Mississippi River anglers launched and loaded their boats under difficult conditions Saturday.
If you're new to fishing the Mississippi River near Red Wing, now is not the time to gain experience.
So says Dean Marshall, manager of the popular Everts Resort in Hager City, Wis., across the river from Red Wing.
Everts is the hotspot bait and tackle shop, and launching site, for anglers eager to pick up early season walleyes on the Mississippi, where the walleye season never closes.
I was at Everts Saturday — a pleasant enough day, with a good number of truck-and-trailer rigs parked at the resort. But even then launching was dicey, and pickups had to be backed into a foot or so of water to get trailers far enough into the river for launching or loading.
Fishing was slow, and hasn't picked up much since. High, fast water is part of the problem. But water temperature probably plays a bigger role: At 33 degrees, it doesn't instill in fish much reason to feed.
By Tuesday noon, the river had risen even more, and was only 60 feet from Everts' front door.
"It's 12.97 feet right now, and the projected crest on Saturday is 13.5,'' Marshall said. "If that projection is correct, the water will be a couple feet from our front door. But there's a big difference between a crest of 13.5 feet and, say, 14 feet. So we'll have to see what happens.''
Relatively few anglers launched at Everts Tuesday, which was down to one ramp. Downstream, at the Wisconsin Back Channel public ramp, knee boots were advised for launching and loading. That site and the lone remaining one at Everts are expected to close as the crest approaches.
"I would not recommend coming down here now for people who are not experienced with the river,'' Marshall said. "The strong currents are one thing. But it's also the loading and unloading of boats. And the ice is beginning to be washed out of the backwaters now and into the river.''
Marshall has managed Everts six years. The highest crest he's seen in that time occurred last year at 12.9.
The mother of all floods in the region, of course, occurred in 1965, when the Mississippi crested at Red Wing at 20.7 feet. The likelihood of a crest this spring rivaling that one has diminished. But prolonged rains at the wrong time could still produce a higher crest than predicted.
"We're still functional here, but barely,'' Marshall said Tuesday.
How long after the crest before anglers can expect to launch again, and purchase bait again, at Everts?
Said Marshall: "Only Mother Nature knows.''