Ted Peck: April is too short
Will that “April showers” homily remain true in a year when February and March weather patterns did the do-si-do?
The first turkey-hunting period begins the third Wednesday of this month. Most years mid-April is also the time when walleyes at DePere and the Peshtigo River are in the midst of the spring walleye run, followed less than a week later by peak spawning activity up on the Menominee and over on the Mississippi Rivers.
According to my fishing diary of over four decades, walleyes here in Rock River and on the lower Wisconsin should be going gonzo in shallow water at night right now.
But the Rock is still running belly full, so fishing in the old familiar places might not pay off.
In those years when our hometown river is flowing somewhere between belly full and full blown flood, quiet waters with rocky-rubble bottom walleyes prefer for spawning is much more difficult to find.
This might mean a small-year class, which will reach the current 15-inch keeper size in 2020, given prevailing walleye growth rates. If the public arises in a vociferous call for restraint, little walleyes born this year won’t be fair game until probably 2022—and you’ll only be able to bring three home for the pan.
Of course, this is all conjecture when we’re talking walleyes that haven’t even been born yet.
Nobody can be faulted for taking home every single walleye they are entitled to. Morality is something that can never be legislated. Shunning and shaming are far less effective now than back in the day when we shot flintlock rifles and wore tri-corner hats.
The adage that says, “10 percent of the anglers catch 90 percent of the fish” is still pretty much true—even with electronics, trolling motors and sinfully sensitive fishing rods.
Electronics are of little value when looking for river walleyes in less than four feet of water.
Boat control and bait presentation are much more critical for hooking up in those times when places walleyes are likely to hide are in exceptionally small areas.
Being one of the 10 percent who is tasked with putting the 90 percent on fish presents a considerable moral dilemma when the subject is a vulnerable fish population.
This situation isn’t much different than teaching anglers how to catch bass off of spawning beds. Once the technique is mastered, catching any bass you see is pretty much a sure thing.
When the sure thing is realized, the angler truly holds the future of fishing in their hands. If this fish is a played-out, egg-laden female bass or you decide to take a colorful male bluegill that is guarding the nest home, everyone will pay for your immediate gratification at some point in the future.
That said here is the key for hooking up with Rock River walleyes this weekend and for the next week or so: target current seams.
If you need a more specific example of a current seam, go look on the downstream side of the Highway 14 bridge northwest of town. Notice the quiet water directly below the bridge pilings. Places like this are where you’ll find the walleyes this weekend.
Not so much the downstream seams of the Highway 14 bridge as more subtle ones—like the small area where the current meets an area you know darn well is a mud flat.
Here is where you’ll find the future of fishing, holding in that quiet water over a narrow band of rocky-rubble bottom. Cast a three-inch white Kalin grub on a 1/8-ounce orange jighead upstream and swim it back to the boat just off the bottom.
Your lure might find a snag. But it might start moving sideways and put a serious bend in your rod.
Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at email@example.com.
Last updated: 11:42 pm Saturday, April 1, 2017