Last Saturday Ken Hensel of River Falls and I went north to fish on Lake Wapogasset in Polk County. “Wapo” is a flowage lake in the Apple River watershed west of Amery covering 1,186 acres and is connected to the 241-acre Bear Trap Lake to the south.  The lake is a legendary fish factory reliably yielding panfish, large numbers of largemouth bass, respectable walleyes and trophy muskellunge. Wapo is a productive lake that gets some dense blue-green algae blooms in the summer but it supports a well-balanced fishery. The Wapogasset-Bear Trap Lake Association, the Sanitary District, the DNR, Polk County and townships are working to reduce nutrient loading to the lake and to manage the lake habitat. Garfield Park on the west side of the lake is a popular place to launch boats. Last Saturday was a beautiful day with blue sky, puffy white cumulus clouds and a light northeast breeze. We arrived in mid-morning. When I got out of the truck I saw a swarm of midges flying around, a good sign that things were happening out in the lake. The lake was clear and we could see the bottom in about 10 feet of water. We motored over to a bay on the east side and anchored over a bed of aquatic plants where I’ve caught black crappies this time of year. There were other boats around but we didn’t see many fish being caught. Ken used small crappie minnows about four feet down under a bobber. He had caught a lot of crappies on Minong Flowage the week before, so he had good crappie-catching technique. I used a tiny chartreuse plastic jig four feet under a bobber. I like to use a fly rod with a spinning reel to cast a long way. The crappies were all around the boat. The trick was to get them to bite. They like to take very slowly moving bait. The crappies would inhale the bait causing a slight hesitation indicated by the bobber. A quick snap is all it takes to set the hook and to avoid tearing the hook out of their paper-thin mouth. Sometimes, stopping the slow retrieve would induce the pursuing crappie to take the bait. I also enjoy using a fly rod to fish for crappies with a sinking tip line, a 4-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a bead-head nymph fly or a small 1.5-inch long streamer fly to imitate a minnow. A slow stripping of the line allows detection of the light crappie bites. We caught our limits of crappies and only one bluegill in about an hour-and-a-half. We threw back the small ones and kept fish over 10 inches long. Our fish-catching attracted other anglers including some rude jerk baits who used their trolling motor to barge in right over our bobbers. They anchored near us but didn’t catch much. Black crappies are voracious feeders this time of year before spawning. The water temperature last Saturday was 57 degrees. Black crappies spawn in May when the water is 60-to-70 degrees. Adult males sweep out 8-inch diameter circular nests on the lake bottom in 3-to-10 feet of water, usually in areas with aquatic plants, often in a ‘colony’ of nests about three feet apart. After spawning, the males guard the nests for a few days until the eggs hatch and the larvae swim off. Crappies are sight feeders usually aggregated in loose schools near some kind of cover like aquatic plants or downed trees. They feed on small minnows and macroinvertebrates. Last Saturday they were feeding on emerging Chironomid midges, the same midges that I saw flying around near the boat landing. When we cleaned the crappies, their stomachs were full of what looked like tiny worms. Chironomid midges are among the most abundant and species-diverse of aquatic insects. The worm-like larvae live on the lake bottom and on aquatic plants. They emerge as non-biting flies that look a lot like small mosquitoes. Chironomids are a dietary mainstay for many species of juvenile fish and adult panfish. This is a fine time of year to be out on the water on lakes up north. The Centrarchid family fishes – crappies, bluegills and bass -- are feeding, getting ready to spawn.  It’s easy to catch enough panfish for a delicious fish fry. If only those lakes were closer to home! Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at rfjsports@rivertowns.net. --Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist

   Last Saturday Ken Hensel of River Falls and I went north to fish on Lake Wapogasset in Polk County. “Wapo” is a flowage lake in the Apple River watershed west of Amery covering 1,186 acres and is connected to the 241-acre Bear Trap Lake to the south. The lake is a legendary fish factory reliably yielding panfish, large numbers of largemouth bass, respectable walleyes and trophy muskellunge. Wapo is a productive lake that gets some dense blue-green algae blooms in the summer but it supports a well-balanced fishery. The Wapogasset-Bear Trap Lake Association, the Sanitary District, the DNR, Polk County and townships are working to reduce nutrient loading to the lake and to manage the lake habitat.Garfield Park on the west side of the lake is a popular place to launch boats. Last Saturday was a beautiful day with blue sky, puffy white cumulus clouds and a light northeast breeze. We arrived in mid-morning. When I got out of the truck I saw a swarm of midges flying around, a good sign that things were happening out in the lake.The lake was clear and we could see the bottom in about 10 feet of water. We motored over to a bay on the east side and anchored over a bed of aquatic plants where I’ve caught black crappies this time of year. There were other boats around but we didn’t see many fish being caught.Ken used small crappie minnows about four feet down under a bobber. He had caught a lot of crappies on Minong Flowage the week before, so he had good crappie-catching technique. I used a tiny chartreuse plastic jig four feet under a bobber. I like to use a fly rod with a spinning reel to cast a long way.The crappies were all around the boat. The trick was to get them to bite. They like to take very slowly moving bait. The crappies would inhale the bait causing a slight hesitation indicated by the bobber. A quick snap is all it takes to set the hook and to avoid tearing the hook out of their paper-thin mouth. Sometimes, stopping the slow retrieve would induce the pursuing crappie to take the bait.I also enjoy using a fly rod to fish for crappies with a sinking tip line, a 4-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a bead-head nymph fly or a small 1.5-inch long streamer fly to imitate a minnow. A slow stripping of the line allows detection of the light crappie bites.We caught our limits of crappies and only one bluegill in about an hour-and-a-half. We threw back the small ones and kept fish over 10 inches long. Our fish-catching attracted other anglers including some rude jerk baits who used their trolling motor to barge in right over our bobbers. They anchored near us but didn’t catch much.Black crappies are voracious feeders this time of year before spawning. The water temperature last Saturday was 57 degrees. Black crappies spawn in May when the water is 60-to-70 degrees. Adult males sweep out 8-inch diameter circular nests on the lake bottom in 3-to-10 feet of water, usually in areas with aquatic plants, often in a ‘colony’ of nests about three feet apart. After spawning, the males guard the nests for a few days until the eggs hatch and the larvae swim off.Crappies are sight feeders usually aggregated in loose schools near some kind of cover like aquatic plants or downed trees. They feed on small minnows and macroinvertebrates. Last Saturday they were feeding on emerging Chironomid midges, the same midges that I saw flying around near the boat landing. When we cleaned the crappies, their stomachs were full of what looked like tiny worms.Chironomid midges are among the most abundant and species-diverse of aquatic insects. The worm-like larvae live on the lake bottom and on aquatic plants. They emerge as non-biting flies that look a lot like small mosquitoes. Chironomids are a dietary mainstay for many species of juvenile fish and adult panfish.This is a fine time of year to be out on the water on lakes up north. The Centrarchid family fishes – crappies, bluegills and bass -- are feeding, getting ready to spawn.  It’s easy to catch enough panfish for a delicious fish fry. If only those lakes were closer to home!Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at rfjsports@rivertowns.net.--Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist

  

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