It’s Opening Day

By Dave Duwe - April 24, 2015
It's opening day! Not for baseball or the horse track, but for the gamefish season on the inland lakes of Wisconsin. The first Saturday in May is the official start of fishing season. The opening of fishing season marks the renewed traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. My tradition is the start of my guiding season. Of course I do find time to take my son or daughter fishing too.

Guide Dave Duwe with a Delavan Lake Largemouth

My opening day takes place on the lakes of Walworth County in Southern Wisconsin. The biggest Lake in the county is Lake Geneva; it's big and cold in the early part of summer. Because Lake Geneva is so deep and cold on opening day, I usually hold off and fish there a couple of weeks later. Thankfully, I am blessed with several lakes in Walworth County that have an abundance of fish. For Opening Day, I will choose a shallow lake that warms quicker making the fish more active.

My go to early summer lakes in Walworth County are Whitewater Lake or Lake Como, both lakes have an abundance of shallow water haunts for the wily largemouth bass or Northern Pike. On Como, plastic worms fished Texas rigged are the answer. Purple with a silver flake is my favorite color for the plastics. The Northerns will be aggressively taking either black or white spinner baits. The best depth of water is about three to five feet. I like the east end of the lake and tend to concentrate on the reed patches which mean the bottom has a harder consistency.

Whitewater Lake has a great deal of shoreline structure as well as some floating bogs which hold a lot of largemouth bass. Senko's in a green pumpkin color are very productive. There is a good trolling bite on the lake for northerns and walleyes as well. Crank baits are a good choice and I prefer the fire tiger pattern or chrome and blue. Fish the crankbaits along the weedlines in the main lake basin for the best action.

Delavan Lake is one of the best known fisheries in the state and can be very productive. My bait of choice is a White spinnerbait or a Texas rigged All Terrain Stik in Green Pumpkin color. I work a water depth of 3-5 feet of water, concentrating on the hard bottom locations where the bass will spawn in a couple of weeks. Panfish are in less than 3 feet of water and feeding aggressively, the largemouth bass and walleyes are cruising the shallow weed flats feeding on the immature baitfish. They can be caught on crankbaits trolled at low light conditions in a crappie pattern or firetiger or a live bait presentation like a Thill slip-bobber rig. I generally work in a depth less than 10 feet of water. The water is ultra clear so low light conditions will always produce the most action.

Northern Pike fishing as a rule is fantastic, shallow weed flats is the way to go. I will free swim a medium sucker on a 1/0 hook and let it entice a strike. The west end of the lake is usually the best. I will use either fireline or 17 pound test monofilament to reduce the bite offs. Some opening weekends it is easy to catch a lot of Northern in a short period of time.

If smallmouth bass is your deal, then off to Lake Geneva you go. The water is cold, but if you find the baitfish you find the fish. Small hair jigs in pink/white are the best bet. It mimics the mirror shiners in the lake perfectly. I search for the smallies around spawning flats like Elgin Club or the Military Academy. I swim the hair jigs back to the boat and employ a lot of pauses. The strike is really subtle. If you think it is a weed set the hook.

Author with a Lake Geneva Smallmouth

Largemouth bass will be in Abbey harbor or Trinkes were the warmest water in the lake is. Like Como the best lure is a weightless Texas rigged All Terrain Stik. Root beer red flake or green Pumpkin always catches the fish.

Other lakes that don't see much pressure are Pleasant Lake and Turtle Lake these lakes have an ample supply of fish. In early summer the best bite is the panfish. They are located in less than 5 feet of water. The simple bobber and worn can catch all that one desires. At Turtle lake look for the fish in the channels or on the East shore. On Pleasant Lake the fish are in the shallow bays. Both lakes have an ample largemouth bass population, but the fish are usually on the small size.

Walworth County is blessed with many small creeks and urban fisheries that have a good population of fish stocked by the Wisconsin DNR. Urban fisheries have special regulations so make sure you follow the rules. The creeks have everything from carp to northern pike. Like the Urban fishery most of the fishing is done from shore. It is a great place to take a kid fishing.

Like Christmas, Opening Day of fishing only comes once a year so enjoy. And as always take a kid fishing for memories and traditions that last a lifetime.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .