Wisconsin Muskie Madness
September 30, 2010
Start your open-water fishing season off right by picking a fight with the king of Wisconsin waters. These seven picks will set the stage for your personal muskie madness. (May 2010)
Wisconsin has no shortage of quality muskie waters, and trying to compile a short list of where to go is never easy. Besides the abundance of water, there is also diversity in the type of water anglers can choose to fish. You can choose to troll the Great Lakes, enjoy the solitude of a Northwoods lake or flowage, fish for urban muskies or float a river. You might choose to hunt for a trophy or just look for a lake on which to catch your first legal fish. Regardless of your budget or the kind of boat from which you fish, you should be able to find muskie water to fill your needs.
Few places in Wisconsin have the reputation for producing trophy muskies like the Chippewa Flowage, but waters like Green Bay and the Fox River are coming on strong.
Photo by Bret Alexander.
GREEN BAY/FOX RIVER
The hot muskie bite over the past few years has been in the bay of Green Bay and the Lower Fox River. Muskies are native to the Great Lakes but, historically, have only been found in isolated locations. Due to increased stockings, this excellent fishery should continue in the future. The bay of Green Bay is big water and muskies can scatter; any weed bed or flat has the potential to harbor a giant muskie. Even the most remote bay with an isolated weed bed could be a potential muskie hotspot.
According to guide Bret Alexander, 2009 was an excellent year for muskies, as he and his clients boated eight muskies over 50 inches, with the largest one measuring 52 1/2 inches. The best big-fish action gets under way by mid-September. In fall, the shad relate to the reefs and the muskies are not far behind. Alexander trolls shad imitation crankbaits and bucktails along the edges and keeps on the move. Once you locate muskies, it is common to boat as many as six fish off one reef. These muskies can be caught while casting, but 90 percent of the muskies are caught while trolling.
In fall, Alexander also likes to troll the weeds on the west shore of Green Bay. He starts out trolling at 4.5 miles per hour when the water is 68-70 degrees and gradually slows down to 2.5 miles per hour by mid-November. By November, muskies are feeding on whitefish, so match your baits accordingly. While he also trolls in the Fox River, especially when hit with high winds, he feels that, on average, the fish caught in the bay are larger than those caught in the river. However, he spends the first three weeks of the season fishing the Lower Fox River until they migrate to deeper water. For guide services, contact Alexander at www.alexandersportfishing.com or call (920) 851-4214.
Each year it seems like Wisconsin muskie hunters are searching for new water. While all of this is fine, some places that have become famous for producing big muskies continue to hold their own. When it comes to Wisconsin muskie fishing, few places have the reputation for producing trophy muskies, including the state-record 69-pound, 11-ounce behemoth, as does the Chippewa Flowage in Sawyer County. Besides producing trophy muskies each year, anglers catch hundreds of legal muskies from the 15,300-acre flowage.
According to Al Rosenquist of Pastika's Sporting goods in Hayward, action on "the Chip" was excellent last year, and 2010 should be another great year. For the early season Rosenquist says, "Search for fresh cabbage weeds and cast six-inch bucktails and twitch baits." On the Chippewa, the size of the bucktail and blade color seems to be more important than the color of the hair. In spring, the top blade colors are copper, brass and green.
In summer, most of the larger muskies relate to the many bars and stumps. Use larger bucktails with bright blades, especially if there is an algae bloom. Summer is also prime time for the topwater bite. Surface baits will catch muskies during the day, but the best topwater bite is after dark, with the peak period occurring from early August through September. Rosenquist says his favorite surface bait is the Creeper.
As the water cools in fall, Rosenquist says anglers should switch over to jerkbaits and glide baits. Early in fall, concentrate on the 5- to 15-foot depths, but start fishing deeper water by late October through November. Jerkbaits and crankbaits produce muskies well into November, but by late fall many anglers also use suckers.
For fishing information, call Pastika's Sporting Goods at (715) 634-4466.
KENTUCK LAKE & NORTH TWIN LAKE
Vilas County has an abundance of quality muskie lakes. Rick Krueger of Guides' Choice Sport Shop in Eagle River says Kentuck Lake should be prime for the 2010 season. The 957-acre lake is located 12 miles east of eagle River off Highway 70 on the Vilas/Forest county line.
"Muskies on Kentuck Lake feed heavily on crappies, so anglers need to follow crappie movements to stay on active muskies," Kruger said. Kentuck Lake warms fast and muskies are active by the season opener. For early season muskies, Krueger casts small spinners and 6-inch twitch baits in crappie or perch patterns over fresh weeds. As summer progresses, Krueger casts the 10- to 12-foot depths with Bull Dawgs and crankbaits with white and orange bellies. The hot bait last summer was the Storm Kickin' Slab. Worked properly with a pull and stop retrieve, the bait suspends without dropping or falling, making it the ideal crappie imitation. In fall, there is a good sucker bite, but Bull Dawgs and crankbaits also produce.
In northern Vilas County, North Twin Lake has historically produced big muskies, and the 2010 season should be right on track. The clear, 2,800-acre lake has plenty of weeds and structure to hide big muskies. The typical spring pattern of casting small bucktails and twitch baits over fresh weeds is reliable on North Twin. As summer progresses, muskies move out along the weed lines and anglers do well with large bucktails. Krueger said that last summer, the hot bucktail bait was the Extreme Tail from Badwater Baits.
These large bucktails have a marabou center and a Flash Booh tail, making them irresistible to a big muskie. Top colors are copper blades with red tails and white blades with white tails. There is a good sucker bite in fall, but once the water temperature hits 41 degrees, Krueger suggests using ciscoe imitation baits. For fishing information, visit Guides Choice at www.guideschoiceproshop.com or call (715) 477-2248.
CALDRON FALLS FLOWAGE
Stained water flowages are common across central and northern Wisconsin and are known as consistent muskie producers. While large flowages get the most attention, the small to medium-sized flowages are often easier to fish, especially for a first-time angler. One flowage that fits the pattern is Caldron Falls Flowage
in Marinette County.
I have been fishing Caldron Falls Flowage for most of my life and have had good success over the years. In many ways, it is a typical flowage, but like most muskie waters, it takes on its own personality and can be confusing. The month of June is the best time to fish Caldron Falls. After spawning, muskies remain shallow and relate to wood and weeds. Cast a 6-inch bucktail with an orange or copper blade or 6-inch twitch bait in a crappie or perch pattern over the weeds. Look for stumps on the inside edge of the fresh weeds to hold the largest muskies.
By late June, concentrate on the weed lines and search for small weed points breaking to deep water. Cast a perch or fire tiger pattern crankbait along the point on a sunny day and a crappie or sucker pattern bait on overcast days. Spend more time fishing the weed points than the weed line. Fish the top of the points with a surface bait or bucktail early and late in the day. Under hot, humid weather, get on the water at sunrise. If the weeds fail to produce, head upriver and fish the shoreline wood with twitch baits.
The weed points continue to produce in fall, but the entire weedline can be hot, so keep targeting the weed lines with jerkbaits and crankbaits. By mid-September, there is a good sucker bite and I must admit that most of my fall muskies are caught with suckers. I fish the suckers along the deep edges of the weedline and in the main river channel. The deep edges of humps also produce big muskies on suckers. For guide services, go to www.bigsmallmouthbass.com or call Mike Mladenik at (715) 854-2055.
Muskies are common throughout most of the Wisconsin River, and many of the flowages on the river have been steady producers of quality muskies. In the north, Boom Lake in Rhinelander and Lake Mohawksin are good bets. In the Wausau area, Lake Wausau and Lake DuBay each give up big muskies every year. And to the south, the Petenwell Flowage in Adams and Juneau counties has been coming on strong. All of these flowages have dark, stained water and are shallow, with the exception of the main river channel. In spring, fish the shallows with bright noisy baits. In summer, use the same color patterns but use larger baits. A good topwater bite can occur in summer.
Along with the flowages, an excellent muskie fishery is present in most free flowing stretches of the Wisconsin River. These free-flowing stretches tend to receive less pressure than lakes. Two top stretches on the Wisconsin River are from below the Lake Mohawksin Dam in Tomahawk to the Alexander Dam in Merrill, and from the Alexander Dam to Brokaw.
Regardless of which river you fish, muskie patterns are typical. River muskies are shallow in spring and roam the flats. Shallow-running twitch baits and bucktails are hard to beat. In summer, when fishing can be tough on lakes and flowages, river muskies are aggressive. You will need to cover water, but once you connect with a muskie, there is a good chance more are in the area. Surface baits, bucktails and twitch baits all produce in summer. Other good muskie rivers include the Flambeau River, the Chippewa River and the St Croix River.
Pewaukee Lake in Waukesha County remains one of Wisconsin's top muskie producers both in numbers and quality. Even with the heavy boat traffic and usage, anglers who know the lake usually have no trouble finding action.
In spring, most anglers target the west end of Pewaukee Lake just north of the public boat launch. Another good early season area is Taylor's Bay in the north-central part of the lake. Bucktails will catch muskies, but most anglers prefer twitch baits like Slammers, Cranes and Shallow Raiders. Popular twitch bait colors are fire tiger, golden shiner and bright green or yellow. In summer, most anglers troll crankbaits searching for suspended muskies.
For more information, contact Smokey's Muskie Shop at (262) 691-0360.