Janesville33.3°

Anglers sink into spring fishing

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Ted Sullivan
April 9, 2011
— Standing in wading boots on the rocky shore of the Rock River, Darrell Steindl bounced a bright yellow jig off the end of his fishing pole, anxiously waiting for walleye or northern pike to bite.

"This morning, they bit like crazy. I haven't seen them bite like that in four or five years," he said. "It can be real rewarding this time of year. Real rewarding."


Steindl was one of a dozen fishermen hoping to snag walleye or northern pike below Indianford Dam this week. Anglers have been standing on the shores of the river and drifting in boats for a week because fish are beginning to spawn.


Fish pack together in huge numbers while spawning, offering anglers a better chance at catching their limit. Fishermen also like to get out because it's their first good opportunity after ice fishing season ends.


Water temperatures rise as spring days become longer and the sun shines later, signaling fish to lay eggs, said Kurt Welke, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.


Northern pike typically spawn first, and walleye soon follow, Welke said. Other fish also spawn in the next several weeks.


Often, spawning fish are large and vulnerable, he said.


"Boys are looking for girls. This is like a big high school dance," he said. "In river situations, these fish are in large numbers. This is the great promise of spring."


Still, fish this time of year are concentrating on spawning, Welke said. They aren't focused on eating.


A good day on the river is not guaranteed.


Jim Treslley of Stoughton was fishing for walleye and northern pike at Indianford and hadn't caught a fish in a couple hours. He was using minnows as bait. He previously had caught a 27-inch northern pike in the same spot.


Treslley said northern pike and walleye are fighters and good eating.


"They're more of a challenge to catch and a little more rewarding when you catch one," he said. "Both fish are fun to catch. It's just good to get out."


After a great morning, Steindl was still seeing a lot of fish along the riverbank. He said he fishes the spawning season every year.


"The run is when you get the most concentrated number of fish," he said. "But given the pressure here, there is not as many fish as there used to be. It's that time of year. Everybody wants to catch walleye. It's the easiest time to catch them."


On a recent weekend, Steindl said dozens of boats were backed up in the channel near Blackhawk Island. Fishermen were trying to time the walleye run.


"There were hundreds of boats through that stretch," he said. "Bumper boats."


After a few minutes, Steindl caught a sucker, which wasn't what he wanted.


"You just never know what you're going to sink into this time of year," he said.



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