A few gates have finally been open at the Prairie du Sac Dam on the Wisconsin River. The water is slowly rising and at a very fishable level. The meltdown of the snow from northern Wisconsin has yet to come down and there was even had more snow last week up north and the weather also isn’t warming up much in the northern third of the state. When, we finally get water there will be some major flooding up and down this river and all rivers in the state’s southern third. The water temperature is still in the mid 30′s because we’ve had cloudy days and cool temperatures at night which don’t do much for raising the river water’s temperature. We need some warm weather and maybe even some warm rain to raise the water temperature and turn the walleyes and saugers on.
Today (Sunday), there were 25 boats below the Prairie Dam and another 10 people wading the fast water shoreline down from the Alliant Energy parking lot. Wading is an excellent way to fish this time of year during the day when the sun is warming the shallows and at its peak of the day. Anglers are catching walleyes and saugers, but the fish are mostly smaller males waiting for the females to arrive who are getting ready to spawn as the water warms. There are some pre-spawn females in the area and the largest walleyes I know of thus far is 26 inches. There will be some 10 pound plus fish caught once things warm up. Wading the last few hours of daylight will produce some fish as will wading late at night as the walleyes move into the shallow water to feed.
The standard jig/minnow, jig/plastics, hair jigs, and a plain hook, split shot, and bead with a nice fathead minnow are good tactics this time of year. Three-way rigs with floating jigs/minnow or a floating Rapala with a jig/minnow as your dropper also works well. At night, try casting stick baits with a tight wobble (Rapala’s) with a stop and go retrieve and a twitch now and then that can trigger the bigger fish. If slipping the current, stay as vertical as possible with your presentation. Wisconsin allows 3 rods, so have the rods rigged differently in-case fishing is tough. Keep changing jig colors, plastics (I like Kalins), and your jigging cadence. Fish want the warmest water they can find and you must use a slow, slow presentation. The walleyes almost want the bait on their nose! They won’t chase a bait far in this cold water.
Not every walleye is at the dam or just below it. Do some experimenting and look for areas that break the current and the water flow allowing walleyes to rest behind any obstructions while conserving their energy out of the increasing river flow and current. You can find fish miles below the dam in good staging and holding locations while waiting for the perfect time to spawn and drop their eggs. An ideal location would contain marble size rocks and gravel with a little water running over them for oxygenating the eggs. High water years usually have a good spawn in the Wisconsin River. Try staying away from the flotilla of boats and you may be surprised by finding walleyes farther downriver where you would not see another boat during your outing. This is also the time of the year when about any size boat will work, not like later in the summer when a Jon or jet boat is needed due to the shallow water and obstructions.
Also, have a couple different size minnows because many things can change daily and bait size is one of them. I live 4 miles below the dam and I’m catching legal fish most days from the shore. Remember that there is 85 miles of the Wisconsin River below the dam to the confluence with the Mississippi River. Walleyes have to be 18 inches and saugers 15 inches to be legal with a bag limit of 3 fish of any combination. Let the big walleyes go and take a photo instead or have a graphite reproduction made from your photo. Contact me anytime for current information and here is the phone number for Alliant Energy (1-800-242-1077) to get the Wisconsin River’s flow every day along with the flows at the Wisconsin Dells and Castle Rock Dams.