River Currents

by Free Speech on June 30, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Hanson's 52" Madison Chain Muskie

Hanson's 52" Madison Chain Muskie

Lodi, WI Wisconsin
by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Understand Fish Movement Through the Seasons for Success

Last week’s hot weather has raised local water temperatures to mid summer temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees. The warmer water has allowed all fish species to finish their spawning and recuperate for the rigors of this annual ritual. Even the last fish to spawn (largemouth, catfish, bluegills, and sunfish) are recovered and feeding heavily in local lakes and rivers.

What warm water, weed growth, and post spawn fish when all put together mean that fish are active, aggressive, and hungry. The metabolism of fish has been raised and most fish must regularly feed just to maintain their weight. The young fish of the year are trying not to be eaten themselves while feeding non-stop for their own growth. If you can now find fish, they should be willing biters!

Spring has most fish species in shallow water less than 10 feet deep and often shallower because this water warms the quickest and after coming out the cold of winter, fish seek the warmest water available. A degree or two difference in water temperature means much more to a cold-blooded fish. The warmer spring water also gets the ecosystem in motion with microscopic bugs and insects hatching which means one thing food. The small bugs attract minnows which bring in larger fish and get the food chain moving.

Now, all spawning is complete and many species are leaving or have left the shallows with the exception of some fish that remain in and near the lake’s weeds throughout the year. Many fish like walleyes and smallmouth move to their summer structure and locations which are in deeper water near rock bars, mud flats, deep weeds, and along steep drop-offs. All fish find a “comfort zone” for the summer months that has a preferred temperature with an access to a feeding flat, zone, or area. Predator fish like muskies and walleyes will feed nocturnally while often moving shallow to feed on smaller fish in the early morning hours and just after dark.

Understanding fish movements throughout the seasons and year will greatly improve your fishing. To put things simpler, fish are not in the same location in the summer as they were in the spring with a few exceptions like largemouth bass and panfish that are weed orientated. But, there are always exceptions and you’ll find crappies, bluegills, and sunfish suspended over deep water with little or any structure near them. The reason these panfish are over deep water is the availability of food and in most cases it’s the small bug hatches that occur in the main lake basin. All fish move to locations with a comfortable water temperature and access to food during the warm water of summer. These two factors are the keys to successful summer fishing.

Here are a few suggestions to try this holiday weekend for our local waters.

Lake Mendota 

The walleye bite has moved to deeper waters. Try to concentrate your efforts on the deep water bars like Brearly Street and Dunn’s Bar in low-light conditions. A week ago, you could see 8 feet down but the warm weather is causing the weeds to grow rapidly. I’d fish slip-floats and leeches or ½ a nightcrawler around the bar and on the steep drops for both walleyes and smallmouth bass.

The weed line is now between 8 to 10 feet, so concentrate just outside the weeds for a mixed bag of fish which will include; walleyes, smallmouth, rock bass, bluegills, northern pike (many small pike), and largemouth bass. Anchoring and putting out a few slip floats while casting a jig and plastic, a spinnerbait, or a crankbait works well. It’s important to fish the open weed pockets, use a weedless jig, or quickly retrieving your crankbaits over the weed tops for action. The city shore line from Tenney Park to the University is a good location to fish throughout the summer.

Another successful tactic is to use your bow-mount trolling motor while staying outside the weeds and casting cranks, jigs/plastic, and spinners parallel to the weed growth. I suggest covering as much water as possible till you find active fish and then work those fish.  

When fishing deeper water on Lake Mendota, concentrate on using your electronics as much as possible. The new color locators that Lowrance makes with the LakeMaster Wisconsin Digital Map chip is great showing all the deep water structure and even the shallow water contours that are often forgotten. Use the electronics to locate fish and schools of baitfish before fishing any area. Trolling Lake Mendota with nightcrawlers and spinners’ works or crankbaits like Shad Raps and Reef Runners in firetiger and perch color will catch both walleyes and small pike. If it’s perch are what you’re after, again look for the perch schools in the deep water and then try to stay on top of them.

Lake Monona and Lake Waubesa 

The warm water has got muskies active on Lake Monona according to local guide Wally Banfi(608-644-9823). The muskies are active outside the numerous weeds, near the Convention Center, and along the Squaw Bay shoreline to name a few “hotspots”. Bucktailscolors working are black, chartreuse, and orange and any combinations of the abovework best. But, always keep changing and experimenting with different colors and retrieve speeds till you find what the fish the day you’re fishing. Both sides of the Olin Park boat launch are also good locations to try for muskies.  

On Lake Waubesa, I’d fish the Rockford Heights areas, around Hog Island, and at the lakes south-end for these large predators. There still are bluegills in shallow water and in and near the weeds hitting on ice fishing jigs and wax worms. The walleyes and pike that were concentrated in deeper water in the main lake basin have spread out, so trolling and covering water is the key on this lake. There has been a good lead core line bite on Lake Waubesa, but that has also cooled down in recent weeks.

Lake Wingra

This small urban lake is still a good spot for someone to catch their first muskie. There are many muskies from 34 to 38 inches with a few fish in the mid 40’s. Now, use top water baits and bucktails and work the open water because the weeds are taking hold of the lake this time of year. You’ll always find many boats, but fishing during the week is definitely better. These fish have seen every lure or crankbaitmade, so try something different in color and retrieving speed. By this I mean, change your retrieving cadence, snap lures when reeling, and do a stop and go retrieve at times. Anything different on Lake Wingra is good!

Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River  

 The normal summer algae has come and things are rather green. The main summer methods are trolling the river channel with crankbaits (Shad Raps and Wally Divers with natural colors and something blue) and spinners or fishing leeches and crawlers on the points and deep drop-offs. The walleyes and saugers move around constantly following the schools of forage, so get a good lake chip or map (LakeMaster) to see the lake’s structure. Lake Wisconsin gets tough in the summer for walleyes and saugers, so keep moving and changing presentations. Muskies are making a good base in the lake, so try muskie fishing in all the bays and points that have access to deep water.

 The Wisconsin River has been at a good level all year with access to most locations. The “River” is always good for a mixed-bag with gamefish and roughfish. You can use most techniques to catch fish, but live bait seems to work well most of the time. Fish the wood, islands, creek mouths, and slack water areas with a little current for good results. Trolling is always a possibility and it allows you to cover more water. This is water for smaller boats and canoes, so don’t bring a big bass boat. Make sure that your trolling motor has a good charge to make it through the day. A good river bait is the pre-rigged plastic worm in purple or black and casted toward shore and slowly retrieved with and without a split shot.

I’ve given you some good options for fishing this Holiday, now get out there, have fun, catch a few fish for a fish fry, and be safe. You may always contact me at http://www.garyengbergoutdoors.com/ for fishing reports, interviews, stories, and outdoor information.



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