April Fishing

By Mike Mladenik - April 1, 2006
Regardless of the kind of winter we have, April is the first month of real open water fishing. In March the sun is high and on warm days many anglers yearn for open water. Up here in Northeast Wisconsin those warm spring days are welcomed indeed. Walleyes will receive the most attention as they make there annual river spawning runs.

To successfully catch spring river walleyes anglers need to be aware of the present conditions. Water temperature, water levels, prevailing weather and current are all critical for both walleye location and presentations. Once you establish a pattern don't make the mistake of getting in a rut. Spring is known for changing conditions and as the conditions change so do the patterns. The faster you adapt to change the more fish you will catch.

It is no secret that walleyes and walleye anglers will concentrate below dams in spring. While fishing below dams can be very productive it can also be tough fishing. It is surprising how many anglers don't fully understand the way all fish relate to a dam. In spring many anglers will toss out the anchor and start fishing without analyzing the current situation. Adapting your presentation to the current will make the difference from a few fish to steady action.

Over the years I have had my best success fishing on the edges of the main current flow. Not only does the current break attract fish but with less current your presentation will be easier. Walleyes relating to faster current will hold tighter to the bottom and you will literally need to drop a jig on there nose to trigger a strike. The swifter the current the tighter the large walleyes will be holding to the bottom. You may find the largest fish in this area but fishing for them can be frustrating.

I have found current breaks below a dam tend to be a holding area for both pre-spawn female and male walleyes. It is common to catch a few small walleyes and suddenly stick a big female. What happens is larger fish are on the move and will use the current edge as there direct route to the spawning areas. Spawning areas in the vicinity of a dam can include rubble, gravel or other hard bottom.

Both a jig and minnow or a jig and plastic trailer are effective. If the walleye are active the jig and plastic is easier to use. However if the bite is light I rely on a jig and shiner or a large fathead minnow. This past year Tin Man Jigs have worked exceptionally with this technique. The gold and silver plating has maximum reflectivity and triggers savage strikes. When using the plated tin jigs the slow fall is even more deadly. With the tin jigs being 40 percent lighter you will need to use a larger jighead. This larger jighead will offer even more reflectivity than the lead head jig.

The new XMG 50 rod series from Lamiglas are ideal for early season walleye fishing. Although the EXS 661 and EXS 701 were designed for finesse bass fishing, the unrivaled sensitivity and unbridled strength will defiantly result in more walleyes. The HMG graphite is a precise blend of high modulus materials that takes sensitivity to the extreme. Pushing the envelope of sensitivity even further Lamiglas has developed graphite handles. These handles complete the connection between lure, line, rod blank and hand. For more information go to www.lamiglas.com

Bluegills can move amazingly shallow during the ice out period. With deep water being none existent the only real food is in the shallows. Lily pad roots in particular can offer the only available food. Bluegills will feed on small larva and organisms that are finding cover. Use extreme caution when moving into the shallows, since the bigger bluegills are easily spooked. Once fish are spooked they can be turned off the rest of the day. A good electric trolling motor is essential. Keep the trolling motor on low speed as you move into the shallows since a trolling motor on high gear will cause vibration that can also spook these wary panfish. Long rods and light lines are in order. While these longer rods do take some getting used to, they can be extremely effective. With even the darkest lake having good clarity after ice out, use the lightest possible line. Even the darkest lake will see clearer water at ice out. Since there is limited cover in the spring even two-pound test is practical. The lighter the line the bigger panfish you will catch. If hang-ups are a problem use six-pound test line and a two or four pound test leader.

For bluegills the most consistent bait is a small wax worm or grub on a small plated jig. Use silver on bright days and gold on overcast days. Work the bait under a small float. Use a float just large enough to keep the bait a few inches off bottom. Don't make the mistake of using too big a float since it will spook big panfish. Even if the float doesn't spook the fish it can make detecting a light bite difficult. After making your cast let the bait sit for a few seconds and make a few slight twitches. Even the slightest movement of the bait can trigger a strike. When you feel a strike set the hook with an upward sweeping motion as opposed to a hard fast hookset. When using a longer rod a slower set is more effective.

Crappies will also move shallow after ice out with river backwaters offering exceptional fishing. Look for their backs to stick out of the water or sighs of surface activity. Like bluegills crappies hit a variety of baits both live and artificial. My best success has come from small tin plated jigs. With tin being 40 percent lighter than tin the slow fall is ideal in the cold water of spring. Tip the jig with either plastics or a crappie minnow. Use a slow steady retrieve pausing periodically. If you feel light strikes stop your retrieve. The slow drop of the tin jig will trigger a strike. For more on Tin Man Jigs go to www.tinmanjigs.com.

This April keep tabs about when the ice leaves your favorite panfish lake or fish a river for walleye. Try to be there when the ice goes out. This period can offer some of the best panfish and walleye action of the year. Even if the fish don't bite it will be great to be on the water for the first time.

Author Mike Mladenik
Mike Mladenik
Mike has been a Wisconsin Fishing guide for 25 years, authored several books, and has his own Television Show "Fishing with Northwood's Guide Mike Mladenik". Sponsors include Sylvan/Smokercraft Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Zieman Trailers, Lamiglas Rods and Peshtigo River Rentals. For more information go to his website www.bigsmallmouth.com