A Great Time To Shore Fish!

by Free Speech on May 9, 2017

Lodi, WI~

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

www.garynski.com

 

        The month of May can provide some of the year’s best fishing to all anglers, even if they don’t have a boat. Shore fishing is at its best through May because most fish can be caught in shallow water close to shore and within one’s casting range. Spring fishing is one of the few times during the year, when most fish species are within a cast of the shoreline and often in only a few feet of water. Those who don’t have a boat can fish from shore or wade and often catch just as many fish as those in a boat.

        Fish are now shallow because they are still coming out of winter’s doldrums and are actively seeking warmer water which contains food or forage for their growing appetites. The shallow warmer water gets the food chain in motion with early bug and insect hatches which attract smaller bait fish and eventually bring in the larger or predator fish. This is one of the year’s best times to fish for bluegills and crappies in area lakes and to fish the many Wisconsin rivers that allow angling year-round for post-spawn walleyes and saugers. It’s also a great time of the year to take the kids fishing, since panfish as I said earlier, are hungry and usually easy to catch.

        The areas that I’m fishing regularly and guiding on are the Madison Chain of Lakes (Lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, and Wingra) and the Wisconsin River from the Wisconsin Dells to Spring Green. There are numerous locations around the “Madison Chain” where bluegills and crappies can be consistently caught through May and into June.  

        Fifty to fifty five degrees seems to be the magic temperature when panfish become active and invade the shallow water searching for food and spawning locations. Water temperature can vary greatly this time of year and the shallow water temperature can rise dramatically on a sunny day. Fish actively seek out these warmer areas with calm water. Water, just a few degrees warmer, is all that is needed to attract crappies and bluegills. But, the past week has had morning air temperatures close to or at the freezing mark which will push panfish back to deeper water.

       Location is one of the most important factors in finding these pre-spawn and post-spawn fish. Areas to concentrate on include spots that are warm, quiet, and calm. These locations are away from the main lake body. Examples of this kind of location include; secluded bays, canals, feeder creeks, and backwater areas. If any of these locations have a mud or dark bottom and wood and brush, so much the better. These spots warm up quicker and hold the warmth longer. Think of these areas as solar collectors for the bluegills and crappies, who are actively seeking out the lake’s warmest locations.

      Remember, that crappies love wood!  When available, look for crappies and bluegills to a lesser extent, around and near trees, stumps, brush, downed timber, wood piers, and boat hoists. The wood warms up quicker and absorbs the spring sunshine. As mentioned before, the adjacent water warms quicker and helps to start getting the food chain in motion. The warmer water allows the microscopic plankton to emerge and attract baitfish which bring in the crappies, bluegills, and other fish.

      Another early tip is to fish the shoreline that gets the most sunlight because it will have the warmest water. Having a south wind blowing warmer water back into secluded, quiet bays is another key element in spring success.

     The Madison Lakes have many of the key ingredients that you need during the spring’s pre-spawn and post-spawn periods. Lake Mendota has numerous feeder creeks that run into the lake and hold spring panfish. Some of the better feeder creeks are; Six Mile Creek, Pheasant Branch Creek, and the mouth of the Yahara River. Dingles Bay, University Bay, Spring Harbor, Warner Bay and it’s lagoons, and Marshall Park are spots where the water is quiet and calm with wooden piers and brush. Try these locations!

      Lakes Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa all contain emerging weeds and rocks that attract bluegills and crappies who can’t find any wood. Slack water and calm areas that have moss-covered rocks will also have bluegills and crappies because the rocks will hold warmth and warm the surrounding waters quicker. Basically, anywhere that there is food and comfort can and will hold spring panfish.

      The best technique and way to catch these fish is to downsize your line to 4 pound test mono or try Berkley’s fluorocarbon, Vanish Transition, which is invisible under water. Most ice fishing jigs tipped with a couple of wax worms works the trick when fished under a slip float. Another good way is to fish a small jig, like the Bait Rigs Cobra jig, again tipped with waxies, small pieces of plastic, small grub tails, or Berkley’s Gulp under the slip float or Rocket Bobber. Sometimes for crappies, I’ll use a small jig and a smaller crappie minnow under a float and then slowly work it back using a stop and go technique. Try to have a few different kinds of live bait, an assortment of jigs (have many sizes and colors), and different kinds and colors of plastic to be successful.

     All lakes in the Chain are good bets for spring panfish. Check out some of the locations that I’ve given you and don’t be afraid to contact me (gengberg@chorus.net} for suggestions.

      The Wisconsin River spring walleye and sauger spawn is finished by the time you read this article with the exception of northern Wisconsin. The spawning females are starting to bite in earnest soon after a resting period following their spring ritual. The smaller males might still be around with a few keeper walleyes. Try to fish the low light periods either early or late in the day when there is a good chance that the fish will be in the shallow water feeding. Jigs and minnows, jigs and plastics, and hair jigs work well in the river in the spring. The river’s current gives added life to these hair jigs without you working them aggressively. The water can still be cold, so work your jigs, rigs, and cranks very slowly. Casting, twitching, and slowly retrieving crankbaits like the Rapala Husky Jerk or the Mann’s Minus 1 crankbait in black/white, blue/white, and chartreuse work well in water less than ten feet during the spring warm-up. Try casting parallel to shore sometimes, instead of upriver from you and you may be surprised by the fish that a “stick bait” will catch. Look for areas to fish that are a few miles below the river’s dams at Wisconsin Dells and Prairie du Sac, since the walleyes and saugers have moved back downriver to forage rich areas for the late spring and summer.    

          Another lake that is worth fishing in the spring is Crystal Lake, which is just east of Sauk City, near my Wisconsin River home. Crystal Lake produces crappies by the bucket during the spring and most fish are caught from shore. Their size can vary from 8 to 12 inches and should be sorted, if you plan on a fish fry. The abundant wood in Crystal Lake are also good locations for some eating size bluegills.

      Have fun, be safe, and take your kids with you for this spring bonanza. If you don’t have kids, borrow your neighbors!  

 

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