River Currents

by Free Speech on March 24, 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

It’s That Time of Year!

This past weekend was beautiful with temperatures in the high 50’s and pushing the 60 degree mark in parts of southern Wisconsin. The next few days of this week are supposed to be more of the same with temperatures in the 60’s and sunny skies. So, I believe that the forecast for the coming week will warm the Wisconsin River waters sufficiently to get the walleyes and sauger spawning or very close to laying their eggs. Walleyes will normally spawn when the water temperature is in the 42 to 45 degree mark. You must also realize that walleyes will not all spawn the same day. The spawning period may last anywhere from a week to ten days. There are other factors that also affect when walleyes spawn and reproduce and those variables include; the number of male fish, some water current or flow to oxygenate the eggs that the females drop, a desirable location which preferably has a marble-sized rock and gravel bottom content, and then most importantly the water temperature.
I think that these factors will all be present this week allowing the larger females to find a proper location to spawn and where the smaller males can fertilize the eggs. Walleyes (mostly males) have been moving upriver since last fall and many of these males are the fish that many anglers have been catching for the last few weeks. The last month or two, the egg-laden females have started their migration up the Wisconsin River looking for that “magic spot” where they will deposit their eggs.
It was fantastic to be outside the last few days and I took full advantage of the spring in the air to work around the yard and get in some river fishing while curing my “cabin fever.” Both Saturday and Sunday, there was a flotilla of boats below the Prairie du Sac Dam fishing for walleyes and saugers. This scenario is also taking place up and down rivers throughout Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. I talked to many anglers and Sauk County Conservation Warden John Buss about how the fishing was over the weekend. Most of the anglers that I talked to caught some fish with many being small male saugers and walleyes that were under the legal limit for walleyes of 18 inches and 15 inches for saugers. Warden Buss checked 45 boats on Saturday and told me that he saw about 15 to 20 legal fish and he also added that he didn’t write any tickets for violations. Anglers reported to me that they were catching numerous rough fish, paddlefish, and even the odd muskie.

Wading near shore below the Sauk Dam can produce some large, early season walleyes.

Wading near shore below the Sauk Dam can produce some large, early season walleyes.

There’s one thing that I said to Warden Buss which later proved true! There are over 85 miles of the Wisconsin River from the Prairie Dam to its confluence with the Mississippi River. Anglers must realize that not all the walleyes and saugers travel upriver to the first impoundment which on the Wisconsin River is the dam at Prairie du Sac. There are countless locations up and down the Wisconsin River where fish (walleyes and saugers) will stage and hold while waiting to spawn. But, few fishers travel downriver when looking for good walleye fishing locations.
I decided to fish downriver from Sauk City about five miles and this time of the year I like to wade or shore fish. The gear that I use is nothing special with a six to seven foot medium to medium-light rod with a fast tip. I use G.Loomis rods, but anglers can find very good walleye rods in the $40.00 to $50.00 range. To this, add a good open-face spinning reel like a Daiwa, Shimano, or Okuma spooled with six to eight pound Berkley XT monofilament line. The water is still very cold with 34 degrees being the average temperature that I found over the weekend. But, this week’s warming trend will bump the water temperature up and close or at the walleye’s magic number for spawning.
Saturday, I attached jigs from 1/8th to ¼ ounce to my line and used darker colors in the morning and brighter colors in the afternoon for the river walleyes. Since, we were wading and shore fishing I wore knee high rubber boots or 4 ML (milliliters) waders and by we, I mean me and fishing friends, Bob Zownir of Madison and Gene Olsen of Mazomanie. We all caught nice size walleyes in the 19 to 22 inch range with the size minimum being 18 inches for walleyes on the river and 15 inches for the walleye’s cousin, the sauger. But, this day nothing but walleyes was caught and most of the fish were over 20 inches and of cookie-cutter size. The technique we used was nothing special, a jig and a 3 to 4 inch plastic twister tail in blue, black, and purple. The darker colors were what the fish wanted on Saturday! The walleyes caught were in the river’s current and quite active. Usually river walleyes this time of year are hiding behind an object to block the current, conserve their energy, and wait to ambush any forage that goes floating by. You’ll want to use a slow presentation most of the time in spring, but these fish slammed our jigs and plastic over the weekend. The shallow water and rock bars prevent many anglers from venturing down the Wisconsin River too far without a Jon boat or a jet engine that allows you to travel in water only inches deep. If you have a boat of this type use it and be careful or look for the many areas with state land that allow shore fishing and wading.
The Wisconsin River has many locations from Sauk City to Spring Green where you can wade and catch walleyes many miles away from the boat clusters and other anglers below the state’s many dams. There’s something magical in the smells, sounds, and migrating wildlife of spring that make the solitude of fishing away from masses more appealing and often more productive. Give it a try and I promise that you’ll see what I mean. Check my website, www.garyengbergoutdoors.com for current videos and fishing reports on spring walleyes. The Mississippi River is open at Genoa and soon Clements Fishing Barge (www.clementsfishing.com) will be open too.

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