THE ANCHOR had barely reached the bottom of the Wisconsin River before my fishing partner announced “fish on,” and a scramble ensued to free the net from a tackle box and bench seat in the old 14-foot Alumacraft — at one time, the staple of the fishing industry.

Wife Alice had fired a cast downstream as I was still maneuvering the boat into position in the current, anxious for that first walleye to grab a jig and minnow that was suspended under a slip bobber. And her luck, on the first cast, pretty much told the story of how that outing would go.

Moments later, I slid the net under a fat 16-inch walleye, a male fish that was squirting “milk” all over the boat, part of its annual spawning run. And we were on the board with a keeper walleye.

We had dusted off the old aluminum boat and 15-horsepower outboard because when it comes to river fishing on a year with a later ice-out, small boats that will work in just about any boat landing are perfect for bad landings.

The lingering winter scared off my would-be fishing partners from downstate and out-of-state, as the initial forecast for the pre-opener week didn’t show the kind of 70-degree temperatures that it would take to get the lakes out in time.

While there was more open water than anyone expected on opening morning, including total ice-out on several lakes on the famous 28-lake chain between Three Lakes and Eagle River, the?Wisconsin River was the designated first-stop choice on both Saturday and Sunday. 

The lure of the river, you see, is the chance to get a three-fish limit of walleyes over 15 inches, something you can’t do on the Chain of Lakes.

It’s a “one over 14” limit on the Three Lakes end of the chain and a 14- to 18-inch protected slot on the Eagle River end, which means one fish over 18 inches.

With the exception of the first outing on Saturday morning, when work got in the way, I had the rare opportunity of sharing boat space with my bride. And in line with our fishing history together, the expectation was that the guide would get out-fished.

Despite my willingness to accept that possibility, the results were far too predictable. On Saturday afternoon, she caught the most and the largest. On Sunday morning, she caught the most and, of course, the largest, seeing I didn’t get a keeper on the river. And on Sunday afternoon, her 21-inch walleye was 2 inches longer than my biggest.

I’m obviously the world’s greatest guide, somehow making sure my companion got all the action. Her good fortune included the catching of a monster smallmouth bass, just shy of 5 pounds, and a 26-inch northern.

For the record, this is full-service guiding. I generally bait the hooks, take off the fish and tie on the jigs when necessary. That all works, but what doesn’t is sticking my nose in the area of suggesting when it is the proper time to set the hook. That’s a decision that husbands need to steer clear of — entirely.

My bride gets the royal treatment because this is the partner, for more years than anyone cares to count, who has supported the scribbler’s outdoor adventures. I fish and hunt so much that when we get a chance to spend time together, she’s not usually looking to join me in this outdoor addiction.

But when the sun is shining, the mercury reads 70 and the walleyes are biting, that’s the perfect combination for getting her out in a boat. 

As opening weekends go, I remember few that came with weather that was so comfortable. Overnight lows in the mid-40s, highs around 70 and plenty of sunshine with little wind makes for great times on the water, regardless of whether the fish are biting. But when they do, it’s really a bonus.

As I mentioned a week ago, the beauty of a late ice-out spring is the opportunity to fish the entire spring cycle for walleyes — pre-spawn feeding patterns, spawning action in the shallows and post-spawn weed fishing in the weeks ahead.

Most of the walleyes we caught opening weekend were in less than 5 feet of water. Most of them were holding in some sort of current, both on the river and in lake channels on the chain. Current was definitely the ticket for aggressive feeding walleyes.

In hindsight, had we known some lakes would be clear of ice in time, we could have promoted some of the best opening weekend walleye action in years. But when you are standing on 27 inches of ice on a Sunday morning, six days before opening day, you just don’t expect to be fishing open water in the same location a week later.

The good news is that there is a ton of fishing activity yet to come, for walleye and other species, so stay tuned. Ice-out occurred Sunday on some of the larger lakes on the chain, including Catfish and Planting Ground.

It won’t be long before the crappies go on a pre-spawn feeding binge along with smallmouth bass. It will take some time for walleyes to recover from the spawn, but they’ll return to the shallows to feed with a vengeance.

Anglers will be fishing walleyes as they are spawning on the shorelines this week on the largest of lakes, when the ice goes out, including Trout, North Twin, Butternut, Big Arbor Vitae, Kentuck and others. 

Congrats to anglers such as Eric Rady of Monico, who caught and released a dandy spawned-out female walleye measuring 271⁄2 inches on Saturday afternoon. That’s just good conservation of resources.

Now if I can just get my wife to give up some of those secret techniques she’s using to out-fish me, our next adventure might have a different ending.

Maybe I need a new fishing shirt. On Sunday my wife was wearing one that read, “Never underestimate a woman with a fishing rod.”