Every fisherman has a favorite lake or river they go to each year. I'm no different. I feel a need to be there. I crave it, and make it a point to make a pilgrimage there each season.
For me, it's Shawano Lake, home of some of the best panfishing anywhere.
The last two weekends my good friend Jim Kuester and I ventured to Shawano Lake on a quest to for some crappie and bluegill fillets. We knew the kind of action that lake can cough up, but were very aware of the weather as Shawano Lake is a large, shallow lake. When the wind kicks up, it's a lot like Lake Winnebago and can get rough in a hurry. We didn't want to risk the drive and perhaps waste our time and gas if the weather wasn't going to cooperate.
On Memorial Day weekend we made the drive north early on the chilly Saturday morning. The weather eventually warmed up and we got on a variety of fish, but caught a lot of 'borderline' sized fish that we threw back in hopes of cranking out a few larger ones. We kept a mere 18 panfish, and released another 30 or so. We also picked up a few scrappy bass in the 14- and 15-inch range. In addition, we lost three small pike at the boat.
We went home a little disappointed in the fishing, but undeterred and we decided if the weather was good, we would return again the following week. This turned out to be a great plan.
This time around, the weather was 20 degrees warmer than the previous Saturday, with no wind early. In fact, the weather was even a little uncomfortably hot for a while. The lake was flat, and when we pulled into our first (and only) spot that day, we could see bluegills near the surface as their backs were sticking out of the water! Ya think that was a pretty good indicator of what was to come?
The moment our lines hit the water, we were fast into fish. Jim really got off to a fast start, and admittedly, had a better day than I did. But even I caught 50 fish on the day. We both got into some nice bluegills, crappies and some of the biggest sunfish I've seen in a long time. We had our limits in about two hours time and played catch and release until we ran out of the four dozen night crawlers we brought along. Which, for that matter, was perfect timing.
We noticed the sky was beginning to get black with storm clouds rolling in and the wind began to pick up. The temperature was starting to drop, too. The fishing had slowed down, so we pulled anchor and headed to the bar we launched from to get some lunch. The rain came down so bad only minutes after we sat down that we couldn't see the lake anymore.
It was a great weekend, as it always is when the fish are biting. My dad was also on the lake and he and his buddy loaded up on some nice fish. A few of my other friends were on Lake Winnebago and found both crappies and walleyes cooperative. Other friends opted to hit Lake Michigan to chase some salmon, which they also loaded up on. It was perfect fishing in perfect weather. You've got to love this time of year!