Ted Peck

Outdoors talk with certified Merchant Marine Captain Ted Peck.

In need of a fishing fix

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Ted Peck
Saturday, April 19, 2014

For the second year in a row, many who welcome opening day of the fishing opener on a favorite north-country lake will need an ice auger to put hooks in front of fish.

Winter is still very much in control across northern Wisconsin, with storms earlier this week dumping up to six more inches of snow atop accumulation that is still being counted in feet.

Folks near Minocqua are reporting 18-30 inches of ice on area lakes. Auger extensions aren’t necessary to hit water. But a snow shovel is needed to clear heavy, slushy snow away just to get down to bare ice.

It seems like true spring weather never arrives in Wisconsin until after Easter, regardless of the date on which this holiday falls.

This year, Easter is less than two weeks from the fishing season opener. Any fisher with dreams of launching a boat on any lake north of Wausau on May 3 needs to wake up and take a close look at local options.

A primary consideration is fishing pressure. Every angler living south of Wausau is in the same allegorical boat. Parking lots at every boat ramp on any lake with a good reputation for producing fish will be nearly full by 8 a.m.

Anybody with plans of fishing his or her secret spot on Delavan, the Madison Chain or any of the Waukesha County lakes should check navigational lights and throw a couple of flashlights in the boat when rigging to fish. If you arrive on site after 1 a.m. chances are somebody will already be anchored up there.

Rivers and other waters not subject to seasonal considerations tend to see a decrease in fishing pressure when opening weekend rolls around. With more than two-thirds of Wisconsin’s population living south of Wausau, you can expect some waiting time at boat ramps on rivers, too.

Extremely high water on area rivers this past week, coupled with wildly fluctuating water temperatures, have prevented most addicted anglers from getting their “river fix” lately, exacerbating a sense of urgency in making plans for opening day.

Simply not going fishing is not an option unless you hold a valid turkey tag for the first weekend in May.

At this juncture, I see two viable options. The first is trout fishing on one of the numerous country streams in the western and southwestern part of the state. This is not a favorite personal choice because my performance with a flyrod is laughable.

Ultralight spinning gear with a little black Panther Martin spinner or the practically infallible chub tail is an option for filling the basic need of getting the string stretched.

Trouters tend to be more polite than the general fishing public, allowing the first angler arriving at a spot to fish through the area without being hounded.

Scrappy 10-inch trout on a 4-weight flyrod or ultralight spinning gear can be amusing. But these beautiful fish fail to meet the carnal needs of a fisher who really, really needs this winter to end.

Fishing has been described as “a jerk at one end of a line waiting for a jerk on the other end.”

Guilty as charged. I need to set the hook hard on something with fins and have the scaly critter at the other end pull back with equal resolve.

Since water temperatures are still chilly, this means something with teeth rather than a bass. We’re talking pike and walleyes swimming in a riverine environment.

Pike and walleyes in rivers across southern Wisconsin are now post spawn. On this Easter morning, the mouth of the Menominee River at Marinette is still choked with ice.

But the ice will be gone by opening day, and a truly impressive walleye run should still be taking place.

The Menominee River would be a good opening-day option. This boundary water with Michigan is not subject to a closed season on this side of the state line.

Two weeks is too long to scratch the fishing itch. The Menominee should be a great place to fish this week—if rain doesn’t bring a substantial fast snow melt. Even if this happens you have up to 13 days to establish a fish-catching pattern.

Come May 3, a couple of those little trout might provide just enough entertainment to take the edge off.

My name is Ted, and I’m a Fishaholic.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc.

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