We've selected 36 angling adventures in our state for you to sample in the coming year. (February 2008).
Wisconsin anglers face a quandary not unlike a blind dog in a meat market -- with so many options to investigate, which way do you go?
The shortest distance to a stretched string can be found by exploring these hotspots in the year ahead.
Chequamegon Flowage Options
Also known as Miller Dam Flowage, this Taylor County fishery hides just north of the confluence of two major interstates, far enough from the beaten concrete path to avoid detection.
Crappies and pike are the major attractions here, present in both numbers and substantial size. Set two boards for pike and jig a third line for crappies, keying on any remaining green weeds in close proximity to fish cribs and naturally occurring woody structure.
For more information, call the Taylor County Tourism Bureau at (888) 682-9567.
First ice typically occurs around New Year's Day and it's the best time to chase walleyes with blue and chrome jigging Rapalas at dusk over deep-water humps near Picnic and Second Point.
Rice Lake Panfish
It is possible to fill a 25-fish limit in a little more than an hour once you find fish near woods or weeds. A chartreuse Demon with a hot pink head is a killer on crappies, bluegills and perch, with great action all winter long.
This vast basin lake straddling the Jefferson-Rock county line is home to six adult year-classes of walleyes eager to jump on a rosy red or fathead minnow set 6 inches off the bottom under a tip-up.
Key on water at least 5 feet deep and set the tip-ups in a triangle pattern about 50 feet apart. Fishing with buddies increases success geometrically with more lines in the water.
Try to stay away from the crowd. Tap many holes, and then put the drill away, leapfrogging your boards to stay over fish in this amorphous basin lake.
For more information, call Patten's Marine at (920) 563-5350.
Mississippi Tailwater Saugers
Target the main channel edges with a Sonar, One Eye or a 1/2-ounce jig with a plastic fliptail in vertical jigging presentation. Watch your locator, as fish tend to key on a certain depth. Bring some salt or sand because getting out on the ramp can be tricky if temperatures dip below freezing.
East Coast Steelhead
Squaretails hover just offshore from Lake Michigan tributaries in late winter, waiting for the first taste of runoff before scurrying inland. It takes about three days after a major gush for waters to clear and stabilize, and then it's time to don polarized sunglasses and go sight-fishing for big gals in skinny water.
An egg-sucking leech pattern is effective for fly-fishers. More plebian pescadores can have a ball drifting spawn sacs or tossing little black Panther Martin or Mepps spinners with spinning gear.
The run starts on southern rivers like the Pike and Root, and then works up the coast to the Sheboygan, Pigeon and beyond. Don't forget to buy a trout stamp with purchase of that new license required after March 31. For more information, call Jalensky's Sporting Goods at (262) 554-1051 or the Door County Chamber of Commerce at (920) 743-4456.
Late ice and the first few days of open water yield bluegills of amazing dimensions just out from Quam Point and the state park. Stealth and a subtle presentation are required for fish of 10-inch-plus dimensions. Try a No. 10 black rat finkee with a red Lindy Teeny Munchie Tail plastic.
Mississippi River Walleyes
Don't be a follower. Seeing one walleye caught every half hour in a pack of 100 boats is no indication of a hot fishing pattern.
Walleyes spawn around April 15-20 in shallow water over a rocky rubble bottom with little current. Runoff can be a major factor this time of year. Key on water less than 10 feet deep and out of the current. (Continued)
You will catch more and bigger walleyes with a plastic fliptail than using live bait.
Yellow, black and chartreuse and tomato core are the hot colors and don't use a jighead heavier than 3/8 ounce. If that isn't enough weight to occasionally bounce bottom on the retrieve, then you're fishing in too much water. Bucktails or marabou jigs work, as well as plastics.
Minnows are simply a good way to feed smaller fish. For more information, call Cap'n Hook's Bait Shop at (608) 689-2800 or Ted Peck's Guide Service at email@example.com.
Menominee River Walleyes
Four to seven days after the flotilla gave up on walleyes at DePere, the action was just getting started at Marinette, an hour's drive north. A Firetiger Thunderstick is very effective, especially at night near the Highway 41 visitor's center. Remove the lure's leading treble hook to minimize hanging up.
Door County Brown Trout
Walleyes have been the buzz for the past couple of years, although brown trout are cruising in or close to harbors on both sides of the peninsula. A 1/3-ounce blue and chrome Little Cleo is a killer, either trolled or cast. Don't forget to buy your Great Lakes salmon stamp.
Green Bay Trib Smallies
Most anglers head to a favorite lake for the opening weekend of the general fishing season. If smallmouth bass are your favorite, grab your waders and spinning rod and head north of Titletown on both sides of the bay or target shallows in the bays and harbors at the southern end of Door County at Henderson Point.
Camouflage pattern tube jigs and similar plastics that imitate gobies work well when probing shallow bays. Polaroid glasses can help you spot bigger fish. Topwater action can be fantastic. A clear plastic lure like the Heddon Tiny Torpedo is a real killer.
Free the fighter after the dance and resist the temptation to catch them on the spawning beds. The future of the fishery is up to you. For more information, call the Door County Chamber of Commerce at (920) 743-4456.
This stump-strewn Wisconsin River flowage may be the best-kept secret in the entire state. Toss gaudy bucktails toward the wood along the edge of the old river channel at mid-day. Conventional wisdom does not apply at this fishery!
Muskies in this Dane County lake get less attention than the other waters of the Madison Chain. Monona is a great opening day destination. Use the trolling motor to sneak back in shallow bays, looking for fish. Teasing them with a slow-falling bait like the Lindy Tiger Tube can be profoundly effective.
Eagle River Muskies
After decades of chasing muskies around this popular northcountry destination, I've finally concluded the best way to hook up with a "toother" is to leave the muskie tackle box at home, except maybe a black Tallywacker or Hawg Wobbler left in the boat by mistake.
By the time a muskie reaches 32 inches here, she has felt the sting hidden in more than one offering of hair or big wood, yet she still finds great delight in terrorizing panfishermen or folks chasing bass and walleyes. Perhaps this gives our state fish the erroneous presumption of rational thought, but doggone, you'll catch many, many more muskies on downsized baits than using $14 muskie plugs.
It would be easy to spend an entire month throwing a small bucktail with a silver blade on Butternut and Kentuck lakes, with a burning retrieve over submergent weeds with the 'Wacker or the 'Wobbler always a good option. The Eagle River chain itself also holds a pile of fish. For more information, call Eagle Sports Shop at (715) 479-8804.
Cohos At Racine
The annual charter fishing trip out of this Lake Michigan port will put a summer-long grin on your face. Nothing beats cohos on the grill or smoked. These fish jump all over dodger/fly combinations, with limit catches of five fish the rule rather than the exception. Toward month's end, chinooks are also part of the bag at dawn and dusk.
Lake Geneva Smallmouths
Pitch clear hologram tube jigs around this Walworth County lake's numerous fish cribs and sailboat mooring pods at dawn and dusk. A jumbo leech presented on a split shot and hook works so well that it should be illegal.
The Sport Of Kings
Pound for pound, a chinook salmon will outfight any fish swimming in Wisconsin waters. By midsummer, these fish are generally within seven miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline actively pursuing schools of baitfish during periods of low light.
Sheboygan and Racine are the two best ports for chasing kings with dodger/fly combinations, J-Plugs and magnum spoons, especially with black or purple prism baits in a trolling presentation.
Chinook fishing can be described as periods of boredom punctuated with flurries of extreme chaos. Try it once and you may become hooked for life. For more information, visit Cap'n Rich Gorske online at www.fishmeister.com
Eau Claire Lakes Muskies
Upper and Middle Eau Claire lakes in Bayfield County give new meaning to the term "gin clear." Muskies grow to gargantuan proportions on a heavy cisco forage base. The nighttime is the right time, either motor trolling with baits right in the boat wake or pitching noisy surface lures over steep breaks. This is trophy muskie water.
Red Cedar Lake Largemouths
The weedline is as highly developed as the shoreline of this near-northcountry lake near Rice Lake. Let a green pumpkin pepper Chompers skirted hula grub free-fall along the outside weed edges or burn a Mann's Baby One Minus over top of submergent weeds for huge bucketmouths. This lake has big smallmouths, too.
Big 'Eyes Atop The Thumb
Offshore reefs around Sister Bay and Ephraim in northern Door County hold some incredibly large walleyes this time of year. Use Troll Husky Jerk Rapalas, magnum Bomber Long A's or Rattlin' Rogues pulled behind planer boards off Chambers and the Strawberry Islands.
Vary the distance lures trail behind the boards until you get a pattern dialed in, usually somewhere between 30 and 70 feet back.
Charts and electronics are major keys to success. Trolling speed can be critical. Fish often relate to baitfish schools more than structure, so be prepared to hit the "fish" icon on your GPS each time you hook up . . . then simply replicate the trolling pattern by connecting the dots.
This is big water. You'll need to bring a big, deep boat and a substantial amount of respect for Mother Nature. For more information, call the Door County Chamber of Commerce at (920) 743-4456.
Mississippi River Smallmouths
Old Man River is typically at low pool levels in August, congregating both smallmouth bass and big northern pike into deep holes carved out by the current around the wing dams.
This is primarily a crankbait bite, but throw a DC-8 Timber Tiger or Bomber B in bluegill pattern. Also, keep a Mepps white dot Black Fury handy for schooling white bass on the surface. For more information, contact Ted Peck's Guide Service by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After a month or so with noses tucked into spring holes, trout in western Wisconsin's Coulee Country come alive to the point of being absolute fools for grasshoppers. You don't need an Orvis split bamboo rod, Hardy reel and tiny Trico fly to find success, but you do need an inland trout stamp. And don't forget the insect repellent.
Sturgeon At The Dells
With a 70-inch minimum size, one fish per year limit in place, lake sturgeon which swim in our namesake river have adequate protection, although most anglers with a conscience have trouble killing a fish that may be 100 years old.
Best action is found at the leading edge of deeper river holes after dark. Spread a line baited with night crawlers held close to the bottom with a 1- or 2-ounce pyramid sinker above a swivel and 30-inch monofilament leader.
For more information, call River's Edge Resort at (608) 254-6494 or visit www.riversedgeresort.com
Lake Namekagon Muskies
Come late September, muskies really turn on in this shallow Bayfield County lake. Try obnoxious fluorescent buzzbaits and smaller jerkbaits now, and then as the weather cools, pitch some big wood while dragging meat.
Use a quick strike rig and set the hook quickly. They look like bright orange wood with black spots.
Menominee River Smallmouths
Many Wisconsin anglers overlook this boundary river with Michigan whose
stained waters teem with bronzebacks, many approaching trophy dimensions.
Crawfish patterns seem to work best, especially a No. 5 Mepps orange dot Black Fury spinner. The Menominee is an exceptional float-fishing stream with great primitive camping opportunities at streamside.
Round Lake Muskies
This 3,054-acre Sawyer County lake holds the biggest muskies you'll probably ever catch. Ironically, the easiest part of this adventure happens between hooking up and leading the fish to a cradle at boat side.
Because the lake is so clear, fishing improves as weather deteriorates. If it's a good day to hunt bluebills out of a layout boat, conditions would also be ideal for tangling with a Round Lake muskie.
Trolling deep-diving crankbaits like the Depth Raider or Ernie off the second deep-water break is a good way to hook up between now and freeze-up. Don't overlook humps and bars over the main lake basin . . . especially when there is a good chop on the water. For more information, call the Hayward Chamber of Commerce at (715) 634-8662 or visit www.haywardareachamber.com
These southeastern Wisconsin toothers are familiar with the
ways of muskie hunters, so downsize your presentation. Bucktails continue to work here long after conventional wisdom said it's time to put them away. The Mepps Giant Killer with a purple tail is a personal favorite. This is where you want to be if the Packers are playing a night game.
Mississippi Backwater Crappies
Fish small plastic tube jigs or marabou or feather jigs 4 feet deep in at least 10 feet of water in fallen trees. White, pink, purple and black are the best colors. If you aren't becoming snagged, you aren't fishing where the fish are. Use 10- to 14-pound braided lines like PowerPro to minimize time spent re-tying.
The no-stretch properties help to feel light bites and the fish don't seem to shy away from heavier line.
Lac Vieux Desert Muskies
The non-resident Michigan license you purchased earlier this year to fish both sides of the Menominee River for smallies and walleyes is justified again in pursuit of muskies.
The classic presentation of throwing big wood while dragging a sucker behind the boat works quite well here, too.
Target water a long cast away from the main-lake points. Spend extra time probing deep water near the dam. The predator/prey relationship has strong bearing here as winter approaches. A prevailing wind beating up a given shoreline for several days will draw baitfish and muskies. You are the final link in this food chain. For more information, call the Land-O-Lakes Chamber of Commerce at (800) 236-3432.
Winter weather usually arrives around Thanksgiving, but before the big blow, Lake Winnebago's walleyes strap on the feedbag for one last big hurrah. Try a 1/16-ounce black jig with black plastic on windblown points or troll small shad pattern cranks just offshore. Water clarity is a major key in fish location.
St. Germain Panfish
Big Saint, Little Saint and Plum lakes all have tremendous populations of perch, crappies and bluegills.
Key on the outside weed edges, usually along an 8-foot contour in a run-and-gun approach until you hit fish of acceptable dimensions. These panfish tend to school by size. If you're catching dinkies, move about 20 yards. Dark colors -- black, purple and green -- are all effective. Early in the month, the bite may last all day, but by Christmas, these fish are most active at dawn and dusk. For more information, call the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce at (800) 727-7203.
For more information, call the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce at (800) 727-7203.
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