River Currents

by Free Speech on April 28, 2009

Lodi, WI~

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

Lodi, WI-4/28/09

by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

The warm weather and the rain (though not much) that we experienced last week and over this past weekend got things in our area of Wisconsin looking a little more like spring. Trees are starting to green and develop buds. I even saw a few crabapple trees in the Mazomanie Wildlife area that were flowering. Daily, the numerous prairies on public land that were burned off weeks ago are now “greening” up. Many bird species are passing through this part of Wisconsin on their way north and to other states and Canada. Saturday, I was working in my yard on the Wisconsin River and saw dozens of cedar wax-wings at my feeders. This is more of them than I can remember ever seeing at one time in my immediate area. If you feed birds and have bird houses, try to clean out both feeders and nests. Clean out any old material and scrub them down with water. Birds can get sick from moldy feed and old nesting matter, so do this spring cleaning for the bird’s sake. I feed birds all year long, so keep those feeders full because there still is a limited amount of natural food available.

I’ve also seen many different species of waterfowl flying up and down the river on their northern migration. Most of the ducks that I see on the Wisconsin River are on their way north and most likely following the river on their trek to their breeding grounds. Many of the Canadian geese that I see are migrating, but there are many geese that stay in this area all year. There also are many sand hill cranes that have returned and are nesting. I see the same pair of cranes everyday in the river bottoms. This is a great time to be out in the field with a good pair of Vortex binoculars to see all these wonderful creatures! There are still a few eagles that I see and hopefully are nesting on the Wisconsin River, but I haven’t been down the river very far with the extremely low water.

Speaking of water, I haven’t seen such low water on the river at this time of the spring in many years. The Wisconsin is at a summertime level with little if any flow. Last week, the water level dropped 2 to 3 feet in one day from an already low level. This low level may even affect some fish spawning in the very near future. Walleyes and northern pike for the most part have spawned and are now resting and recovering from their spawning rigors. The walleyes and saugers will go on a good bite and be active in the next few weeks if we continue to have normal and stable weather. Soon, when the water temperatures climb into the low to mid 50’s the crappies and smallmouth will get active and provide some great angling.

A full house for the Dane county DNR Hearings at Middleton High School.

A full house for the Dane county DNR Hearings at Middleton High School.

Last Monday was the Wisconsin DNR Annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Rule Hearings and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Annual County Meetings in all state counties. I attended the Dane County meeting at the Performing Arts Center at Middleton High School. There was a packed house for the hearings and as usual the deer questions brought the most discussion. You may see the many questions and how each county voted by going to the DNR website at www.dnr.wi.gov.com.

I was part of a group of local residents that introduced a resolution at the Dane, Columbia, and Sauk Counties hearings to raise the legal muskie size on the Wisconsin River from the present minimum of 34 inches to a trophy size of 50 inches. There has gotten to be a good number of muskies in the Lower Wisconsin River that have been mostly caught by anglers fishing for another species or by accident. This spring, fishermen have caught dozens of muskies while fishing for walleyes. Muskies are not a fish for the table and should be photographed and released. It’s a shame to have muskies killed after growing for 15 to 20 years. Hopefully, this resolution will be voted on next spring.

There has been a good walleye and sauger bite on Lake Wisconsin and much of the river. The best tactic seems to be the standard jig and minnow or jig and plastic tail combo. Try to vertical jig and move very slow since walleyes are not into chasing bait very far in the cold water. Casting Rapala Husky Jerks in natural colors has also been working in the low light periods on the river. The water has warmed up considerably with the recent nice weather and this will do nothing but make fishing better. Crappies are just starting to get active, so look for back bays that are quiet, shallow, out of the wind, and have dark bottoms that warm quicker and attract bug and small invertebrate hatches. Lake Wisconsin is a good crappie lake with the numerous bays, wood structure, and stumps. Fish the wooden piers with long casts and stealth floats, small jigs (the 1/32 Bait Rigs Cobra works well), and a lively crappie minnow. The feeder creeks that run into Madison’s Lake Mendota are good locations to fish for early crappies and a few bluegills. Spring Harbor, Marshall Park, Willow Creek, County Park, and Warner park lagoons are good early spring bets.

Brandt with a netted largemouth bass

Brandt with a netted largemouth bass

I was lucky enough the past few weeks to get out with Kurt Welke and Scott Harpold of the DNR while they were conducting their spring netting on Lake Mendota. The Madison Chain of Lakes has some great fish that swim these urban waters. There was a 3 pound yellow bass netted that would be a world record by 5 or 6 ounces. I’ve also seen some great walleyes, pike, smallmouth, channel catfish, and bluegills. There are some photos and videos of these fish and the netting on my website, www.garyengbergoutdoors.com or on YouTube under my name.

Last Wednesday, the Wisconsin spring turkey season opened and by all accounts hunters had a good opening week. On opening day, over 35 turkeys were registered at the Wilderness Fish and Game store in Sauk Prairie. The hunters that I talked to reported that the turkeys responded well to calling and decoys. I had a few hunters say that they didn’t even call because when the toms saw their decoys they came in quick and fast. Despite, two tough winters and a wet spring with poor recruitment there seems to be a stable turkey population. Turkeys are tough birds to survive the Wisconsin winters with the deep snow the last two have brought to the area.

The second season opens this coming Wednesday and hunters should continue to have good hunting. After a few cooler days Monday and Tuesday, the weather is going to warm up and help both hunting and fishing later this week. It’s getting to be another time when you have too many outdoor activities to participate in. Get outdoors and enjoy the coming of spring. Send any stories, comments, and photos to my website and I’ll get them posted.

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