The weather is allowing lots of anglers to get out early this season. Some have launched their boats, some are wading, some are fishing from docks and others from shore. Their success rates tend to vary greatly. Early spring is usually a very challenging but also a very successful time if fishermen understand what is going on with the different species during this season. The anglers are out there fishing for walleyes, northern pike, bass, bluegills, and crappies, and their success depends on a number of factors.

This is post-spawning time for the pike, so they are going to be aggressive in feeding and will be prowling the warmer areas of the water where most of the fish will be gathering. The crappies will likely be staging outside the dark-bottom, shallow bays in preparation for their spawning run when the water temperatures rise a little more. The bass and bluegill will spawn a little later, when the water warms above 50 degrees. The old fisherman’s adage was “when lilacs are in bloom, the bass will be on the beds,” and this has held to be pretty true most years. Right now, the walleyes will be moving up to their spawning areas in rivers and on lakes. They will be the most difficult to catch, because they are not very interested in any fisherman’s offerings right now. They are focused on reproduction of the species. An occasional male might bite on bait, but not many.

This is a great time to practice C.P.R. – that is Catch, Photo, and Release. Catching fish during their spawning runs can be very detrimental to the overall fish population and can dramatically reduce the quality of fishing on a given lake if left unchecked. The best plan is for anglers to keep what they will eat and release the rest.

Younger fish are the best for eating.  Walleyes between 14 and 17 inches are terrific eating fish, northern pike between 3 and 5 pounds are wonderful eating size, and bass in the 18-inch range are the best eating size.

A Canadian Fisheries statistic explains the need to catch and release. Catching and keeping two 17-inch walleyes is fine. But catching and keeping one 17- and one 26-inch walleye would result in 1,037,270 fewer eggs and fry  in the lake from the larger walleye over a 10-year period. So it is crucial to practice C.P.R. and selective harvest. Until next time…keep a tight line.

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