River Currents

by Free Speech on May 5, 2009

Lodi, WI~

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

Lodi, WI-5/5/09

by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg

mendotawalleye2

A nice Lake Mendota walleye from opening weekend

This past weekend was the opening weekend for inland lake anglers, who had been “itching” to get on the water after another cold Wisconsin winter. The weather in the southern half of the state was beautiful and by all accounts from the Department of Natural Resources the fish were there and waiting to be caught. Normally, I would be fishing the Wisconsin River for walleye, smallmouth, and northern pike. But, the “River” for the first time in many months was extremely high with too much current or flow for fishing. The Wisconsin River has been at a summer level all spring with little if any high water. One always wants some current or flow when fishing a river, but not at the current level. The good word is that it is receding, but I now see more rain is forecasted for later in the week.

So, I ended up going out on Madison’s Lake Mendota with professional walleye angler, guide, and friend Tony Puccio (608-212-6464). Tony’s been a great friend for longer than I care to admit, but he’s a great fisherman and always fun to be in a boat with no matter how the fishing may be that day. Plus, Tony is an educator and no matter what you know Tony can still teach you “tricks” from his vast fishing knowledge and experience. Tony fished Lake Wabesa on Saturday for a few hours with some success on walleyes. There were a good number of boats fishing with the parking lots full and by all accounts doing well on most fish species.

Early in the season, you want to fish smaller lakes because they warm up faster which gets the food chain in motion sooner than larger and colder lakes. After a long and cold winter, all fish actively seek out warmer water because the insects and bugs hatch sooner and attract smaller forage fish which gets the whole food chain in motion. This is why it’s advantageous to fish Lake Wingra, Lake Wabesa, Lake Kegonsa, and other smaller lakes during the first month of the open water season.

But, Tony and I decided to fish the largest lake in the Madison Chain (Lake Mendota) because we wanted to try for walleyes and northern pike that had finished their spawning ritual ten days to two weeks ago and hopefully would be active and hungry. Since trolling was our plan for the day, trolling a smaller lake would be difficult with the many boats and limited size of these lakes. The sheer size of Lake Mendota (10,000 acres) made these waters more conducive to trolling. The decision to fish the “Big Lake” turned out to be the right one with few trucks in the parking lot at Marshall Park in Middleton where I met Tony and even fewer boats on the lake’s water. Basically, we had the lake to ourselves. The water temperature ranged from 47 to 49 degrees which still is a little chilly for many fish species. But, a week of warmer nights should start warming things up and getting fish more active.

Tony and I started fishing the north shore on Lake Mendota because north shore’s of any lake get more sunlight this time of year and warm up quicker. As you can see from my writing thus far, the key early in the season is warm or warmer water! We trolled with the wind from the west shoreline toward Governor Nelson State Park keeping the boat in 10 to 12 feet of water and trolling anywhere from 1.2 to 1.7 miles per hour. We used Rapala Husky Jerk crankbaits in larger sizes and started out with an assortment of colors to see what the fish wanted that day. Our plan was to cover as much water as possible and this is why we slowly trolled with Off Shore OR-12 planer boards to give us a wide spread with our baits. This time of the year, you want to use a stick type of crankbait with a tight wobble. As the water warms and you get into summer, one should switch to a bait with more action and increase your trolling speed. Now though, fish won’t chase a bait very far so this is why you want to troll at a slower speed. You also will find most species of fish in water 10 deep or less, so don’t be surprised to catch walleyes, pike, largemouth, and smallmouth all in the same locations. Game fish don’t move to their summer haunts for at least a month or more. This also is one of the few times of the year when Lake Mendota is extremely clear. There are the beginnings of fresh green weeds just starting to grow, but as the water warms the weeds and algae grow, flourish, and make fishing more difficult.

The fish cooperated for Tony and I this opening weekend. The sun shined, the wind shifted from west to north and remained moderate, and as I said we had Lake Mendota to ourselves. We ended catching some big walleyes up to almost 30 inches and we couldn’t keep the smaller northern pike off our lures. The hot color Sunday ended up being firetiger which caught 90% of our fish. Fishing will continue to improve on all area lakes and try to incorporate a few tips that I’ve suggested into your fishing and you’ll hopefully have success. Be safe and always take a kid fishing or borrow your neighbors, if you don’t have any. The best time of the year is finally here!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Wally Banfi May 9, 2009 at 9:47 AM

Good article Gary.
Waldog Out

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