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Choose the right lake for early season Walleye
Fishing Guide Mike Mladenik Fishing the Menominee River in Marinette,
Florence, & Oconto Counties Wisconsin
The first Saturday in May marks the opening of the regular fishing season
in Wisconsin. This year we are fortunate to get off to an early start as
the season opens on May 6th. Walleyes remain the number one target
during May throughout the state. The walleye opener is long awaited
by many anglers especially across northern Wisconsin. Anglers do have the
option of fishing certain rivers for spring walleye runs or lakes with
special regulations but there is something unique about opening day.
For many, opening day is a ritual and they fish the same lake
or flowage. However the objective is still to try and catch a few walleyes
for dinner. While one year the walleyes may be active on your favorite
lake, the next year they can have lock jaw. The problem wasn’t the lake
or the anglers ability, but rather there timing. If you really want to
be successful on the opener you will need to approach opening day with
an open mind.
Last year was an exception and walleyes were active on most lakes
and flowages by the opener. Ice was gone by mid April and we were in a
month long warming trend. Even cold fronts, which are common in spring,
were a rare occurrence. Not only were male walleyes on the feed but
females also were active.
Being a full time guide experience has taught me to forget about tradition
or what happened last year. Each year is different and the wise angler
heads out on the water with a well thought out game plan. Walleyes don’t
pay attention to the calendar but rely on water temperature. So when the
ice leaves a lake or flowage, will dictate walleye activity by the opener
not the calendar.
Flowages can be the first place you see open water in spring. Due to
snow melt, and increased water flow, ice out can occur earlier than most
natural lakes. On many flowages ice out is by mid April. As
the water temperature climbs pre-spawn walleyes go on the move. Walleyes
will head up both the main river and feeder creeks to spawn. By the season
opener walleyes have completed spawning and are in post spawn. Male
walleyes will supply action and can be counted on for a meal. Under stable
weather patterns males will relate to shoreline wood or emerging weeds.
A light 1/16 ounce jig and fathead minnow or jig and twister tail is
deadly. When using a light jig it is critical that the jig has an
oversized hook. Use a slow steady retrieve with your jig. Due to the stained
water six or eight pound will due. I prefer
XT clear six pound test in the snag infested flowages. A 6’6” medium light
action rod like a
IMS 661 or a GS 66 MT Walleye Special is perfect for this situation.
Flowages are the most productive waters to fish after a cold front.
After a cold front walleyes will hold tight to wood and you will need to
fish them accordingly. Toss out a slip bobber and minnow as
close to the stump as possible. Another option is to still fish a live
minnow on the bottom. Females will relate to wood along the main
river channel with vertical jigging most effective. Females will make movements
into the shallows early and late in the day to feed. After a cold front
use lighter line and crawl your jig as slow as possible. Often no retrieve
is the best retrieve.
Shallow weedy natural lakes will also see early ice out. Many of these
lakes are stocked walleye lakes with only marginal spawning taking place.
Structure is limited and walleyes are easy to locate. The water can range
from moderately clear to stained. If there is an artificial spawning
reef in the lake or riprap shorelines walleyes can be drawn there in big
schools. Even a small rock pile or gravel point can attract a large
school of walleyes. The first week after ice out can see phenomenal action
with smaller males. Get out early in the day and work the structure with
shallow running crankbaits or a jig and twister tail. During the
day drift or cast a jig and minnow. A cold front can shut down walleye
fishing for a few days.
The next lakes to see active walleyes are small deep clear natural
lakes. I am referring to lakes between 100 and 300 acres. Most of these
lakes have limited structure but can have an excellent walleye population.
Besides having a good overall walleye population a fair number of big fish
can be present. Most of these lakes will see ice out about one week after
a flowage or shallow weedy lake. If the conditions are right walleyes can
be in pre-spawn by the opener. Be on the water before daylight and cast
a jig and minnow tight to shoreline points and rubble. As the sun rises
concentrate your fishing to the breakline. A 1/16-ounce jig and fathead
minnow will supply action with male walleyes. If you are looking for big
walleyes try a light jig with an oversized hook and a shiner. If
you hit these lakes during full spawn, put the boat on the trailer and
head down the road.
The last lakes to see walleye action are the large deep clear water
lakes. Walleye structure can either be limited or abundant. Lakes with
limited structure may have a lower walleye population but finding them
will be easier. If the ice leaves the lake just before the opener you can
experience hot trophy action. Big females will stack up on points or gravel
shorelines. Once spawning is completed these are the most difficult lakes
to fish with walleyes heading for deep water until weeds take hold. When
fishing pre-spawn walleyes on a trophy lake catch and release is important.
The only time a big walleye should be kept is if you are going to have
Early season walleye fishing need not be feast or famine. Pick a list
different lake types and pick the right lake for the conditions. Don’t
make the mistake of always fishing the same lake during the early season.
To book an early season walleye trip go to my web site www.fishinginfo.com/go/mikemladenik
or call 715-854-2055.
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Tyler Fishing the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Circuit, Masters
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