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First open water fishing in Wisconsin
Fishing Guide Mike Mladenik Fishing the Menominee River in Marinette,
Florence, & Oconto Counties Wisconsin
In northern Wisconsin when it comes to fishing in March most peoples
thoughts are on late season ice fishing. March action can be good particularly
with panfish. On both natural lakes and flowages, crappie and bluegill
put on the feed. These feeding periods are predictable and last for long
periods of time. Not only can the action heat up but the temperatures
as well. Although nights are cold, days become progressively longer. By
the middle of the month we may even see temperatures breaking 50 degrees.
Along with fishing in comfort you can also encounter some of the largest
panfish of the winter.
Panfish action in March can be great, but walleye action is a
different story. In most places walleye fishing closes the last day of
February. However there are a few exceptions. In Northeast Wisconsin the
Menominee River is open but there is only a one fish bag limit. During
the past few years much focus has been on the Marinette-Menominee area.
Each year the walleye fishing is improving especially in quality. This
last spring there was a 13-pound walleye caught. This early season
is prime time to land a trophy walleye. Even in March if the walleyes are
biting you will find clusters of boats downstream from the Interstate Bridge.
Personally I like to avoid the crows. Some of the best walleye fishing
in March takes place on the upper reaches of the Menominee River.
On the Menominee River there are a series of Power Dams. These dams are
the key to river walleyes in March. While it is impossible to launch a
boat since even river landings are buried under a few feet of ice, shore
fishing conditions are ideal. The Power Company plows the snow so they
have access to the dam leaving only a short walk to the dam. You might
however have truck through deep snow before you start fishing.
In winter water levels are low until the snow begins to melt.
Low water also makes for easy access to prime fishing areas. Later in spring
the river rises and shore fishing can be wary difficult and wading treacherous.
Personally I feel wading is the most effective way to fish below a dam.
Rocky shorelines can make fishing from shore difficult and you may be limited
as to where you can fish. A good pair of insulated waders is a must even
if you hug the shoreline. Waders will also keep you warm as you walk to
deep snow to get to the river. If you get wet from snow before you
fish, it will be a miserable day. It is important to dress warm even
putting on insulated underwear under your waders. Keep in mind that even
tough the air temperature may seem warm the water will be between 35 and
During low water conditions walleyes will stack up in deep holes.
Below every dam there is some sort of wash out. This deep water can be
15 feet or deeper. On smaller dams even an 8 to 10 foot hole
will hold walleyes. In this cold water walleyes are catchable but
you will need to use the proper presentation. Avoiding the current
is critical to success. Even though current flow is minimal walleyes will
hold directly out of the main current.
Fish as slow as possible and if you fail to get a strike slow down
even more. Light 1/16-ounce jigs and fathead minnows should be your first
choice if you are looking for action. When light strikes occur try
using a stinger hook. Cast upstream and let the jig and minnow drop in
the hole. Keep your line tight and watch for the slightest movement.
Keep you eye on the line and not on the rods tip. A slight twitch in the
line signals a strike. If you are using a stinger hook set the hook immediately.
If you don’t have a stinger hook wait a few seconds before setting the
hook. Don’t wait to long since this will result in the walleye swallowing
the hook. If a fish is under the legal size limit you will release a dead
fish. When setting the hook use a direst upward sweep as opposed to a fast
If you are looking for larger walleyes try using a shiner minnow. I
use a 1/16-ounce jig with an oversized hook. There is trophy potential
if you are willing to work at it. On occasion walleyes will mouth the minnow
and even a stinger hook won't help. If this happens try a number two Aberdeen
hook with a split shot and let the bait set on the bottom.
The best action will occur during the warmest part of the day. Bright
sunny days are also the most productive. A rise in the water temperature
of only one-degree can trigger a strike. I have had a number of days
when I kept getting light bites until the sun is high. Most fishermen would
have left before the walleyes started to bite.
By the end of March the snow begins to melt and the river starts to
rise. Once the ice breaks up you can easily launch a boat and fish below
the dams. There are also a number of rapids and falls on the river that
are hot in late March and early April. Last Year we caught a number of
walleyes in the 8 to 11 pound class fishing below the rapids.
Bridges will also hold winter walleyes. Similar to a dam there is always
deep water associated around a bridge. With a little effort you can
usually access most bridges in winter. Due to the low water you can cast
to the deep hole from the shoreline. Try to cast as close to the bridge
column as possible.
Whether wading or fishing from shore travel as light as possible. A
few jigs, hooks and sinkers are all that is needed. Take a rope and
attach the end to a floating minnow bucket, which you can hang around your
waist. Use a six-foot medium action rod like a Lamiglas GS 6L.
So when the sum is bright and the days start to warm do some exploring.
Find a few dams or a bridge or two and give them a shot. It always feels
good to make that first cast into open water each
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