Tomahawk Fishing Report: Bait shops still open as open water season begins
By Jed Buelow
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor, Sports and Nature Editor
As the ice fishing season draws to an end on Tomahawk area flowages, anglers are now starting to turn their attention to the open water in search of walleye and perch.
The new normal under the statewide Safer at Home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic means anglers can still fish from shore and boats. Anglers are allowed to continue fishing during the pandemic as it was deemed an “essential” outdoor recreational opportunity like using trails and parks to exercise as long as social distancing is practiced.
Both Aquatic Arts Pro-Fishing Shop and Chuck’s Sports Shop are reporting good catches of walleye and perch and say the fishing will only continue to improve as the weather continues to warm. Both shops say they have really ramped up efforts to keep things sanitized so the doors can remain open so anglers can still get the items they need to enjoy a day out on the water.
Dave Mayer from Aquatics said it pretty much has been business as usual since nonessential businesses were asked to shut down – outside of all the additional cleaning as door knobs and counters are disinfected much more on a regular basis.
“People have been pretty good so far in keeping their distance,” Mayer said. “We have also been offering curbside pickup for those who don’t want to come inside. They can pay over phone by credit card and we can place the bait in a plastic bag outside with their name on it to avoid any social contact.”
Mayer said getting live bait from dealers hasn’t been a problem so far, but they have seen some delays from other suppliers of products they sell.
Chuck Grigg from Chuck’s Sports Shop said they were deemed an essential business and allowed to stay open during the shutdown because they sell ammunition. He said in the 46 years they have owned the shop, which has been in the family since 1938, that they have never experienced anything like this.
“This is a real good time of the year to fish and guys are catching walleyes like crazy,” he said and added his biggest concern right now is the opener of the inland game fishing season that this year falls on Saturday, May 2. “Economically we really look forward to the opener, but at the same time, you wonder is it worth the risk for the sake of the dollar.”
Grigg said he would really like it if the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources would consider pushing back this year’s opener, when traditionally cabin owners head north to open the cottage for summer and hit the water, by at least a month so the risk of spread of the virus is reduced.
He said there is a lot of ambiguous and inaccurate information out there right now and he encourages people to be cautious where they get their news. Grigg said right now their bait shop is unsure whether they will remain open for the May opener to avoid risk to the public and their staff.
Mayer said heading in he was a bit concerned about what it might do to kayak sales at Aquatic Arts, but added they have been flying off the shelves in recent days.
“Maybe the idea of self isolating out in the middle of a lake on a kayak sounds pretty good right now,” Mayer said. “People still want to be able to get out and forget about their worries for a little bit.”
For more information on services available, contact Aquatic Arts at 715-453-5397 and Chuck’s at 715-453-3101. Viegut’s Do-It-Express in Tomahawk also sells live bait and other fishing supplies and can be reached by calling 715-453-8417.