, according to our local Rhinelander TV Weather man, since last Tuesday, we are breaking records every day! This is the first time in recorded history that Rhinelander, (and all locales north), have started the year with a high temperature lower than 50 degrees for this date and earlier. We have never had such a cold start to the spring ever before! I knew that crazy Groundhog was lying... you could see it in his beady little eyes.
With 20+ inches of ice on most of our area lakes, it has become a forgone conclusion that our lakes will not be free of ice until sometime in May. If you are still wondering what comes next, Iíll sum it up this way, we will still have ice on most of our lakes come opening Day of Fishing Season this year. We will probably still have some snowbanks into the middle of May.
By now almost all of the Northern Pike have spawned in our area, and some Perch are beginning to spawn, I will not be surprised to see some Walleyes beginning to spawn under the ice in the next couple of week as well!
What does this mean for Opening Day? Well probably we will see fewer anglers in this area, good for the locals, who donít want to share space with visitors, but bad for those of us who have made significant commitments to have products and new inventories scheduled to be in our Shops in the next couple of weeks - we still have to pay for that stuff, usually within 30 days!
On the other hand, for those anglers who just canít wait, there is hope. Most of our rivers are already open and they have sufficient water in them to invite good numbers of fish whose internal clocks say itís time to make babies - even if Mother Nature disagrees.
With the only open water around being in the rivers, we will definitely see increased numbers of fish moving into these areas than in recent years, increased populations of fish in a smaller space means the fish will be packed into spaces where competition for food will be increased. That translates into increased opportunities for anglers, more fish and fewer prey means your offering, even if itís not perfect will be preyed on by more fish, thereís nothing like having more hungry mouths in an area to make anglers happy!
To get a jump on other anglers, it is a good idea to take some time now to prepare for when and where your river fishing will be most productive, look at some maps and get some local knowledge, (where you can), as to what areas to look for and where to concentrate your efforts when the fish will be most concentrated in the most ideal locations.Hereís a start:
1. Rivers attract fish in areas where the current changes - at the base of riffles and rapids.
2. Incoming creeks add more food and flow regimes that attract lots of fish.
3. Spawning fish like Walleyes use current breaks and back eddies as holding water, the will dart out into the current to grab food as it passes by.
4. Large obstructions like boulders and log jams will hold significant numbers of fish.
5. There are more obstructions in moving water, be prepared to get snagged up more often and bring lots of extra baits and leader materials needed to repair your rig more often.
A. Take some time now to practice your knots - pre-rigging is a big time saver.
B. Make sure to pack a gear bag with sufficient materials to rebuild your gear.
6. Look at some maps before you head out and make a plan to optimize your chances, have several places to go in case some places are too crowded or not accessible.
7. Make sure you have adequate clothing and wading gear to be safe, moving waters can be more dangerous in the spring, higher water levels and faster currents can be tricky.
8. A 7 or 8 weight fly rod will be just about perfect, but replace that floating line with a 10í sink-tip. Use a 3 to 5 foot piece of 12 to 15 pound test line as your leader, you won;t need to taper it with the heavier flies used in the spring.
If you are going to access area rivers in a boat, make sure you and your partner are skilled enough to fish in moving water and that your watercraft is prepared for operation in rivers. Itís not uncommon to find large concentrations of fish in rather small areas in rivers in the spring, especially in areas where food tends to be concentrated. Find those places and you could be in ďhog heavenĒ. Keep your baits small, the colder waters will slow the fish down and keep them closer to the bottom.Flies to use early this year are:
Catch Emí All
Cone Head Wooly Bugger
Stone Fly Nymphs
Fish these offerings low and slow, get them to the bottom and keep them there, use sink-tip lines and heavier tippets to prevent break-offs and use short leaders to help the fly stay deep. Most of the time you will be fishing in less than 6 feet of water, so long sink-tips are not necessary, you just need to keep the fly in the feeding zone as long as possible.
There will be fish other than Walleyes in the rivers also, you will find good numbers of Perch, Northern Pike, and even some Smallmouth Bass along with some panfish and a few Muskies as well.
Take advantage of the unusual weather to tip your odds of success in your favor this spring, you will be surprised at how many fish there will be in our rivers this spring!-More to come-