Wisconsin’s general fishing season opened Saturday. This annual event will go down as a benchmark, regardless of what happens on the first Saturday in May in years ahead.

Anglers foregathered last night out from Babcock Park on Lake Waubesa, practicing social distancing just like they’ve done along the breakline out from the bluff and just like they’ve done for decades before this term became part of the vernacular this spring.

These fishers were after walleyes. Many were using live bait under slip bobbers illuminated with Cyalume light sticks or pitching Rapala Shad Raps over submergent weed growth to tempt Wisconsin’s most sought after game fish.

Marble-eyes have been vulnerable to these technological advances in fishing since the No. 9 Shad Rap was introduced 39 years ago with the chemical light stick adapted for night fishing. The stick was developed for the military back in the early days of the Vietnam War.

There are still a few of us out there who came of age during this conflict. This generation didn’t really know what we were fighting for or protesting. Film maker Ken Burns did an excellent job of sorting things out in his 10-part documentary series that first aired a couple years ago.

Most of the Vietnam generation won’t be on the planet when the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 is analyzed many years from now.

Maybe humanity will be able to talk with the animals by then. Right now, the residue left behind on the courtesy dock by loafing Canada geese is of greater concern as America gets back to fishing.

Southern Wisconsin has always been a more productive place to welcome the general fishing season than colder waters up north. Water temperatures here are tickling 60 degrees. Walleyes have been done spawning for almost a month here and have strapped on the feedbag—especially at night.

Fish are cold-blooded. Walleyes feed around dusk, dawn or twilight. These are two reasons why Lake Waubesa was a good place to welcome the 2020 fishing opener last night.

Gov. Tony Evers just opened 64 state parks to the public last week. Lake Yellowstone, which is within day-tripping range west of Janesville, doesn’t get the fishing pressure of the Madison lakes.

Morel mushrooms are popping up right now over there as well, especially around dead elms and an occasional apple tree near the top of hills with a northern exposure.

Beware, this is an especially bad spring for deer ticks, which can carry Lyme disease.

The white bass run is in full swing on Wolf River near Fremont. The Wolf runs narrow and deep here. There is barely enough room for proper social distancing as boats pass each other, both too close and too fast.

Shad Raps, especially the smaller Size 5 in blue/white or glass patterns, work well on white bass in Wolf River. But even more productive is a 1/8-ounce Blakemore RoadRunner with a white fliptail or two-inch Sassy Shad plastic body.

The RoadRunner has been catching fish since 1958. Those who came of age during the Vietnam era discovered how deadly this lure is when they were a kid. It will still be catching fish when this pandemic is in America’s rearview mirror.

I can still recall a spring road trip to the Wolf River, just out of high school. The “cool” kids used to wear a “church key” around their necks to open cans of Schlitz and Pabst while checking the rearview mirror for Johnny Law.

A cold, Wisconsin-brewed PBR still tastes great after a day on the water. We’ll get through these times of Corona & Lyme. #On Wisconsin.

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

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