Wisconsin’s Fishing Opener 2021: How To Win The Weekend

Are you ready for the season opener this weekend? You might be like some, with rods rigged and plans to soak fathead minnows dangled under cigar-shaped Thill bobbers all weekend long. Or maybe you are like others with fishing gear in a jumbled mess and no weekend plans other than yard work, grilling, and perhaps a little fishing.

No matter who you are or where you live, this guide provides a few simple approaches to fishing the Wisconsin season opener. We reached out to Ben Patschull and David Yang, two young Wisconsin anglers, each with different skill sets for catching gigantic fish throughout the state, mostly while fishing from the shore.

We asked the guys all of the need-to-know questions for planning a successful opening weekend. These tips, tricks, and honest approaches from two hardcore Wisconsin anglers should point you in the right direction. Have a safe and enjoyable opening weekend!

Angler: Ben Patschull 
Homewaters: Mississippi River

Favorite Target Species: Panfish, Trout, Walleye, Musky, Catfish

  1. What are you doing to prepare for the 2021 Wisconsin fishing opener?
    I will be busy sharpening hooks, stringing new lines on my reels, and studying maps to score an opening day musky in southern Wisconsin. 
  2. How do you decide which species to target opening day weekend?
    Since the Mississippi River does not close for walleye, catfish, and other gamefish, I will be hitting the water in search of musky opening weekend. There isn’t much that swims in Wisconsin’s rivers that provide stronger tug in the line than a musky, so I’ve been looking forward to the southern musky opener since the season closed last December. 
  3. What tips, rigs, or lure suggestions do you have for river anglers fishing opening day?
    Walleye and perch will be making their post-spawn transition back to the main river, but walleye can still be caught using jigs and plastics. When targeting walleye in fast-moving water, I like using Northland Current Cutter jig heads and paddle-tail style plastics such as the Keitech Swing Impact or the BFishn’ Tackle Pulse-R. 
  4. What areas in the river system are you looking for around the season opener?
    As I mentioned previously, many species such as walleye, perch, and musky are transitioning back to their spawning areas, but many will still be concentrated near dams. Bass can be found in slower moving areas, preparing their beds for spawning.
  5. How do you avoid the crowds on such a busy weekend?
    Remember, the early bird gets to cast the first worm. Getting to your spots at first light will help you beat the fleet of opening day fishermen. For opening day trout fisherman, studying DNR maps can help you find public access spots that are less popular than the common bridge access points. 
  6. Any last-minute tips for river anglers on opening day?
    Rivers are generally more turbid environments than lakes, so using colors that stick out, such as pearl, white, or black, can make it easier for predators that rely on sight to find your baits.   
Quick Tips For Opening Day Catfish

Baits: Drift using Carolina rigs with fresh cut bait.
Target Areas: For daytime cats, look for deep holes in the main river that often occur directly downstream of wing dams. 

Quick Tips For Wisconsin Spring Trout

Favorite Spring Baits: Medium to large-sized jerkbaits are my go-to for big inland trout during the spring. The new Berkley Hit Stick in the number 9 size has been an excellent bait for me this spring.  

Target Areas: The lower 3rd of streams are often the areas where trophy trout will be holding during the spring, before the water in these stretches warm to uninhabitable temperatures for cold water species. 

River Fishing For Walleye Opening Day Weekend

Favorite River Rigs For The Spring: Trolling at slow speeds using jigs and plastics remains an effective method to target walleye during the beginning of May. 

Target Areas: Fast current areas near dams or current edges off islands are often your best bets for finding post-spawn walleye. 

Catching River Panfish In The Spring

Favorite Species And Rigs: Post-spawn perch bites can be excellent on the Mississippi. Using river rigs with nightcrawlers is one of the most effective ways to catch perch during May while moving back to their summering holes. Big bluegills can be found on beds later in May. Using fly gear with poppers to target bedding gills can provide some of the most exciting fishing experiences in late spring. 

Target Areas: Perch can be found in slower moving waters adjacent to fast current channels, in depths around 10 feet. Bluegills will transition to shallower beds near shore once water temperatures warm to the high 60’s.

Follow Ben: @ben_patschullfishing

Angler: David Yang 
Hometown: Milwaukee 

Favorite Target Species: Multi-species angler – Bass, Walleye, Panfish
  1. What are you doing to prepare for opening day?
    I try to prepare at least 2-3 days in advance of every fishing trip. With Spring weather being so unique, I try to keep an eye on the forecast. 
  2. How do you decide which species to target opening day weekend?
    I grew up fishing in Wisconsin, following the Spring pattern of targeting the most active biting fish at the time. This method helped me learn when to target each species in the time windows they will be easiest to catch.

    In the Spring, you can catch multiple species out of the same spots using very similar equipment. Look for migrating fish pushing up rivers and targeting them using swimbaits, grubs, and live bait like minnows and worms. 
  3. What tips do you have for bass anglers on opening day weekend? 
    I like to throw moving baits to cover water. If they are not already on beds, the moving baits help me dial in the pattern. Chatterbaits and lipless crankbaits in shallow water can be the ticket for Spring bass in Wisconsin. Look for shallow water with hard or dark bottoms. These areas heat up the fastest and will likely be holding the most fish. Z
  4. What areas in the river systems are you looking for in the season opener?
    Dams: The fish relate to the dam because of its deepwater, current, and impassibility. Try imitating small minnows with a light jig head rigged with a Berkley Gulp! Minnow. Jig and twitch this multi-species to catch anything from perch to pike! 

Last-Minute Tips

Bass From The Bank  – For anglers targeting bass from the shore, try to find public shorelines close to a boat lunch. I’ve always had luck fishing for largemouth near the boat launches on opening day weekend.

Multi-Species Spots From Shore – Look for accessible dams and bridges. Both areas will provide depth and current, which will usually hold fish. 

Shallow Water Ponds – The bass should be shallow, focusing on moving baits and cast them parallel to the shoreline.

Follow David: @Dyangfishing

Learn More About Fishing In Wisconsin:

Wisconsin DNR Fishing Guide
Buying A Fishing License In Wisconsin
Learn Where To Fish In Your County

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