Mercer Wisconsin - "We have it all!"
For my money it will be the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. This 17 thousand acre beauty is teaming with walleye. According to the D.N.R. the walleye population is estimated to be 9 plus fish per acre. That's over 153,000 walleye waiting for opening weekend, just like you and I.
Now that we have a good idea on how many walleye inhabit the flowage, the next question that has to be answered is where will we find them.
During most years we have a fairly late ice out. Anywhere from late April right up to opening day of fishing season. This year the way the weather patterns have been going, we are looking at a early ice out. This means we will be dealing with walleye in the post spawn stage or beyond. So now what do we do, where do we start looking?
I will approach this opener as I would any other, by working the area's where they normally do their spawning. The only difference is I will work these area's quicker than I normally would, unless I start catching fish. If fish are caught, work the area thoroughly before moving on.
AREA'S TO CHECK
#1 Rivers - The Manitowish and the Turtle Rivers are the two main rivers feeding the flowage. These area's is where your locator becomes so important. Look for the deep holes by all the riverbeds. Great fish holding area's. Also you want to check out all current breaks such as fallen trees, rock piles and standing timber. Anything that slows the flow of water in any given place on a river is a current break and can hold fish. These holes and current breaks can be fished by vertical jigging a lead head jig and fathead minnow while maintaining boat position with your trolling motor or anchoring above these areas and cast up to them, letting your jig and minnow sink slowly into these holes or current breaks. Also, check out any backwater bays along these rivers, the water here will be warmer, they will have some weed growth which attract bait fish and therefore attracting walleye.
#2 River Channels - The flowage has many, many miles of river channels zig zagging their way along the bottom, from one lake basin to another. These areas should be approached just like the main rivers. Some of these old river channels will reach a depth of 20 feet or more, especially where they make a sharp bend, and these deep holes hold a good amount of fish in the spring. I'll locate the deepest spot in these channels and slowly lower my anchor and fan cast the entire area, using a 1/8 oz. Jig and minnow.
#3 Shoreline - What I look for here are the shorelines with the most rubble. Boulders and stumps are a great combination. The walleye in these areas will be more aggressive so a faster retrieve is the way to go. I'll use a 1/16 oz weedweasel with large fatheads in these areas using a steady jigging motion to keep the jig off the bottom. Walleye's in these areas will hit your bait much harder than they will in the deeper water, so hold on.
#4 Main Lake Basins - Here is where I'll use a standard leadhead jig in ¼ oz. Tipped with a medium fathead. I'll work these basins with my trolling motor looking for fish on the locator, once spotted I'll vertical jig these fish. On the windy days I'll drift these same areas using a drift sock to slow down the drift, therefore allowing me to vertical jig effectively.
#5 Mud Flats - The three main mud flats that I fish are in the Horseshoe area, Bonies Mound, and the Beaver flats. These areas tend to warm up quicker than most other areas of the flowage therefore they will hold much more baitfish. The walleye will be in these areas not only for food, but also to take advantage of the warmer water. These flats run from 4 to 8 feet in depth but can all be fished in the same manner. I like to work these flats on the windy days, vertical jigging a 1/8 oz. Weedweasel jig & minnow just off the bottom. Shallow running crank baits also work well in these areas as does a small spinner rig with a minnow. These methods will not only bring you walleye, but it will also produce jumbo perch and crappie.
Good luck, see you on the flowage!
Don't forget to visit Don's homepage on the Mercer web site!