By Jon Giacalone
Fishing on Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River
Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River are popular with both recreational boaters and anglers. The area has no shortage of resorts, campgrounds and tourist attractions. Camping and picnicking on the many sandbars and islands is very popular on the Wisconsin River around the Interstate 90/94 bridge. A free car ferry across Lake Wisconsin operates at the town of Merrimac from mid-April through ice-up.
From late winter through early spring, walleye move up the Wisconsin River toward the Wisconsin Dells dam. Spawning usually occurs during the first week of April. A similar movement also occurs in late fall. In spring, when water temperatures reach about 55 degrees (usually mid-May), white bass run up the Wisconsin River to spawn. And in late summer, they congregate around the warm-water discharge from Lake Columbia.
Interactive Lake Map
For a more detailed lake map and up-to-the-minute fishing reports, follow the Lake Wisconsin waterway page on Fishidy.
Here are some tips for locating and catching fish in Lake Wisconsin:
- During late spring and summer, walleye action shifts to the edges of the river channel and stump covered flats. Because weed growth in the main lake basin generally is scarce, walleye use stumps and submerged wood as their primary cover. Vertical jigging the base of the stumps with a jig tipped with a minnow is a popular technique used by many local anglers.
- Muck areas in the main lake basin produce a population of mayfly larvae that walleye feed on during early summer. When walleye are feeding on mayfly larvae, slowly drift across the mud flats with a small jig tipped with a leech.
- Largemouth bass concentrate in shallow weedy bays, such as Grubers Grove, Weigands Bay, Moon Valley, Okee Bay and Whalens Bay. During spring, cast 1/4 or 3/8-ounce spinnerbaits near emerging vegetation, stumps and submerged shoreline timber. Areas that develop heavy weed growth can hold bass throughout summer.
- Crappie fishing generally is best from late March through April during the spawning period. Work shallow bays, such as Weigands Bay, Okee Bay and the boating channels in Sticky Bay. Slip bobber rigs and small minnows are recommended for this time.
- After spawning, crappie leave the shallows and suspend around standing timber. Look out in the main lake basin in the stump fields to find these suspended fish. Slowly drift over the area and work small tube jigs vertically just above the suspended fish. Occasionally, anglers trolling these areas with crankbaits for walleye will pick up a couple crappie as well.