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BOWMAN: No such thing as typical spring

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Updated: April 28, 2013 6:50AM

Ed Hansen perfectly described this spring.

‘‘Not a typical year, never is,’’ said Hansen, the manager at the LaSalle Fish Hatchery. ‘‘Last year, we got spent fish. This year, we are a
week off.’’

He meant sauger caught during the Masters Walleye Circuit tournament last weekend on the Illinois River out of Spring Valley. But that typical-or-not remark applies across the lakes and rivers around Chicago fishing.

When smelt netting opened last April 1 on the Chicago lakefront, Lake Michigan water temperatures touched 50, well warmer than prime (the low to mid-40) for netting the small, tasty morsels. Monday will be far different when smelt netting opens. On Tuesday, staff at Chicago’s water-treatment plant reported 36-degree temperatures on shore and at the
crib, well cooler than prime for netting smelt.

Staff at the weir on the Root River in southeast Wisconsin had this suggestion Monday: ‘‘Water flows are ideal for fishing steelhead in the Root River this week. However, the colder temperatures are probably limiting the movement of fish into the river from Lake Michigan. As the temperatures warm up, both air and water, the fishing should improve.’’

That’s the hope. But the hope of 2013 is far different from the reality of 2012, when the record March heat wave brought a bonanza of fishing.

‘‘I guess it is a normal spring,’’ Capt. Rich Sleziak said last week at Slez’s Bait in Lake Station, Ind. ‘‘Last year was warm, and, hell, [three] guys were going out getting 45 perch, then catching 15 coho.’’

On the Chain O’Lakes, Triangle Sports and Marine proprietor Greg Dickson said, ‘‘They are still ice fishing.’’ He said he expects ice fishermen to be out into April.

Back on the Illinois River, the winning techniques by Iowans Clayton Freiburger and Mike Bisdorf show how different this year was from last during the MWC. They weighed three fish Saturday, then a five-fish bag — including the biggest sauger (3.1 pounds) — Sunday for 18.15 pounds to win $20,575 in cash and prizes.

They tried for big pre-spawn females in 16 to 18 feet on ‘‘The Clam Beds.’’ They used 5/8-ounce leadheads with a 3-inch Berkley PowerBait Ripple Shad and a minnow on 10-pound FireLine.

With water temperatures at 40 degrees (20 degrees cooler than last year), Freiburger said slow was key.

‘‘We used a slow lift-hold-drop cadence, raising the jig a couple of inches off the bottom, holding it a second, then dropping it,’’ he told MWC staff. ‘‘You wouldn’t feel a strike, just weight on the line.’’

Those females are essential for Illinois’ sauger stocking.

‘‘It was one of those typical early years with a lot of males,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘A week later would be a different scenario. The catch wasn’t high, and size was down.’’

He said they had enough females for the hatchery, but if they need more, a few locals will catch them this weekend.

‘‘By Saturday or Sunday this week, the females should be biting,’’ fisheries biologist Ken Clodfelter said.

Not everybody is convinced spring is coming for fish and fishermen.

‘‘I think the bluegills aren’t going to spawn until the middle of June,’’ veteran North Side fisherman Arden Katz cracked.

Places and faces

Aurellano Hernandez Jr. won the powerline division of Henry’s Coho Derby on Saturday at the seawall by the Adler Planeterium with an 11-pound, 6-ounce brown trout. Jeffrey Lebata won the rod-and-reel side with a 4-15 brown.

New licenses

If you plan to hit opening day for smelt netting or fishing at Heidecke Lake, new Illinois fishing/hunting licenses are needed as of Monday. The same applies to fishing licenses in the other Lake Michigan states.

Stray cast

The Wrigley Field tussle feels like muskies and northern pike circling the same school of spawning ciscoes (and they will migrate).

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