River Currents

by Free Speech on March 10, 2009

Lodi, WI~

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


by Gary Engberg

©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

The month of March has turned out to be “typical” for this time of the year with temperatures one day near 60 degrees and then a few days later snow and cold. Winter is still trying to hold on and spring is already showing its signs. Recently, I’ve seen geese that are migrating north and not the hardy ones that stay around the open water in the Wisconsin River most of the winter. I’ve also seen robins and cranes locally who probably wish that they’d stayed south another week or two after seeing Sunday’s snow and ice.

But, the one sure sign of spring is the walleye anglers who are heading our way to fish for walleyes and saugers below the many dams on the Wisconsin River. Anglers have been fishing below the dams at Prairie du Sac and Wisconsin Dells for a couple of weeks with good success. Though water temperatures are still in the 30’s, there are active fish in both the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers (Genoa and Dresbach). Besides here and the Dells, there also is open-water fishing happening at the Wausau/Stevens Point area and the Nekoosa Dam both on the Wisconsin River.

I’ve kept records for the last 16 years and most years the largest fish are caught and hopefully released the last few days of February and the first two weeks of March in the Wisconsin River. Before last winter and most likely this winter too, the mean or average winter temperature had risen for a decade. If you look back, you can remember those winters with their mild temperatures and lack of snow. But, the last two winters have returned us to frigid temperatures, feet of snow, and the best ice fishing in years.

I ice fished more this past winter than I have in years. The reasons why I ice fished so much was the good local fishing on most waters and the need to cure “cabin fever” during another tough winter.

Warm temperatures and spawning walleye created this flotilla of fishermen below the dam in Sauk.

Warm temperatures and spawning walleye created this flotilla of fishermen below the dam at Sauk-Prairie.

The other day, I counted 62 boats fishing below the Prairie du Sac Dam when the temperature was close to 60 degrees. The day before there was a skim layer of ice below the dam with boats still fishing outside the ice. The boat landing at the Prairie VFW was open and clear with a packed parking lot. I waded from shore that day without much success. The blue bird sky and bright sun probably didn’t help the fishing, but a few boats were catching some small male saugers. The small male walleyes and saugers always precede the larger and pre-spawn walleyes to spawning sites a week or two before the females arrive to lay their eggs and hopefully have the male fish fertilize them. Both the walleyes and their cousin, the sauger, have been moving toward the dam and staging up and down the river for months. The fish find good spawning locations up and down the river and not always directly below the dam as the number of boats would indicate.

I suggest that anglers try to get on the water during low-light periods of the day. By this, I mean that you fish early in the morning before the sun rises and late in the afternoon an hour or two before sunset. These are the times when both walleyes and saugers will go shallow and feed. It’s possible to find fish in water less than 5 feet deep during these low-light times. I recommend using a jig/minnow, a jig/plastic, or a plain hook with a bead for attraction and a split shot. Anchoring in prime locations works, but I prefer using my trolling motor to slowly move around while vertical jigging one of the combinations I just mentioned. Try to have a few rods rigged differently to change your presentations and jigging cadence till you find what the fish want the day that you’re fishing.

Some nice 'eyes from the Wsiconsin River below the dam at Sauk.

Some nice 'eyes from the Wisconsin River below the dam at Sauk-Prairie.

If you’re jigging try to stay as vertical as possible or you’ll constantly be getting snagged. I can usually use a 1/8th ounce jig and I’ll tip it with a plastic twister tail and fathead minnow or at times just the jig/plastic combo. As far as colors go, I like dark colors in the morning and brighter colors in the afternoon. Keep changing colors and combo’s till you find the one the fish like that day. Wisconsin allows three rods per person, so always have a “dead” rod in a rod holder. Some days, the dead rod will catch all your fish. I suggest that you try to stay away from the crowds since other boats will spook the fish by their noise.

Another good tactic this time of the year is to wade during the prime periods (low light) of the day. Wear a pair of 4 ML waders for warmth because the water is still very cold and cast jig and plastic combinations and shallow running crankbaits like floating Rapalas, Mann’s Minus 1’s, and Rapala Husky Jerks. These stickbaits have a tight wobble which you want early in the spring. Fan cast these baits where you’re wading and retrieve them very slowly with the occasional snap and jerk. Also, try letting them sit still for a minute or two before reeling them in while using a stop and go retrieve. Be sure to wear a life jacket and don’t fish alone.

The time is almost here for the major spring walleye action. The best action should happen in the next week or two depending on the water temperature. Walleyes and saugers will spawn when the water reaches the low to mid forties which isn’t that far away. There is a cold front coming, but it won’t last long so be ready for the local action. Lately, there already have been some nine and ten pound fish caught locally!

Clements Fishing Barge at Genoa on the Mississippi River will open Thursday, March 19, 2009. You can fish the whole day for only $16.00 and they have everything that you need including rental cabins. Call Mark at 1-800-903-4903 or go to www.clementsfishing.com. Their barge is in a great location and if you don’t have a boat.

Your fishing license expires March 31, 2009.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Kurt Dovenbarger March 14, 2009 at 7:57 PM

I used to have a phone number to call to check waterflow and temp for all the dams. Anyone know that number?

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