Fishing opener is finally here
Written by Hudson Star Observor   
Friday, 05 May 2006 06:15

The first Saturday of May can only mean one thing: Wisconsin’s fishing opener is finally here! Whether they’re after walleye, pike or trout, anglers will find the doors are open and it’s time for the fun to begin!

But with all the rainy weather we have had of late, many anglers are wondering what to expect come Saturday. I know one thing - the fish are in the water; where else can they go?

For me it all begins with the classic 90/10 rule! If you know those numbers and how to use them, you’ll be more successful anytime you go fishing. The first part of the 90/10 rule is that 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water - a hydrographic lake map will show that. Professional and diehard anglers will fish in the 10 percent area where 90 percent of the fish live!

The flip side of the 90/10 rule is that 10 percent of the anglers catch 90 percent of the fish. Obviously these anglers are the same ones who can look at a hydrographic lake map and know where to fish. They understand the importance of the time of year, the specific habits of the fish they are going after and the right presentation to use - so they will take the most fish! Which part of the 90/10 group are you in?

It all starts out with education and learning. It’s just like school and, remember, fish live in schools. But what kind of fish schooling have you had? I was lucky and grew up with a family that fished and was pretty successful at it. Add to that the fact that as the result of a high school football injury and the family cabin in Siren, I spent a couple summers fishing every day while I healed up! I was Huck Finn!

And there were Al and Ron Lindner’s fishing shows. I learned so much from the In-Fisherman TV. You can learn from their new show “Lindner’s Fishing Edge.” Those shows are educational. All of the other fishing shows are just entertainment. Lindner’s teaches you how to fish. If you want to increase you knowledge and skill, watch the Lindner’s fishing shows every chance you get.

The best education I got was when I worked for Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources fisheries research division. I had just quit my job as manager of a youth psychiatric ward. I was burned out and needed a change so I hooked up with the DNR. My first job was on Yellow Lake near Webster where I ran a lake sturgeon research study and also did a general creel census of all the anglers fishing on the lake every two hours.

I’d simply record sturgeon data and then I’d buzz around the lake and interview anglers! I’d ask them what they were fishing for and what they were using, and then I’d ask to see their fish. I’d record all of that information for the DNR and then after work I’d write down all the information in a personal log and transcribe the data onto my own personal lake map. In no time flat I could see patterns developing and which techniques worked where and when and for what species.

Later on in my DNR fisheries career, we ran lake nets in St. Croix and Polk counties! I also went out in various lakes after dark electro-fishing with generators. We would temporarily shock the fish in order to do studies and do research for population estimates or to gather certain species for contaminant studies. It was fishing school 101 or on-the-job training for a lifetime of angling success!

From those experiences, I saw the need to keep my own personal fishing journal. I started to record data every time I went fishing: Where I fished, how I fished, what I caught, baits I used, water depth, clarity and weather conditions. Everything I could think of I ended up writing down. I had a complete record of my success or lack of it. What I saw once again was that there were patterns that developed and seasonal situations that repeated themselves annually. I could go to certain lakes the same time of year each and every year and take fish the same way from the same places almost on the same days. It was like deja-vu! It was like I had marked an “x” on the bottom of my boat that I could match up with the “x” on the lake map!

It was all about patterns and technique. If you could simply establish a pattern that catches fish and then repeat it I found that it always worked like magic!

Once you know of a successful approach that works, you create a system for that specific species and then you work that system. But you have to be species specific for it to work in most cases. Sometimes you might catch bass and walleye or pike using the same approaches depending on the time of year. That’s a good thing! But it worked all the time if you were specific in what you were fishing for.

Walleye required one technique and salmon required another. That is why when people tell me they are going crappie fishing I know they are more than likely going to catch fish because they have a system and a specific target species. When I hear someone saying they are going fishing for anything that bites I can pretty much know they are going to be in the bad part of the 90/10 club unless they stumble on a hot spot or get lucky in some other way.

But good patterns and techniques can get thrown out the window by one thing, dramatic changes in the weather. But those only affect lakes, in most cases. If I saw one of those big cold fronts coming in after a week of bluebird weather then I’d stay away from the lakes and head for the rivers. For whatever reason, river fish aren’t affected by the dramatic weather changes as much as lake fish are.

So what can you expect to find this Saturday when the season opens? It’s Sunday night as I write this week’s column and it’s been raining for three days straight! The weatherman says it’s going to rain all week. If they are right then you can expect good fishing for a couple reasons.

The first reason is that the weather pattern we are in, rainy and cool, has been here consistently for several days and has not changed so the fish aren’t going to be affected by it come Saturday! It’s like they’re used to the pattern and they, like you and me, need to eat to survive.

Normally when a big weather change rolls in, the lake fish will turn off for three or four days right after it rolls in. If the new weather system weather holds the same for three or four days, then fishing will be good because we have consistent weather. Albeit windy, cold and rainy, the fish will be biting!

And finally there is the bad winter angling/good summer angling theory. I like the idea, although I’ve not studied it enough. I got this information from Jen’s Bait near the junction of Hwy. 8 and 46 north of Amery. Jen’s theory is that in years when ice fishing was a bust, like this last winter with all the bad ice that the lack of fishing pressure, summer fishing will be great. So far this spring, it’s been great fishing! I’ve never paid attention to that one, but she assures me it’s true, and it makes sense if you think about it. Less winter fishing pressure means more fish left for summer anglers!

But then again, which side of the 90/10 ratio are you in? Get that log out this year and start writing things down in a journal. Establish some patterns and keep track of what works and when they work! You’ll be a better angler this year and especially next year if you do!

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