The Wisconsin River at the Dells offers the best option for getting your string stretched this weekend, with access to the river still a problem here on the Rock.
One month from today, walleyes will be spawning both here and at the Dells, with activity goaded by the full moon which appears on the 31st.
Right now, the fish are still shaking off winter. Launches at the tailwaters of the Dells Dam provide the best access to get after ’em.
Andy Polubinsky, manager of the bait shop at River’s Edge Resort about a mile downstream from the Dells dam, said most action on walleyes and saugers the past few days has come on ¼-ounce jigs along the 18- to 24-foot depth contour near the dam and immediately downstream.
I consider Polubinsky’s bait shop one of the top 10 in the entire state of Wisconsin, with the rating based both on tackle and live bait.
Minnows can be an integral part of a cold-water presentation for walleyes and saugers, with the latter species adept at stealing bait and leaving you with a bare hook.
One way to counter this thievery is using a jig with a long hook shank. Impale the bait by putting the hook point in the minnow’s mouth and thread the minnow on the hook shank until the point can be poked out behind the dorsal fin.
This quickly kills the minnow. But freshly dead is just as effective as live bait when water temperatures are less than 45 degrees.
I’ve found this presentation far superior than lip-hooking the bait and using a small treble ‘stinger’ hook on a shot dropper line.
Pulubinsky said purple and chartreuse colors have been the most productive so far, with water color driving lure color selection to a great extent.
While this basic meat-and-potatoes, live-bait presentation is quite effective, don’t rule out jigs with hair or plastic—and no minnow—for putting a bend in your rod.
Polubinsky said Wolf Tackle hair jigs have been catching quite a few fish, as have three-inch Kalin fliptail grubs, especially in chartreuse. He said some anglers are also having good results dragging ringworms. In all cases, the quarter-ounce jig is a major key in a successful presentation.
Walleyes in old rivers like the Wisconsin and Mississippi have more deep water holes than we do here on Rock River.
When walleyes and saugers have access to deep-water wintering holes, their location changes with both warming and cooling water as we go through periods of seasonal change in a process I call “stair-step staging”.
Find walleyes holding at, say, 18 feet and you’ll likely find fish holding at the same depth contour where there are similar habitat parameters both up and downstream.
The depth where fish stage grows increasingly shallower with warming waters in the spring. Once fish begin staging at the 10-foot depth contour, spawning is about to commence.
With relatively little water deeper than 10-12 feet in Rock River, cold-water walleye location is driven by a different set of factors.
A discussion on local fish behavior will have to wait until next time. The boat is hooked up.
I’m headed for the Dells!