River Currents-4/30/10

by Free Speech on April 30, 2010

Lodi, WI~

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

Lodi, WI
by Gary Engberg
©2010 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Tips for the Opening of the Inland Fishing Season

Big bluegills like this can be found on opening weekend of fishing season

Big bluegills like this can be found on opening weekend of fishing season

The Wisconsin inland lake fishing season opens this coming Saturday, May 1, at 12:01 am. Thousands of anglers of all skill levels will be flocking to area waters in anticipation of catching the “big one.” Wisconsin is blessed with having well over 10,000 lakes not to mention the thousands of miles of streams and rivers open to fishing. Many of you have been anticipating the fishing opener by attending sport and outdoor shows and listening to professionals talk about all aspects of angling, reading magazines on fishing for techniques to catch your favorite species, and watching CD’s and television shows to help you catch fish. Here, I’m going to give you some important tips on what, where, and how to catch some fish on opening weekend on the Madison Chain of Lakes. These tips can be applied to most fishing waters.

The Madison Chain of Lakes encompasses thousands of acres with Lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa, and Wingra. This spring has not been one of the better ones with temperatures up and down and water levels much lower than normal. The cool nights have caused the panfish (crappies and bluegills) activity to be inconsistent with fish moving in and out of the shallow and warmer bays while they are getting ready to spawn. Remember that panfish are open year-round unlike the gamefish (walleyes, northerns, bass, and muskies) which open May 1. The water temperatures vary from the high 40’s on Lake Mendota to the 50’s on the other lakes in the Chain. This is the time of the year when fish actively seek out the warmest water that they can find after a winter of “hard water” and a much slower metabolism. To a fish, one degree in water temperature is a huge difference and this is why all fish species are attracted to the shallower water. Ideally, a dark or mud bottom area is best because this water warms quicker attracting the sun’s rays and also getting small bugs and invertebrates hatching to get the food cycle or chain in motion. The bugs attract smaller fish which in turn bring in larger fish. What is now needed is stable weather and warmer nights to get fish active and into the shallow water areas.

Crappies and bluegills should be one of the fish to target because they haven’t spawned in Madison’s lakes. The up and down weather has them moving in and out of the shallow areas depending on the weather that day. The best fishing has been later in the morning and the middle of the day when the water is warmest and the sun high in the sky. The cool weather and frontal systems have had the crappies moving in and out of the shallows. When the weather is cool and most importantly the nights are cool, the fish move back to deeper water, the first breakline, or suspend in deeper water. Here are some general locations or areas for spring fishing that will help you catch fish, no matter what body of water you’re fishing. The following tips should help improve your early spring fishing;

  • Pick shallower and smaller lakes because they warm up quicker. This is why I’d fish any of the Madison Chain Lakes with the exception of the deeper water on Lake Mendota. Now, it’s possible to have many different species all in shallow water because the water is more comfortable and there’s food.
  • Fish the north shore of lakes because it warm quicker from getting more sunlight.
  • Quiet and out of the way bays and feeder creeks warm quicker and attract spawning fish like crappies and bass.
  • Fish near any available structure. The available structure may be wood, timber, brush, wooden piers, and fallen trees since most weeds haven’t grown yet in the cold water. If there isn’t any downed wood, try fishing wooden piers and rocks because they both will warm quicker by attracting sunlight and helping to get the food chain in motion.
  • Mud and dark bottoms warm quicker and get the food chain moving too. The warmer water and available forage fish bring in larger fish.
  • Areas with current, like channels and river or creek inlets and outlets both will attract early season fish.
  • Channels, canals, fingers, and backwater sloughs will all be holding fish and worth trying particularly for early panfish.
  • Warm water discharges, like the MG and E discharge on Lake Monona, are always holding fish with their warmer water.
  • Shallow water feeding flats with dark bottoms warm faster attracting most fish species are always worth fishing.

These locations are what you are looking for this time of year. There should be crappies and bluegills in most of these spots, but they also can hold any species that is in the lake. So, don’t be surprised to find walleyes, pike, bass, muskies, and pike in any of these locations. The key to all these locations is finding warmer water and food. These two factors and reproduction are the driving forces behind where fish are located and their level of activity. The recent cool weather has forced many fish into smaller areas with warmer water.

Species wise, if you’re after crappies and bluegills try fishing Lake Waubesa, Lake Kegonsa, and Lake Wingra. Lake Mendota warms the slowest, but Marshall Park, Spring Harbor, and Warner Bay are good because they are off the main lake and warm much sooner. The crappies spawn first and then the bluegills, so with the unstable weather they are constantly moving in and out of the shallows waiting for the proper conditions.

On all the Chain lakes, you will find largemouth bass in most of the warmer bays and near any wooden piers that you can find. Smallmouth bass are abundant in Lake Mendota and can be found in many spots. I’d look for them on any of the flats with rock or hard bottoms, especially if you can find any new emerging weeds.

The panfish in Lake Monona are located near any structure in Squaw Bay, Turville Bay, Pirate Island, and in and around the Brittingham Park area. The fish are shallow so don’t worry about fishing water deeper than 12 feet. Again, look for fish near the locations that I’ve previously mentioned.

A muskie making a faux spawning run into Lake Wingra in Madison

A muskie making a faux spawning run into Lake Wingra in Madison

Lake Waubesa and Lake Monona will warm quicker than the other area lakes, so I’d first fish these waters. Kegonsa lacks much structure, so I’d concentrate my efforts around the shorelines, in the bays, around any fish cribs, and near any emerging weeds. Lake Waubesa has much more structure than Kegonsa and will provide good early fishing for panfish, walleyes, and even muskies. My pick for opening weekend would be Lake Waubesa because it has a wide range of possibilities on what may be active and catchable. This lake has a good population of walleyes with a 15” minimum vs. the 18 inch minimum on Lake Mendota. Lake
Waubesa also has the most walleyes per acre of any of the Madison Lakes.

Lake Wingra is the smallest lake in the “Chain” and by far the warmest this time of year. Small bluegills are common and easily caught from shore. If you have never caught a muskie then this is the lake to try. There are many muskies from 30 to 40 inches and also some larger ones approaching 50 inches. Remember unlike northern Wisconsin, the muskie season is open south of Highway 10 and the Madison lakes are good muskie waters for the season opening.

It’s impossible to cover all local waters in one article, but I’ve tried to cover some of the best and early locations for catching fish in and around the Madison area. The equipment that I’d use are an open-faced spinning reel spooled with 6 pound monofilament, like Berkley Trilene, for walleyes and bass and 4 pound test for panfish. Tie on your line a Bait Rigs Cobra jig in 1/16 or 1/32 ounce and baited with a small minnow, wax worm, or leaf worm about two to four feet under a sensitive Thill Float or bobber. Then, cast it into the shallows around any structure like piers, wood, trees, or brush and slowly retrieve the rig pausing now and then. Sometimes, just let the float sit and giggle it occasionally for the slow moving fish. Remember that the fish are not very active after the cold of winter.

Walleyes should also be shallow and near any drop-offs or breaklines. Casting toward shore or from shore and slowly dragging a Slo-Poke jig and minnow back to you can be very productive this time of year. As the water warms, I switch to using nightcrawlers and leeches. Jig color is not as important as getting your bait in the fish’s face!

Muskies and pike seasons are both open and I’d suggest casting crankbaits and slow-rolling spinnerbaits in the shallows while working a slow and irregular retrieve. I’d jerk my crankbaits and even let them sit for a few seconds before twitching and retrieving them. Remember, to fish most if not all of your baits very slowly.

For those who don’t have boats, this is the best time to fish from shore or wade because most fish are shallow and accessible. The Madison Lakes have many piers for fishing that will provide action from many species. Try using live bait and fish slow and you’ll have some action and hopefully enough fish for a good fish fry.

Be sure to buy a new license. They are a great buy for the money. Be sure to get a Wisconsin Rules and Regulations booklet because rules and laws change from lake to lake. Lastly, take a kid, a senior, a neighbor, or your wife fishing and hopefully you’ll have a fishing partner for life! Enjoy this weekend and try to get in the outdoors fishing this summer because it’s great recreation and something that the whole family can do together in the outdoors.

Contacts; Fishing guides, Wally Banfi (608)-644-9823, Terry Frey (608)-220-6366, and Tony Puccio (6080-212-6464, Ron Barefield (608)-235-7685, and Lee Tauchen (608)-444-2180.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Free Speech May 6, 2010 at 11:12 PM

With the cold temps coming the Crappies may slow down. A few friends and cohorts earlier in the week caught some nice crappies and a few dandy bluegills tight against the shorelines and in the timber if you can find some. My feeling is just getting a line wet is reward enough these days.

2 dzemrus May 6, 2010 at 8:02 PM

anybody out there, this weekend good or bad? love to fish no matter..

3 dzemrus May 6, 2010 at 7:59 PM

great info, going fishing this weekend if weather permits. all info is great and appreiciate the input, hope all do well….

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: