Mar 10, 2015
This has been a good ice season in Northwestern Wisconsin. Good weather has provided easy access on to the ice all across the area. Nice pike fishing on Lac Courte Oreilles continues, shiners under tip-ups stationed on weed flats and edges is the way to go here. Action at any time of day is possible. Expect nice bluegill and crappie fishing to be an excellent distraction from watching for flags too.
Speaking of panfish action, Spooner Lake is experiencing a very good year, kicking out big numbers of medium sized fish. Spikes or waxies on a teardrop jig works well here.
Chippewa Flowage crappie fishing during late ice should be great again too. Actually, there are a lot of small to medium sized lakes from the Flowage west across Sawyer and Washburn Counties that have good crappie fishing. If you’re going to enjoy some of this late ice action remember to only keep enough fish for a meal or two, and release the rest. It really doesn’t take much over harvesting to hurt a lake for a long time.
Good luck and good fishing,
Jim Stroede, Jim Stroede Guide Service, www.jimstroedefishing.com, 715-520-7043
Alice, Nokomis, and Manson Lakes
Fishing late ice can be very rewarding here in the Northwood’s. Alice, Nokomis, and Manson Lakes have an excellent bluegill and crappie bite. Look to fish small to medium sized bays with fair weed growth and wood. You may have success with tip-downs, but jigging a spoon or jig, tipped with a minnow or minnow head, is an awesome way to catch these fish when they’re on the prowl. Darter jigs also work well too.
If you are looking to go even further north, give Kentuck Lake in Vilas Co. a try. This lake also has a great late ice panfish bite. Most of the Wisconsin River areas open up a little sooner so if it’s walleyes you are looking for, this can be a great time to fish. They can be found in slack water areas below dams. Jig and minnow combos work well. As always, check with a local guide, bait shop, or the DNR on ice reports before you head out.
Be safe, have fun, and “Make it a great day in the outdoors.”
Todd Schulz, Musky Moon Guide Service, www.MuskyMoonGuideService.com, 715-212-9745
West Central Wisconsin
This is kind of a weird time of year. March can be so unpredictable. Flashback, way back, to 2012. Remember the year the world ended? We had 80 degree weather at the beginning of March. I was doing my spring yardwork on March 10th, while sweating and being swarmed by mosquitoes- all right next to what was left of a snowbank. That year, I drove by a local lake, albeit a smaller lake, on St Patty's Day, and saw a couple of guys fishing....from a BOAT! After the past two springs of 2013 and 2014, 2012 seems like a lifetime ago! What will 2015 bring?
We will start here. Though most game fish are now closed, there is little doubt the most popular targeted fish in the winter months are bluegills. And this is a great starting spot for folks in the Chippewa Valley; a short drive up Highway 53 from the Eau Claire area. Typical panfish behavior in the chain of lakes such as Prairie and Pokegama may go like this; fish for hours, hopping holes, not marking anything, and then, the last two hours of daylight, BOOM! Now if you are fishing Ojaski, you may experience the exact opposite. Stick to the basics. Moon jigs tipped with waxies. They will work exceptionally well. For bigger crappies, put out a couple of tip-downs and be ready to run at them!
Now let us assume that the above paragraph was written about the month of March, and this paragraph is about the second half of April…assuming the ice has melted. Let's hope at least, or this paragraph should be in the May/June issue instead! OK. So the ice is now off the Chain, and you want to go chase some ice out bluegills. The time is now. Anglers use a variety of different methods to catch these fish. You see a lot of fly fishermen having luck with wet flies. Small jigs with waxies still work well, as do leaf worms, tube jigs, and my personal favorite Gulp Alive one inch minnows. Fish shallow; in four feet or less. Fish shorelines and downed timber. Areas such as Gopher Bay, and the floating bog on Prairie Lake are popular spots.
When you talk about crappie fishing, many people think of an 11 inch crappie as a pretty nice crappie, especially when fishing waters like the Chetek Chain. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an 11 inch crappie. But let me tell you, while fishing Lake Wissota, and showing off your pile of spring crappie, you will probably blush a little bit when your buddies gaze upon your 11 inchers. But the fact is, your buddy will hardly even notice the 11inch crappies. They will be too busy gawking over your 12-14 inchers (possibly even a 15 or 16). Now, are you going to go out and catch 25 crappies every time you go out? Probably not. A dozen? Maybe. But I am preaching quality over quantity here. Once the water hits the 60 degree mark, that is typically the best time to go out. You could also go by the Old Fisherman's tale of, "when the lilacs bloom" (really, you would not believe how accurate that is!) Minnows and slip bobbers are a good tool, fished around the timber. I usually like to dead stick a minnow right under the boat, maybe a foot off of the bottom, just in case they are deep. Limits happen. However, satisfaction can come in smaller batches.
Mississippi River Pool 4 (Red Wing)
Ok, let me be honest with you. Not ice fishing, not salmon fishing, not bird hunting, nor deer hunting, is what I live and breathe for every year. There is not a day of the year that goes by, where early March boat fishing for walleye and sauger at Red Wing doesn't cross my mind. It's my happy place! To me there is no better feeling than launching the boat for the first time in the spring; letting the Mercury roar and cruising up stream past the boats at the "Y" and moving toward Lock and Dam number 3. After shivering the whole way up, enjoy the relief of the warm up as the boat comes to a stop. Breathe in the crisp, cool air and observe one of the many bald eagles waiting for a meal. Anglers are fishing very close to you- it's kind of like bumper boats at times. But none of that seems to matter. I am in my happy place.
Ok, that got a little carried away!! I am going to tell you how I fish this water. My personal preference is hair jigs, tipped with a fathead and vertically jigged. A stinger hook is a must. I use 4-6 pound test, which will help your bait more easily find the bottom. I know hair jigs can be pricey, but it is important to have a variety and multiples of each color. Now the colder the water, the slower the jigging technique. If my technique isn't your forte, an extremely popular method is dragging plastics. Ringworms, Pulse-R's, and Moxi's, made by B Fish N Tackle Company, are "go to" baits for many anglers on the "Big Muddy."
Into the month of April, the spring runoff flows into most rivers and creeks in both Northern Wisconsin and Northern Minnesota alike. All of this water will find its way to the longest river in the Continental United States. And we will experience some flooding. It is a given. The water is higher, dirtier, and faster. And the hardcore walleye angler is determined as ever. A popular method, during this stage of the spring, is pitching blade baits to the flooded trees. Every year, large spawning walleye over ten pounds are taken by this method. Now this is not going to be as fun as say, jigging for sauger in early March, but this is a case of quality over quantity. Always remember, respect the river. Stay safe.
Chris Powell, Chippewa Valley Guide Service, 715-577-9771, www.Lake-Wissota.com
South Central Wisconsin
- In early March, pre-spawn pike can be found staging in many of Koshkonong’s shallow bays. If safe ice is still present, tip-up fishing for these pike can be very productive. Try targeting these spots while using sturdy tip-ups rigged with large shiners or suckers. Like many lakes, once water temps hit 35 to 40 degrees, pike move into very shallow areas with marsh grass or reeds present and begin to spawn. Larger females drop eggs while smaller males swim alongside fertilizing them. The eggs then attach to the grass or reeds until hatching. After the eggs are dropped, pike leave the spawning area and start feeding like crazy. Water usually opens up by the time post spawn pike start aggressively feeding. Throwing spinners, shallow running cranks, or simply tossing a bobber out with a large minnow can be productive. Trying other bait presentations may trigger these awesome predators into biting…just make sure you have strong tackle!
Walleye action really picks up in early April on the Koshkonong system. Many anglers will hit the Upper Rock River area and overlook the main lake basin. Even though Lake Koshkonong has very little structure, locating the few rocky areas that are present can be worthwhile for not only walleye, but also for panfish. Slip bobbers rigged with fathead minnows or slowly bottom bouncing jigs can all produce fish at these locations. If the wind is right, simply dragging a minnow tipped jig while drifting will also work well here. Drift speed will dictate your jig size, but try starting with a 1/8 oz. and increase size if needed to maintain bottom contact.
Upper Rock River
- As stated above, many anglers will hit the Upper Rock River in search of pig walleyes…and for good reason. It’s no secret this area produces nice walleyes, year after year, as they head up river to spawn. The deeper water near Blackhawk Island to the slightly shallower water near the Bark River inlet and beyond offer great opportunities. Many anglers stick with the basic vertical jigging technique while maintaining boat position with their trolling motor. Northland Tackle’s or Kalin’s 1/8 oz gumball jig work fine, as do Odd Ball jigs and VMC jigs. Try experimenting with color and presentation speed…it can change daily. Again, keep jigs close to the bottom and increase jig size if needed. Vibration’s Tackle “Echotail” blade baits also work well here. This very versatile bait can be vertical jigged or casted. Jig or retrieve the bait fast enough to feel the vibration in your line and wait for strikes. Other methods of fishing here include dragging and casting baits. For dragging, let out just enough line to keep the jig off the bottom. Allow the river current to move you while maintaining position with the trolling motor. For casting, use crankbaits, plastic swim baits, or minnow tipped jigs. This works from the shoreline or from your boat towards the shoreline. Slowly retrieve them while being careful not to snag.
Lower Rock River
- The Indianford Dam and Monterey Dam both offer great fishing opportunities for spring walleye and pike. Indianford Dam can be found just outside Edgerton, Wisconsin while the Monterey Dam is further south in Janesville, Wisconsin. Both offer large areas for shoreline anglers; however things can get crowded if you come to the party late. Casting minnow tipped jigs, cranks, and plastics all work well here. There are plenty of snags present, so bring extra tackle. If you end up needing extra tackle or bait, you’ll find “Trep’s Bait & Tackle” above the Indianford Dam and “It’s A Keeper Bait & Tackle” near the entrance to Monterey Dam. Both owners will likely have additional tips to get you on fish.
Captain Adam Walton, Pike Pole Fishing Guide Service, www.pikepolefishing.com, 608-290-3929
East Central Wisconsin
The ice season on lower Green Bay got off to an unusual start this year due to abnormally cloudy water. Anglers are still having luck targeting popular species including walleye, perch, and whitefish. Brighter colors such as firetiger and pink have been working well due to the cloudy water. Walleyes can come in 5 to 12 feet of water at dawn or dusk. Jigs tipped with a minnow or a standard jigging Rapala work best. Perch can be caught in shallow sand flats on minnows or Swedish Pimples. Whitefish numbers have been good with fish coming on jigging spoons tipped with wax worms, as well as smaller-sized bluegill jigs tipped with a wax worm. Moving around is key to stay on the active schools of fish.
White Potato Lake is giving up eater-sized walleyes in the shallow weeds. Tip-ups right before dark, and into the night work best. Also, many sizable bass are being caught on tip-ups as well. With the shallow nature of this lake, being mobile is key as anglers find panfish scattered through the many weed beds, including perch and crappies.
Lake Noquebay is producing good northern pike action, along with crappies and the occasional walleye. Tip-ups with large shiner minnows or suckers work best for the pike along breaks and weed edges. Crappies can be found suspended and targeted with minnows or small jigging Rapalas.
Captain Scott Allen, Allen’s Guide Service, Green Bay Ice Fishing, 920-660-2007, www.AllensGuideService.com or www.GreenBayIceFishing.com
As soon as the ice disappears, the Wolf River will start to produce large numbers of walleyes. This fishing can be done by vertical jigging or anchoring on the edge of the current and hopping or popping a Jig off the bottom. A Wolf River Rig, tipped with a floating jig head and a minnow, is also a very productive way of catching fish. Walleyes will stay in the Wolf River until the middle of June.
The Fox River, from Lake Poygan to Lake Winnebago, will also produce large numbers of walleyes using some of the same techniques that are used on the Wolf. Vertical jigging in the main current is a very popular way of catching walleyes at this time of the year. A very unique way of fishing on the Fox is to pull flies against the current. This is pretty much a local technique that I have not seen done anywhere else in the country. Most bait shops in the area will be able to help you set up for it. You will be able to catch walleyes, white bass, and perch using this method.
As soon as the ice leaves Lake Winnebago all eyes will start to show up on the reefs and rock piles. These fish can be caught by jigging, slip bobbering, and trolling. Don't be surprised. All the walleyes in Winnebago do not go up the river to spawn, some spawn in the lake. These fish can be targeted in the shallows in the early evening or early morning.
Fox River to Bay of Green Bay
Fox River from the De Pere dam to the Bay of Green Bay will come alive with walleyes as soon as the ice is out. As the water warms up, the bigger females will move to the shorelines and can be caught at dusk and into twilight by casting large shallow running crankbaits. The Bay of Green Bay will start to produce fish as soon as the ice is gone. These fish can be targeted by trolling crankbaits behind planer boards. Remember, when fishing the Bay of Green Bay and the Fox River below the De Pere dam, there are certain rules that apply. Be sure to check all game laws and know the regulations that apply on the body of water you are fishing.
Be safe and make it a great day on the water.
Jim Klein, Bills and Gills Guide Service, 920-680-7660
Ice out in the Fremont area is the start of walleye season. Finally, after a long winter we can pull our boats out of storage. The female walleye are on the way from Winnebago, Winneconne, and Poygan. The males will soon follow.
Drifting and jigging with minnows is the best method. Jig size is determined by the speed of the current. 3/8 and ½ oz. jigs are suggested to start. With cold water temps in the first couple weeks of April, the walleyes are moving slower and will not be as aggressive as post spawn. So, I would suggest stinger hooks in size 12 or 14.
After the spawn, it's game on! Dragging nightcrawlers with smaller jigs (1/8 oz.) and casting cranks is the name of the game. While walleye can still be caught on minnows, dragging and cranking are a great change of pace. While dragging nightcrawlers, use half a crawler with a nice tail off the jig. Cast the jig 20 to 30 ft. from the boat and let it drag on the bottom. The toughest part of this technique is knowing the difference between a walleye and the bottom. You should be dragging sand flats. Casting shad raps and flicker shad can also be very fun for post spawn action. You will want to fish drop ledges or breaks in slack water. Try and experiment with color and size.
Enjoy fishing the Fremont area in April and have a great time. Good luck and tight lines!
Capt. Patrick Morack, Moracktion Guide Service, 920-216-9085