Best Places to Fish in Wisconsin: Lake Mendota

The Madison Chain of Lakes all have good fishing with each lake having its own “special” species. The largest lake in the “Chain” is 9,842 acre Lake Mendota situated in a very urban setting. The lake is heavily used for many recreational activities including fishing, boating, and swimming, but still manages to harvest trophy walleye, northern pike, and big smallmouth bass. Lake Mendota has been one of the most researched and surveyed lakes in the United States. The Wisconsin DNR has strictly regulated the fishery over the years due to the stocking efforts and immense popularity of the lake. As a result, several species like northern pike, walleye, and largemouth bass have special regulations compared to most Wisconsin lakes. Check the Wisconsin DNR fishing regulations for current restrictions.

Anyone who fishes Lake Mendota should have a quality map, good electronics, or use a website like Fishidy in order to find and fish the abundant mid-lake structure (rock bars and humps), sharp breaking drop-offs, and the many points which are all prime smallmouth locations throughout the summer.

Interactive Map: Lake Mendota

For a more detailed lake map and up to the minute fishing reports connect with the Lake Mendota waterway page on Fishidy.

Here are some keys and prime locations for fishing Lake Mendota smallmouth:

  • Fish the deep weed edges around the lake that range from 12 to 20 feet deep. Try anchoring outside the deep weeds and make long casts with a slip float, a 1/16th ounce orange Slo-Poke jig, and a fat and lively leech.

  • Put the slip-float rod in a holder while casting with another rod. Fan cast with a 1/8th ounce Slo-Poke Weedmaster jig and a leech or ½ of a nightcrawler.

  • Concentrate on the lake’s rock bars and humps that are located in the main basin and off the numerous points. Smallmouths in Lake Mendota like rock, gravel, and the hard bottoms that attract their favorite food, the crayfish.

  • A live bait rig is good for fishing outside the weeds and up and down the lake’s deeper structure. Put a bullet or slip sinker (1/4 ounce) above a barrel swivel, tie on 3 to 4 feet of fluorocarbon line, and then use a colored hook or a floating jig head baited with a leech or a piece of nightcrawler. This rig can be slowly dragged up and down breaks, up and over rocks, and along the lake’s bottom.

  • Try fishing the deep weed edges on both sides of Picnic Point, Second Point, Governors Island, and off Maple Bluff.

  • Work the rock bars and the humps north of the Brearly Street Bar on the east side of the lake. Here, there are rocks and weeds and numerous inside and outside turns with some open pockets to cast.

  • Dunn’s Bar, out from Governors Island, and is another prime location. Cast slip-floats and leeches up to the rocks, weeds, and bar edges. Also, drag jigs up and down the numerous steep breaks for smallmouth.

  • There’s structure north of Second Point, where the depths and contours change rapidly from 20 to 40 feet. Try fishing the sharp contours with a jig or a rig.

  • West of Second Point is the Commodore Bar which tops off at 15 feet and drops down to 60 feet. Use your electronics to see if fish are present on the bar and again either jig or rig the fish.

  • Spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and in-line spinners will work when burned across the weed tops. The noise, flash, and vibration attracts bass that are buried in the weeds or cruising the edges. White and black spinners with gold and silver blades are favorites for Lake Mendota.
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