There may be plenty of hardwater action available in the northern reaches of the Ice Belt, but stellar open-water fishing for walleyes and saugers has arrived in many corners of the country.
On Wisconsin’s Fox and Wolf rivers, for example, North American Fisherman friend and veteran guide Jason Muche reports the walleye bite is heating up, fast.
“We’re seeing good numbers of fish in both systems,” he says. “On the Wolf, there are lots of chunky males in the 16- to 19-inch range, plus some big female walleyes weighing 7 to 8 pounds. In the Fox, we’re getting 16- to 18-inch males and lots of 22- to 24-inch females.”
On the Wolf River, Muche targets 14 to 20 feet of water in deep holes and main-channel areas from Lake Poygan to Fremont. “The water is low and there’s little current,” he explains. “So the shallow bite isn’t happening right now.” Muche focuses his Fox River efforts on a variety of depths around the city of De Pere, downstream from Lake Winnebago. “The dams are closed and there’s not much current here, either, so we’re seeing mostly resident fish,” he adds. “Once we get rain and they open the dams, the Green Bay fish will start moving up.”
Top tactics in both rivers include 1/4-ounce Lindy Jigs and Fuzz-E-Grubs tipped with a minnow. “Chartreuse is a hot color right now,” Muche says, noting to keep your jig strokes slow and your line vertical.
Farther south, on the Illinois River, many of the 160-plus anglers competing in the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit tournament March 20 and 21 enjoyed good fishing. In the end, Mark Meravy and Terry Carr scored a come-from-behind victory with a 10-fish, two-day sauger limit weighing 30 pounds, 4 ounces.
Meravy and Carr focused on main-channel breaks in 12 to 18 feet of water. Meravy says that 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jigs tipped with 3-inch, slender soft-plastic trailers fished slowly and close to bottom were key to success. “The water was so clear, natural and translucent colors were best,” he said. “We also sprayed the plastics with Berkley Gulp! Alive! attractant.”
Along the Canadian border, the Royal Dutchman Resort reports the Rainy River Birchdale ramp was cleared today by Koochiching County, allowing easy boat access to the river’s legendary ’eyes of spring. Prior to the clearing, enterprising anglers were sliding boats across shoreline snow and ice to reach the water.
As if those werent’ enough opportunities, hungry northern pike are hitting tip-ups and jigging spoons a short cast west on Lake of the Woods out of Zippel Bay Resort, where Nick Painovich reports ice conditions have solidified and bonus walleyes—some topping 28 inches—add to the late-winter bliss.