The weather gods have been good to us this year: Open water fishing is beginning earlier than had been predicated last fall, because the winter was milder than had been predicated. Fishermen have been out early and are finding some great fishing already. I have had reports of several really big fish being caught. Weeks ago, when Lake Geneva still had some ice, a group of fisherman ventured out in the open water late one afternoon and had their best walleye fishing ever, catching a number of very large walleye between 11 lbs. and 15 lbs. (all released). I knew Lake Geneva was capable of walleyes that large, just never found them.

Then on March 27 on Kinkaid Lake in southern Illinois, a young man out crappie fishing with a friend was bored with the average crappies they were catching. So he picked up a different rod he had rigged with a 1/2-oz. chatter bait and plastic crawfish trailer for bass fishing and began casting along the weed edge. He caught a few nice bass, then hooked a bigger fish. When he finally got up to the boat, he realized he had a huge crappie. In fact, it turned out to be a new state record. It weighed in at 4 lbs. 8.8 oz., was 18 3/4-inches long, and had a 16-inch girth –  definitely a fish of a lifetime and quite the best way to mark the first fishing trip of the year.

There are reports from several locations along the Mississippi River from La Crosse to Genoa that the perch are very active and limit catches are happening every day. A number of guides say the walleye spawn is expected to begin in about a week to 10 days. The large females should start being caught any day now. Up in Oshkosh on the Fox River, where walleye are being caught, fathead minnows appear to be the bait of choice. Closer to home, Independence Grove in Libertyville is reporting exceptional crappie fishing in tight brush cover. There have been a few bass taken at Lake Glenview on surface baits. Now is a great time to get out and get some early action.

Until next time…keep a tight line.