September 30, 2010
From Green Bay to Koshkonong and north to Chequamegon Bay, Wisconsin boasts enough fishing to last a lifetime, let alone a year. Here's your guide to squeezing as much awesome angling into 2010 as possible. (February 2010)
By Ted Peck
Wisconsin is blessed with two Great Lakes, thousands of miles of rivers, streams and flowages, myriad lakes and countless ponds. You are never more than 30 minutes away from a fishin' hole from pretty much any point within the state. Following is our annual report on how, when and where your time on the water can be spent with the highest expectations for angling fun and success.
Hit the Mississippi River this October for a chance to boat some bruiser bronzebacks. Run-and-gun to find concentrated smallmouth bass.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt.
Lake Onalaska Pike
This sprawling flowage just north of LaCrosse has a diverse forage base of panfish to feed a healthy northern pike population, with some of these toothers measuring up to 40 inches.
Pike seldom venture far from this forage base, which is hiding in remaining green weeds right now. Tip-ups baited with big shiners, dead smelt or -- better yet -- small bluegills are the most productive.
Green Bay Walleyes
Dawn and dusk are the best times to find active walleyes on shallow reefs using a jig stick with a No. 3-7 Jigging Rapala. Chartreuse and orange/gold baits work best in the southern bay; chrome/blue is the best color farther north.Chequamegon Bay Lakers
Snowmobiles, radios and power augers are part of the plan on this run-and-gun bite on this southern wing of Lake Superior. A GPS is as important as a stout spinning rod with 10-pound fluorocarbon.
Big Green Lakers
Our deepest inland lake has a healthy population of 3- to 10-pound lake trout, which love to dine on a heavy Swedish Pimple. A small float is key to effective presentation. Because fish are suspended in deep water, the float is pegged to allow the lure to hover in front of fish 50-80 feet deep. Jig the bait a couple times every five minutes.Oak Creek Brownies
Pay close attention to wind direction before launching your boat for the three mile run to this warmwater discharge. This is a trolling bite with small stick baits set 40 feet behind planer boards.
Target waters at least 5 feet deep with a minnow set about 3 feet down under a tip-up. Cover the hole to minimize light penetration.
Lower Wisconsin River Saugers
The tailwaters of both the Dells and Sac dams and the river above Lake Wisconsin hold a great population of saugers at this time of the year. Fish tend to be depth-sensitive, especially right below the dams. Catch one at 19 feet and that will likely be the productive depth for active fish a half-mile away.
A favorite tactic is dragging a three-way rig with a half-ounce bullet sinker above the swivel.
Steelies stage just offshore in Lake Michigan waiting for spring runoff to tell them it's time to move inland. Fishing is usually best two or three days after major snowmelt or a rain event occurs. Spawn sacs and small spoons fished in deeper holes are generally effective.
Target woody structure on the bottom off main lake points with jigging sticks and tip-downs baited with small minnows. Depth is critical. Fish sometimes suspend just off the bottom and sometimes just below the ice, where they can't be picked up by electronics.
Walleyes At DePere
This Fox River bite is no secret. Anglers are drawn by the incredible numbers of huge walleyes that come here to spawn. This is the time and the place to find a wallhanger walleye. Perhaps the only way to protect this resource is to close the river to fishing above Voyageur Park in April.
Menominee River Walleyes
About a week after the spring run peaks at DePere, big walleyes move upstream in the Menominee, a boundary river about an hour's drive north of Titletown. There is less pressure here. All you need is a pair of waders and a box full of firetiger Thundersticks.
Door County Brown Trout
Brown trout are moving close to shore now all along the Door County shoreline. Just about any dock or pier has the potential to be a hotspot. All you need is a Great Lakes trout stamp, a spinning rod and a few spoons to be a serious player. Try a 1/3-ounce blue/silver Little Cleo or a generic glow spoon with pink dots.
That "fish of 10,000 casts" theory goes right out the window this month below Wisconsin River dams at Petenwell and Castle Rock, as a substantial portion of the Esox biomass is drawn here from both of these sprawling flowages to feed. John Oens and Shane Adler of Petenwell Area Fishing Guides have this bite dialed in to almost sure-thing status.
St. Louis River Walleyes
Walleye season opens mid-month on this Minnesota-Wisconsin boundary river, where walleyes just moving in from the icy water of Lake Superior act like they're on steroids. Down towards the lake it's a planer board/stick bait bite.
Green Bay Tributary Smallies
The smallmouth bass per surface acre population in Green Bay is rather small, but when fish move up into the tributaries to spawn around the opening of the general fishing season, the action can be incredible. The Oconto, Peshtigo, Pensaukee and several other streams see this bronzeback migration, with fish susceptible to everything from plastics to topwaters.
Eagle River Chain Muskies
Muskie fishing in this popular north country chain is at its very best right now over submergent weeds at entry and exit points in several of these lakes and in the channels that connect these waters. Use a tag team approach with one angler throwing a topwater lure while a partner tosses a small bucktail or downsized jerkbait.
Mississippi River Largemouths
Target woody structure and any emergent weeds, especially on the upstream edges of back-channel cuts right now for bucketmouths. River bass tend to congregate over fairly small areas. Locate them with a search lure like a spinnerbait, then slow the presentation down with a Swim Jig, Salty Sinker or Chompers skirted hula grub.
Presque Isle Muskies
Michigan is just a long cast away from Presque Isle Lake and several other small waters in Wisconsin's far north country boonies. These lakes don't see the fishing pressure experienced on more accessible no
rth country destinations.
This eastern Wisconsin port has the advantage of deep water close to shore. The charter fleet here seldom has to travel more than five miles out of the harbor to find active fish, making Sheboygan an excellent option for those who own a small but seaworthy deep V-hull boat. Sheboygan and Port Washington to the south provide the best opportunities for non-boaters to find success on Lake Michigan's salmonids.
Eau Claire Muskies
Nighttime is the right time to fish these ultra-clear northern Wisconsin lakes. Cruise the shoreline during the day and look for muskies sunning, then return after the sun goes down and try noisy surface baits.
A steady retrieve works better than fancy, erratic twitching. Stick the rod tip in the water when the lure is close to the boat as you execute the figure-8 maneuver.
This deep lake in the shadow of the capitol dome sees a tremendous amount of boat traffic and fishing pressure during the summer months. Big largemouths move to the shadows of docks in shallow water this time of year. Try rigging a salt-and-pepper Senko wacky-style and pitching this cover. Drop-shotting in deeper water is also a good tactic.
Northern Door Whopper Walleyes
The Wisconsin DNR has sampled several walleyes in excess of our 18-pound state record in the northern reaches of Green Bay in recent years. A sizable percentage of the walleye biomass that swims here is larger than 25 inches, although the walleye density isn't as great as you'll find at the southern end of the bay. Ironically, some of the best action comes with flat water on a muggy August afternoon. Odds for becoming the new state walleye record holder are infinitesimal, but it's possible here.
Coolee Stream Brownies
Western Wisconsin has a host of tiny trout streams called coolees that hold brown trout of surprising dimensions. Some also have rainbows and native brookies.Wolf River Panfish
The Wolf is Wisconsin's epicenter of bumper boats when walleyes and white bass are moving upstream in the spring. In August, this river is running slow and sleepy with few folks on the water and scads of bluegills and perch just begging to be caught. Try tightlining just off bottom with a pinch of night crawler or a couple of waxies on a small hook in 9-12 feet of water.
Sturgeon At The Dells
Patience and two night crawlers threaded on a small hook and splashed with anise scent are what you'll need to encounter a prehistoric monster in this run of Wisconsin River, which gets its name from rock formations that are older than the fish. Sturgeon tend to move upstream in small groups. Don't be surprised if you get bites on several rods at once.
Mississippi River Flatheads
When water temperatures begin to cool in September, flatheads become ramblin' guys, moving to the ends of wing dams and similar river structures to feed on minnows. Don't be surprised if that crankbait intended for a walleye finds the mouth of a 10- to 20-pound swimming tank.
Root River Kings
Egg-sucking leech and purple yarn flies are popular baits for 4-year-old chinooks following their journey inland past a gauntlet of anglers at Estabrook Park and down by the hospital.
Mississippi River Smallmouths
The tendency for bass in Old Man River to congregate over relatively small areas is true in spades this time of year. Smallmouth location this time of year is driven by forage base, which moves according to variables like river level and water temperature. Running and gunning to find active fish is a good strategy.
Fox River Muskies
The whole state was buzzing over the trolling bite for big muskies in southern Green Bay last summer. A number of these fish have moved inland into the seven miles of Fox River from its confluence at the southern end of the bay up to the DePere dam. Trolling is still effective. Try concentrating your efforts in front of two discharge points and in front of the Fort Howard paper plant.
Rock River System Walleyes
Forty-four degrees is the magic number in riverine portions of this south-central Wisconsin River if you're chasing fall walleyes. Try casting a jig and minnow, with a jig weighing less than a quarter ounce or vertical jigging with a blade bait in water deeper than 10 feet within a mile below dams at Jefferson, Indianford and Beloit.
Flowage segments of the Wisconsin River at Mosinee and Biron are under the radar of most Wisconsin muskie hunters, perhaps because this water is a stump-strewn minefield.
Your best bet is hiring a guide. I recommend Hooksetters Guide Service for Mosinee and Lake DuBay and guide Dave Lutz on the Biron flowage.
Wolf River Walleyes
Crowds are gone from this eastern Wisconsin river now, but the walleyes have returned. Try slip fishing downstream with chartreuse jigs and plastic on blade baits, especially up in the narrows around Fremont.
Lac Vieux Desert Crappies
Muskies get most of the attention now on this shallow, stained water. The best action on crappies here is right before ice up. Target wood in deeper water off main-lake points with minnows or marabou jigs.
Mississippi River Panfish
Shallow backwaters on pools 8, 9, 19 and 11 are usually frozen and fishable just before Christmas. A large percentage of the panfish biomass in this fish-rich river system moves into backwaters with little or no current just before freeze-up. Your best shot at a mess of crappies, bluegills and big perch is right now. Avoid cloudy ice or ice with snowcover until there are 2 inches of ice.
Few venture forth out of Milwaukee harbor now looking for brown trout with trolled stick baits. Those who do are often rewarded with Seeforellen-strain brown trout, which may weigh in double digits.
Miller Dam Flowage Slabs
Medford and the Miller Dam Flowage (aka Chequamegon Waters) are just far enough away from the interstate highway system to attract traveling anglers. First ice is the best time to go after them.