We head into the last week before the spring opener with weather as the dominant factor. The forecast is calling for some patches of unstable weather for the weekend, but stable weather during the week...and that's sure to be the story of fishing between now and opening day.
River fishing is still happening, but is largely in that stretch between peak walleye and peak whitebass. Anglers putting in the time are still catching mixed bags of fish, but with the cooler weather and rainy patches, the fishing has ranged from steady to slow, with each day a little different than the last. Water is higher than it has been, so there's more current, but the fish are still relating to turns and breaks in the deeper holes. Whitebass are staging close to creek mouths, especially secondary creeks where current is coming in.
On the local lakes, panfishing slowed down this past week with the cold snap and the rain. The fish were still biting, but anglers haven't been heading out at the same rate as the previous week when we had some sunny days around 70 degrees.
A couple of quick tips if you're heading out: Bigger panfish pulled back a depth contour from where they had been holding and are holding very tight to cover. Usually the fish will do one or the other when a cold snap pushes them out of the shallows, but this year they did both, which means presentation is key. Drop down to a smaller hook (10-12) or an icefishing jig, and get your rig suspended just above, but very tight to cover. The fish will bite, but they won't move far to hit the bait.
Look for fish along the "next break" out from the dark bottom shallow bays where they have been. If you're fishing boat channels, look for the best fish in the deepest areas of the channels where there is vertical cover. Areas with current will have active fish in deeper holes, but tighter to the bottom or channel swings. Wood laydowns will concentrate crappies in any of these situations.
Keep checking in over the next week...I'll have several pre-opener posts between now and next weekend.
Good Luck and Be Safe.