How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Fish Opener

By Jim Lee
Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers

MINOCQUA — Barring unforeseen weather conditions, anglers can expect Saturday, opening day of the 2007 statewide fishing season, to produce walleye from some of the same shallows as a year ago.

"We struggled a little bit on opening day in 2006," said Kurt Justice, veteran fishing guide and owner of Kurt's Island Sport Shop in Minocqua.

"We finally found them in emerging green weeds and that's what we're going to be looking for this year. I expect to find spawned-out walleyes in less than 10 feet of water over new growth weeds. If the weather is overcast, they may be in the shallows all day. If it's bright sunlight, the best times to fish those spots will be right after daylight and in the evening."

Justice said walleye spawning is nearly complete and conditions for the opener appear similar to 2006.

A jig-and-minnow combination is the preferred early season lure choice. A jig weight of 1/16- or 1/32-ounce is best suited for slowly working a fathead or dace (slippery jack) minnow across debris-strewn lake bottoms.

"I'll also have leeches along," Justice said. "There are times when they can make a difference."

Muskie have spawned on all but the deepest northern lakes, Justice said, and walleye anglers can expect encounters with this actively feeding, toothy adversary.

Muskie fishing in the southern zone — south of U.S. 10 — opens Saturday, but anglers in the northern zone must wait until May 26 before muskie can be deliberately pursued, except on Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters, where the season opens May 15.

George Langley, a fishing guide and owner of Eagle Sports Center in Eagle River, expects the opening weekend will be about "normal" for northern Wisconsin.

"Walleyes on the Eagle River Chain of Lakes will have finished spawning a week or more before the opener," he said.

Perch anglers took advantage of warm weather this past weekend.

"Perch fishing was just excellent," Langley said. "Lots of people were out and lots of perch were caught."

In many cases, early May walleye are going to be found near shore in brushpiles, fallen logs and downed trees.

"If I had my druthers, my plan for opening day would be to do what we call 'hunt and peck,' fishing along the shore," Langley said. "I'd go from brush pile to brush pile and weed bed to weed bed looking for average-sized fish."

While walleye are the targeted species of most opening weekend anglers, northern pike, bass and crappie offer other options.

Bass fishing opens statewide Saturday, but it is catch-and- release in the northern zone until June 16.

"Crappies should be staging in 8-10 feet of water in the weeds," Langley said. "They can be slip-bobbered (using a minnow as bait) fairly easily, particularly in the evening."

Post-spawn walleye are moving out of the Fox River into Green Bay and down the Wolf River into the upriver lakes of the Lake Winnebago system. Warming temperatures will spur white bass spawning runs on the Wolf, Wisconsin and upper Fox rivers.

Jim Lee is an outdoors writer for Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers. He may be reached at 715-845-0605 or


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