Mar 10, 2015

Late Ice Tips / Early Season Tactics

Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages

Petenwell flowage is located in both Adams and Juneau County. The Petenwell Flowage is 23,040 acres in size and it is 44 feet deep at its deepest point. Anglers can expect to catch a large variety of fish on this inland body of water; crappies, perch, bluegills, pike, musky, catfish, carp, suckers, white bass, both small and largemouth bass, and walleyes can be found here. Petenwell is known for huge crappies ranging in many different year classes up to 16 inches. Also, Petenwell has a very good musky population. A lot of muskies are being caught each year from 44 inches on up to 50 plus. The most targeted fish on Petenwell would be walleyes, as there is a great population on this lake. The lake does maintain a slot limit. Walleyes must be between 15 to 20 inches to keep. From 20 to 28 inches there is no harvest, but you may keep one over 28 inches. The total daily bag limit is five walleyes per angler. Petenwell is also a great area lake for boating, swimming and other recreational water sports. Also, there are two large campgrounds and many boat landings all around the lake open to the public. On the west side, there is Wilderness County Park and on Adams’ side there is Petenwell County Park. Lots of room to enjoy with the family.

Castle Rock Flowage is also located both in Juneau and Adams County. The Castle Rock Flowage is 13,955 acres in size with 36 feet being the deepest point. Anglers can expect to catch bluegills, perch, crappies, catfish, suckers, pike, muskies, white bass, both small and large mouth bass and walleyes on this body of water. Castle Rock is known for walleyes, panfish, and muskies as they are the most targeted fish. Castle Rock has the Buckhorn State Park (located off Hwy G), and the Juneau County Park on the southwest side and on the Adams County side, the Castle Rock County Park. Castle Rock is also a great lake to spend time with family for boating, swimming, and other recreation.

On both Castle Rock and Petenwell Flowage, motor trolling is permitted.

Fishing these two bodies of water in the late winter and early spring can be very rewarding. There are, however, some tricks you should have in your arsenal as you head out on either of these two flowages.

Late season ice, in March, on both Petenwell and Castle Rock can be some of the hottest action all season.  At this time of year, the fish that spawn in the river are generally on the move daily. However, not all fish spawn in the river, you will find big schools of walleye white bass and crappies throughout the flowages.  Areas we like to target are areas along the main channel or big bends in the main river channel. Other areas would be brush piles on the main lake. People like to fish brush on both Castle Rock and Petenwell throughout the winter. If an area of brush has been fished hard by anglers all season, the fish might tend to scatter out away from the structure. These fish can be found by drilling holes out and around the area you are targeting. A lot of times there might be a lot of fish early ice/mid-winter on brush and you come back and they are gone. This will happen quite often. Some of the fish might have just staged there for the winter and moved on. Or, the food that they have been feeding on all winter might have moved. The last few winters we have noticed a lot of roaming fish. Fish will come through in big waves, vanish for a few minutes, and come back. This really is the case with white bass, crappies, and walleyes on both flowages.

When fishing over brush in deep water you will need a good, heavy, tungsten jig. A Chekai jig from Custom Jigs & Spins would be our jig of choice, or we also like to use slender spoons. For jigs, we like to use either plastic or live bait; red spikes or waxies work the best for us. Spoons can be loaded up with red spikes. I like to leave two hooks exposed and run three to four spikes on one hook. This gives a better hooking percentage. Also, two waxies or a minnow head can be effective at times. Another great bait to use would be a rattle spoon.  JB Varmint Rattle Spoon, or a Northland Buckshot Spoon in UV color work very well. Rattle baits work great when the fish leave. Drop down a rattle spoon, jig it very aggressively or bang it on the bottom. Then, once the fish come in, slow your jigging motion down and finesse the fish into biting.

Another great way to put fish on the ice is with tip-downs. A tip-down is a rod and reel that fits in a small bracket. When a fish strikes, it will pull the rod down.  Set the hook and pull them up hand over fist. We like to run tip-downs a couple feet off the bottom. Using this method we are targeting fish that come through suspended high in the water column. This works great on schooling crappies and perch.

This time of year can also be a great bite for walleyes. In March, walleyes will be on their journey to the spawning grounds. You might find them there one day and gone the next. Target these walleyes by fishing deep channel edges, or the main river channel. Most commonly, tip-ups are used with med golden shiners or fatheads close to the bottom. Other anglers prefer to use jigging raps, spoons and blade baits tipped with minnow heads.

On any given year, except last year, ice will start to get bad mid-March. The power company starts dropping the flowages the first of February every year. They lower the water for the spring run-off. You will start to see the lowering of the water about mid-February. Water will drop and the ice will drop down along shore. Proceed with caution when heading out during late ice.

By the end of March, walleyes will be up in the river or below the dams. On Petenwell, walleyes spawn the first week of April, or right around that time. It all depends on the current flow and water temp. Walleyes spawn around the 42 to 44 degree mark. Areas to target on Petenwell would be eddies along shore or flat rocky areas up towards the dam where there is slack water. Walleyes will be stacked up in eddies away from the current. Most fishermen will pitch jigs tipped with fatheads in these areas. Others will pitch ring worms or cast cranks. The key is to find a good area with lots of fast water. Find an area with slack water. Tie your boat up to the trees or anchor above the slack water. Pitch or cast your bait tight to the bank and work them through the eddy.

Castle Rock offers two different rivers to fish. One is the Yellow River, which is located on the west side of Castle Rock (Buckhorn). On the east side, is the Wisconsin River. Both of these rivers have great spawning grounds and a lot of areas to fish. On the east side, fish the train trestle in spring or below the Petenwell dam. Walleyes will head up river from the lake through the trestle and upriver to the dam. However, not all walleyes will spawn in the river or below the dam. Like other lakes, there are lake spawning walleyes on both Petenwell and Castle Rock. Guys will anchor and cast down river dragging jigs along the bottom. There will also be a few guys that vertical jig blade baits or jigs and minnows. On the west side, Yellow River guys will start to fish the Buckhorn Bridge. Walleyes will pass under the bridge and up the river to the spawning ground. Cast jigs with plastics or jigs tipped with large fat heads. Mud minnows also work great this time of year.