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Theme of fishing in spring is taking it slow

I don’t exactly know what the slogan “Speed Kills” was originally used in reference to, but it definitely applies to spring fishing.

Now that we are beginning open water fishing, we are excited. We want to hit all the different ponds, lakes and rivers. We want to try out all of our baits and techniques. So many things to do in so little time.

Relax. Slow down. You have all spring, summer and fall to accomplish your open water goals. This is the time to take things slow.

Most importantly, you need to realize that the fish are just beginning to awaken from their winter doldrums caused by low metabolisms. They can be hungry, but they aren’t aggressive. They want to eat, but they want it served to them, they aren’t in the mood to go chasing after their dinner. They’ll eat smaller meals because their brains know that they have plenty of time to fill up. Slow is the word, followed by small.

Jigs, tipped with either live bait or various plastics, are an effective spring presentation. If you use live bait, try pieces of nightcrawler or small minnows. Forget about leeches, they just ball up on the hook in cold water. Plastics should be tiny, like grubs. Save the big six-inch reaper tails for June.

If you fish with jigs, reel them in as slow as you can. Give the reel a half-crank and then stop and wait. The old saying is, “If you think you are going slowly, slow down twice as much.” It’s not a race. It can be excruciatingly painful to fish that slowly, but it is what you need to do in order to catch fish in April.

As far as size is concerned, please realize that more muskies are caught in April by crappie fishermen using tiny minnows and bass fishermen using small lures than guys tossing traditional musky presentations. Save the big Suicks, Grandmas and Depth Raiders for a month or two.

Remember that all fish are looking for warm water. The north sides of lakes receive the longest sunlight, therefore they warm faster. You can also look for areas where rainwater runs into a lake. The rainwater is warmer than the lake water and where it empties into a lake or pond creates a magnet-like effect for the fish.

Objects also collect heat from the sun more rapidly, too, so look for logs and the like.

The fish are shallow right now. Most anglers don’t think that fish will go as shallow as they truly are right now. Walleyes in a foot of water are not uncommon.

Most fish are available to you in less than six feet of water. Don’t waste your time chasing fish in the deep water.

Fishing update: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “Crappie fishing on the Fox Chain and Fox River have been very good! The backs of cuts and bays with downed trees or docks have been the best areas. Small jigs, Mini-Mites or Flu-Flu jigs all will work well with a fathead minnow or wax worm. Catfishing on the Fox has also been good! Cutbait or night crawlers with an egg weight will work well. Bass fishing at Three Oaks will pick up as the water warms. Use Rat-L-Traps or Senkos in the shallow bays.” Call 815-455-2040 for updated reports.

For up-to-the-minute water conditions on the Fox Chain and Fox River, go or call 847-587-8540.

You can call Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Fishing Hotline at 414-382-7920 to hear the latest fishing information for Lake Michigan and its tributaries. Wisconsin’s regular inland game fish season opens May 4.

• Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. Sarley also runs a website for outdoors enthusiasts, He can be reached by email at

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