. A size 0 or 1 gold or firetiger bladed Mepps Comet Mino is a perfect search lure while a Mister Twister VIE Shiner containing either orange or chartreuse and rigged on a 1/16 ounce jighead will provoke strikes from jumbos that are less aggressive or tucked into cover. For those in search of walleyes, be prepared to cover water and search a variety of depths. While some fish are still being caught pre-spawn, plenty of walleyes will be post spawn and thus transitioning from shallower spawning sites to deeper locales. While jig and plastic combinations are habitually an angler’s first choice this time of year, crankbaits are a frequently underutilized tool. Lures such as Storm’s Smash Shad along with Rapala’s Scatter Rap Countdown, Shad Rap and Rippin’ Rap will all account for more than their fair share of Wisconsin River walleyes this coming weekend. Along with perch and walleyes, a third option for Wausau-area anglers is the often overlooked northern pike fishery. Having recuperated from spawning, the shallows and backwaters will be home to numbers of hungry pike. Try casting a flat-rigged 6” chartreuse flake Mister Twister Saltwater Sassy Shad or Mepps Marabou in yellow or chartreuse to score on the some of the largest pike you may encounter all season. One of the most productive and diverse fisheries in the Midwest, the Wisconsin River system has something to offer everyone.
For more information contact: Joel DeBoer, 715-297-7573, Email:,