River Currents

by Free Speech on March 11, 2010

Lodi, WI~

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

Lodi, WI
3/12/10
by Gary Engberg
©2010 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Early Open-Water Opportunities

A nice Wisconsin River sauger

This is the time of the year for fishing shows after the snow and cold of winter. These consumer shows get anglers in the mood for open water fishing and thinking past the hard water season which will still be around for a few weeks and maybe even longer. Two weeks ago, the Madison Fishing Expo had a great three day run with good crowds and excellent speakers, not to mention all the new equipment and gear for fishers to see for the 2010 season.

This past weekend, the Wilderness Fish and Game store in Sauk City had their 27th Annual Free Fishing Clinic and Sale with three knowledgeable and experienced professional anglers; Dave Ehardt, Adam Oberfoell, and Eric Haataja giving relevant seminars. Big Dave (of John Gillespie’s Woods and Waters fame) talked about fishing the Wisconsin River for early walleyes and saugers. Big Dave is now guiding and fishing the river and says that the good fishing is still down the road a few weeks. But, he is catching walleyes, as I write, with the bite being hot and cold. Adam gave an excellent Power Point seminar on fishing for pressured muskies. He is an area guide and tournament professional who fishes the Madison Chain and local waters for muskies and gave numerous pointers for area waters to try during the early part of the season. Eric Haataja, is a charter captain and guide from Kenosha, who is one of the state’s top multi-species anglers. Eric spoke about where and how he fishes through the seasons starting with spring when he spends the month of April fishing the waters of Green Bay for walleyes. Eric is now fishing the streams and tributaries of Lake Michigan for big trout. This is some of the year’s best brown trout fishing with water clarity and flow being of importance.

There is great ice fishing just before ice-out for perch, bluegills, and crappies. The timing is perfect for the fishing shows, because from now till the end of the month there are more opportunities to fish open water and catch fish walleyes, saugers, northern pike, and panfish. The areas where you are catching fish on the ice are going to be in the same general area as you’ll be fishing once the ice is gone.

Now, thru the end of March and into April is the beginning of the open water fishing season. There is still a considerable amount of ice on most area lakes. The exceptions are rivers, like the Wisconsin River, where anglers are fishing below the dams at Nekoosa, Wisconsin Dells, and Sauk City. The Mississippi River is just starting to open up too at Genoa and Lynxsville. Anglers have been fishing these waters for going on two weeks with some success. Last week, the night’s were still cold with temperatures down to the low teen’s and day time temperatures around 40 degrees. The cold mornings caused a little “skim” ice, but this was gone as soon as the sun rose above the horizon. The best fishing is during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point and warming the water. This week, things look better for fishing despite the threat of a few showers. The nights are warming up with temperatures above freezing and day time temps in the mid to upper 40’s. Now, the water is 35 degrees and the warmer nights and days should start getting walleyes and saugers active on the rivers of Wisconsin. I’ll keep you informed as fishing improves. You’ll catch fish now, but many are smaller male walleyes and better fishing isn’t far away.

A beautiful rainbow trout, photo by Ray Wahl, Spring Green, WI

The edges of many of the Madison and area lakes are starting to open as are the lagoons, creeks, streams, and back water bays of smaller lakes. Remember that smaller bodies of water open sooner and anywhere that you can find open, calm, and shallow water with a dark bottom you’ll find early crappies actively seeking out these warm water locations. The nice thing about many of these early locations is that they are best fished from shore. If you know the habitat that crappies and walleyes are looking for this time of year then you’ll have success. Now, water temperature can vary and a shallow water location with as dark bottom can have its temperature rise dramatically when the sun is up and shining. An open water location that is just a few degrees warmer will attract early crappies. Take a drive around the Madison Chain and area lakes and you’ll find some of these out-of-the-way locations where crappies now congregate.

Early crappies also love wood, so anywhere that you find trees, stumps, piers, brush, and timber will have early crappies. The wood absorbs sunlight which warms the surrounding waters besides getting the food chain in motion. The warmer water allows the plankton to emerge and attract the forage fish which bring the crappies. The depth of the water is shallow, only 2-4 feet deep. A couple of other early tips are to fish the northern shoreline of rivers and lakes because they get the most sunlight and warm up quicker which again brings in the fish and particularly the panfish. Another tip is to fish the area’s where a south wind blows the warmer water back into the shallow bays.

This past weekend was also the opening of the early trout season. I received reports from friends, Len Harris and Ray Wahl, who were out on south-western Wisconsin trout streams in Richland, Vernon, and Crawford counties. Len was a speaker at the Madison fishing Expo and knows the Coulee water streams as well as anyone (check out John Nolan’s post on the WSJ website). Both Len and Ray had good day’s trout fishing once the sun warmed up and they could feel their fingers. Fishing improved as the day went on with the sun warming the stream’s waters as the day progressed. Flies and spinners (Mepps and Panther Martins) both worked on the gin-clear streams with the biggest problem being walking on the snowy banks. Both Len and Ray said they encountered other fishers, but if you moved around you could always find “fresh” water. Len knows streams that aren’t even named! Both remarked about the clear water and little run-off. Len told me that Sunday was a better day with the overcast skies and melting snows. All of Len’s trout (over 30) were caught in slow and deep water with no fish coming from fast water on either Saturday or Sunday. All of the trout were located 10-20 yards below the available structure.

If you have had “cabin fever” or are tired of ice fishing, here are three open water opportunities that will do nothing but improve as the weather and waters warm. Take your pick of river walleye fishing, trout fishing, or searching for crappies because all of these species are just starting to emerge from the “funk” of winter and getting active. I’ll keep you informed as the fishing improves. www.garyengbergoutdoors.com

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