I’ve been fishing in Wisconsin for as long as I can remember. First, with my Dad and brothers, then the Boy Scouts, and eventually with my fishing buddies. Venturing north and leaving the urban sprawl of Chicago in the rearview is undoubtedly my favorite way to spend my free time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Chicago, but variety is the spice of life. Lowering my gears and changing scenery is the quickest way to recharge my batteries. Everyone has their favorite places; mine just happens to be cold six months out of the year.
Wisconsin is home to over 10,000 lakes (sorry, Minnesota), which provides limitless opportunities for anglers to wet a line. Game species like musky, bass, northern pike, and walleye, roam abundantly in the dairy states rivers and lakes.
With so many fishing options at my fingertips, deciding where to go and what to fish for becomes a challenge.
Thoughts like these run through my head constantly leading up to a fishing trip.
Catch As Many As You Can
As a multi-species angler, I still have my favorite species and techniques, but I also have to remain logical and remind myself to fish with my head instead of my heart.
What I mean by this is that it’s easy for me to pick my favorite technique or target species and continually run those same patterns. But, it’s also so rewarding to remain adaptable and target as many species as possible.
Over the years, I’ve developed a simple strategy that keeps me on the hottest fishing bite during the Spring.
Each fish species I mentioned spawns in the Spring, and like most wild animals, fish become more predictable and easier to pattern when they are trying to find a mate.
It’s All About Water Temperature
Fish spawning activity revolves around water temperature, and each species has preferred spawning temperatures and locations. Fish use an internal thermometer to dictate when their spawning process should begin and this instinctive ability is what keeps their species going. Waiting for the ideal spawning temperatures increases mating opportunities and the chances of offspring survival.
Knowing the temperatures and locations of where fish like to spawn will help increase your catch rate dramatically.
Here is how I think about targeting each of my favorite species during the Spring. Below is a quick guide to spawning temperatures, locations, and baits for a few of my favorite northern species.
When do Northen Pike spawn? 40-45 degrees of water.
Where do Northern Pike spawn?: Grassy backwaters, bays, sloughs.
Popular Lures: Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, jerkbaits.
When: 40-48 degrees of water.
Where: Shallow hard bottom areas with gravel, rock, or sand. River eddies, backwaters, and below dams.
What: Crankbaits, jigs + plastic, jerkbaits, and live bait.
When: 42-54 degree water temps.
Where: The shallows of rivers and lakes usually near vegetation or cover.
What: Small swimbaits, crankbaits, jigs, minnows, nightcrawlers
When: 54-64 degree water temperatures.
Where: Creeks, coves, and slack water areas near current.
What: small crankbaits, spoons, inline spinnerbaits, jigs + plastic, live bait.
When: 55-65 degree water temperature
Where: water hard bottom areas in northern lake bays in 1-10 feer of water. River backwaters and slack water.
What: Swimbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits, finesse jigs, ned rigs
When: 60-68 degree water temperature.
Where: Shallow water brush. Look for docks, wood, reeds, and shallow-water cover.
What: hair jigs, jig + plastic, live bait
When: 60-70 degree water temperature
Where: Shallow northern bays with hard bottom. Largemouth usually spawn in depths from 1-6 feet.
What: Crankbaits, swimbaits, jerkbaits, jigs, soft plastics
When: 68-75 degree water temperatures
Where: Bluegills can be found spawning in the same areas as largemouth bass
What: Finesse jigs, hair jigs, soft plastics, live bait
When: 70-84 degree water temperature
Where: Shallow water brush and cavities
What: Stink bait, cut bait, chicken liver, worms
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