Wading for Walleyes
Author: gary.engberg | Date: 3.20.2017
After a prolonged period of extremely high water, the water has finally gone down to a safe and fishable level. This past weekend, I decided to go fishing on the Wisconsin River for walleyes and saugers. The extreme high water that we’ve had on the river the last few weeks has prevented most fishermen from fishing whether from a boat or while wading. I’ve seen the water go from a extreme high and fast body of water where any size boat could go down the river to a slightly above normal water flow which I find ideal for fishing.
I’m fishing the Wisconsin River, but there are many more rivers in the state of Wisconsin where you can wade in the spring and catch walleyes. Some of these rivers are; the Rock, Baraboo, Crayfish, Wolf, Yellow, Crayfish, Fox, Yellow, and Mississippi Rivers.
I decided to go fishing in a low light period which I find the best for spring walleye fishing. By low light I mean, fishing early in the morning before the sun rises or later on in the day an hour or so before sunset and the hour or so before dark. Wading after dark can also be an excellent time to fish too, because walleyes often move into shallow water (3-6 feet) to feed after dark.
I usually fish a mile or two below the Prairie du Sac Dam because there are not many others fishing these areas. I also fish farther down the Wisconsin River close to the boat landing off Highway Y between Sauk City and Mazomanie. What a try to look for are locations where there’s back eddies and areas where there is a hard bottom and little current. Sand flats are also good wading locations as are spots where there is wood, rocks, riprap, bridge abutments, and any other kind of structure that blocks and slows down the river’s current. These are the locations that walleyes and saugers like to hide behind and block the current. Walleyes and saugers need locations to stage without burning up too many calories. Fish like to have a place which allows them to wait for food and forage to drift by and allow them dash out and grab the food and return to their resting location. This conserves their calories, so they can add weight and grow.
The water temperature in the Wisconsin River is now in the upper 30’s and with the milder weather coming this week walleyes and saugers are getting close to their spawning temperatures which is in the low to mid forties degrees F. Walleyes have been working their way up the various river system since late last fall and early winter till they find a good resting, holding, and staging area before they spawn. An ideal spawning location would have a hard bottom of marble size rocks with a slight current for good egg oxygenation. Walleyes will move up the river as far as they can (the dam stops any further movement up river and then settle back down river to good spawning locations. Every walleye or sauger is not at the dam. The smaller male walleyes and saugers arrive early and are waiting for the females to arrive. This is why there are so many small and undersized males early in the spring.
Now, it’s time to go fishing. Make sure that you dress warmly in layers so that you can always take a layer off if too warm. A good pair of 4ML waders should keep you warm in the cold spring water. There are many new fabrics and underwear to wear, so find the clothing that fits you taste. Cotton, silk, and down still are good fabrics for the cool weather. Always, wear a hat because this is wear you lose much of your body hear. The gloves made with split fingers work well when casting. If fishing at night get a head lamp so that you can see in the dark. It’s also a good idea to have 2 or 3 rods rigged up and ready to go with different rigs and offerings, so that you don’t have to do much changing in the dark.
The rods that I’ll bring are usually a rod (6 to 7 feet) with a spinning reel spooled with 8 to 10 pound monofilament in the green color to match the stained water. Then, I’ll put on a #6 hook and a bead above the hook for attraction and a split shot with a 3 or 4 inch fathead or chub minnow. This is about as simple as it gets and is a good presentation. I’ll have another rod rigged with a 1/8th to 1/4th ounce jig rigged with a ringworm, twister tail, or some kind of plastic. Be sure to have jigs and plastics of all colors and sizes. The last rod, I’ll have rigged with a good swivel and a shallow running crankbait like a floating Rapala to cast upriver and retrieve slowly. On all you rods, vary your cadence and go slow because walleyes are not going to chase a bait far in the cold water. In crankbaits, I use natural colors like black/white, silver/white, and perch or firetiger. Always, cast upriver and retrieve slowly even trying a stop technique. Also, make sure you have a valid license and a landing net.
I also suggest that you never fish alone and be sure to wear a life jacket. Keep your cell phone in a zip lock bag and tell someone where you are going. Bring a camera and take a picture so you can let that be female spawn.
Guides; Wally Banfi, (608)-9823, Terry Frey (608)-220-6366, Ron Barefield (608)-838-8756, Gary Engberg (608)-795-4208.
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