Finally open water is upon us here on the Madison Chain! Although the weather has been less than consistent the panfish bite has remained pretty good. Here's the lowdown on the fishing happenings here in Madison!
PANFISH! As we all know gamefish is currently closed until the first Saturday of May, however panfish are fair game. The Bluegill and Crappie bite has been pretty decent in shallow bays and inlets all over the Madison Chain, especially on Lake Monona. Shallow mucky inlets are holding the warmest water and attracting the most fish. The inlets off of Squaw Bay, the triangles, and Monona Bay are producing the most fish.
Bluegill activity seems to be consistent throughout the day, while the most Crappie activity has been early and late in the day. A combination of live and artificial presentations have been the ticket to getting these, at times, finicky fish to eat. The go-to rig has been a medium-light to ultra-light spinning rod spooled with 6lb monofillamentrigged with a weightless Rocket Bobber and a variety of small jigs/flies on the business end.
The rig is kept weightless so the Rocket Bobber lays flat on the surface of the water. With the bite this time of year being so light it can be easy to miss having the bobber standing upright (as you would typically rig it). Letting the bobber lay on its side causes it to stand up when a fish bites, giving a much more clear signal that a fish is on.
The jig/fly situation seems to change daily, so having a variety of colors and sizes is key. Overall, 1/32oz jigs with waxies have been a solid producer, with chartreuse Mini Mites and VMC Tungsten Fly Jigs as other top producers. As mentioned before, flies have been a hot item on the menu as well. Hare's Ear Nymphs are not just for trout. Both Hare's Ear Nymphs and Prince Nymphs have been big producers on days when the bite is tough. Rigged weightless under Rocket Bobbers, trout flies are an awesome choice for early season panfish.
Keeping things light and mobile this time of year is key. A small tackle bag of jigs and flies, a good pair of hemostats, and your favorite rod are all you need to keep things portable and ready to move. With so many shore spots in the Madison area, don't limit yourself to just one. If the bite is slow in one spot, odds are there is a better bite elsewhere.
WALLEYES! Walleye and Sauger action has been pretty hot on the Wisconsin River the last few weeks as well. Sauk Dam seems to be holding fish despite the lack of flow overall on the river. All kinds of presentations have been producing fish including the good old jig and minnow, plastics like Moxies and Pulse-R's, as well as drop shots and pulling flies. You will have to weed through a LOT of shorts, but there are plenty of legal fish being caught.
Also, if you are looking for something fun to do while you are out and about, head over to the Wingra Creek Dam to watch the Muskies as they make their way up to Lake Wingra to spawn. Jumping action has been limited due to the lack of flow over the dam paired with the cold temperatures. However, there are lots of fish paddling around under the dam which are still cool to see.