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Lake Wisconsin’s Spring Slabs

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If you’re fishing for slab-size crappies, then Columbia County’s Lake Wisconsin is the place to be during the month of April and into May. Lake Wisconsin is actually a flowage formed when the Wisconsin River was dammed at Prairie du Sac and north at Wisconsin Dells. The lake (or flowage) is over 5,000 acres with a constant flow of water passing through and normally the lake’s water is replaced every four days.

Crappie fishing starts soon after the ice leaves the lake by the end of March and steadily improves throughout April when the water temperature hits the “magic” 50 degree mark. Lake Wisconsin has plenty of good crappie structure with many shallow bays that warm quickly attracting the hungry crappies. Crappies move into the bays for the warmer water and forage in the spring and spawn there when the water temperature reaches the low to mid 60’s. Concentrate your efforts near brush piles, around any shoreline cover, by fallen trees, and around and under the lakes numerous docks and piers. There’s scattered weeds in the numerous bays, but the constant water flow prevents weeds from growing in the main lake body.

The average crappie is around 10 inches, but there are numerous larger fish. There are days when most of the crappies that you catch will be over 12”. These are usually the spawning females and try not to harvest too many of these, so that there are crappies for future years and fishermen. It is not unusual to catch crappies in the 12 to 15 inch range on any given day.

Lake Wisconsin has many older wooden piers that can be found in many of the lake’s bays. The piers provide shade, cover, forage, and the wooden piers warm quicker than metal ones which help warm the nearby waters. The wooden piers also seem to hold more fish because the wood gets algae growing on them which soon attracts small insects and bugs and gets the whole food cycle in motion. But, the number of wood piers is diminishing due to the large number of new homes and lake development. The wood piers are being replaced with new metal piers and much of the shoreline brush and wood is being cleared from the lake’s shoreline. So, when you find wood, timber, and or brush in any of the lake’s bays fish it because there will be crappies in the immediate area.

Though crappies can be found all over Lake Wisconsin, there are some traditional locations where you can usually find spring crappies and is a great place to start your fishing. These “hot spots” include;

  • Weigands Bay which is divided into a north and south bay. There’s an old pump house (painted light blue) that splits the bay. Stay to the left and go to the back of the bay and fish all the piers and fallen trees you can find. Watch out for shallow water just past the blue pump house. There’s also some deeper water in the back of the bay where spring crappies will suspend if the weather cools down.
  • Moon Valley is at the north end of the lake and warms quickly in the spring attracting many crappies. There’s a shallow stump at the entrance to the bay that also provides early crappies. Fish the scattered cribs that are located throughout the bay in about seven feet of water. If you go thru the bay at Moon Valley, there’s an underpass that goes under Highway 78 that takes you into Gallus Slough. This shallow and weedy slough holds both crappies and bluegills, but fish it early in the spring before it becomes weed choked.
  • Okee Bay is a spot that has many cribs and slack water that holds crappies during the spring and even into the summer months. The area around the Okee Bridge is another good spring location for walleyes with shore anglers catching them along with the crappies.
  • Sticky Bay, at the east end of the lake, has four fingers or boat channels that are shallow and warm early attracting and holding crappies throughout the spring and spawning period. The channels have some early weed growth and piers, so concentrate some of your fishing here.
  • Sunset Bay is another quality location with some weeds, cribs, and stumps on the bay’s west side of Lake Wisconsin.

 Lake Wisconsin has cribs scattered around the lake, put there by the DNR to act as fish attractors and structure for crappies and other fish species. The cribs are easily marked on your electronics and some areas to look for them are; off and near Tipperary Bluff, Stoners Point, Breezy Point, Pine Bluff, Moon Valley, and Weigands Bay. Plus, there are many more cribs located around the lake that you may find on your electronics.

The water in most of the lake’s bays is stained with a muck bottom that warms quicker by the sun and also attracts food for the spawning and hungry crappies. The crappies will move in and out of the bays depending upon the weather on any given day. When the weather is nice and the sun shines, you can find Lake Wisconsin crappies in 2 to 3 feet of water close to any structure be it wood, piers, or shoreline brush. There is no reason to start fishing early in the morning because the crappies like to wait till the sun warms the water in mid morning. The best time in the spring to crappie fish is during the middle of the day, especially if the weather is stable. If you have a stretch of weather that is up and down, try fishing a little deeper because crappies will move in and out of spawning areas depending upon the days weather.

The equipment needed to catch Lake Wisconsin crappies is nothing special or expensive. A 6 ½ foot graphite rod is ideal and allows you to make long casts and not spook the shallow water crappies. Next, you need a good quality spinning reel (Daiwa or Shimano) and spooled with 4 pound Berkley Trilene in the green color which blends in with the lake’s stained water. The 4 pound test mono works better than 6 pound test for these early fish. Next, use a slip bobber with a small split shot and an ice fishing jig (have a good assortment in different sizes and colors) tipped with a few wax worms and or spikes. Black has seemed to be an under used color and works well on Lake Wisconsin. The nice thing about a slip bobber is that you can change depths easily when searching for crappies that have moved or even suspended over deeper water. Make long casts and slowly work your rig back, stopping and letting the bobber rest now and then. Another rig that works well is a number 8 VMC hook fished below a Thill “mini-stealth” float and baited with a crappie minnow. The last rig to try on the lake is to fish a one-inch tube jig below a small round float. Set the floats anywhere from 15 to 30 inches below the float and cast the shoreline twitching and stopping the bait back to the boat.

Be sure to bring some different size crappie minnows because fish often want different size bait at different times. Another option, that works on active fish is small plastic noodles or wedges in different colors and dressed with a wax worm or two. The old standard “pinkie” jig under a float still works with and without a minnow.

All that is now needed is stable weather and a warming sun. The “slabs” will be active on the lake, so why not give Lake Wisconsin a try? The immediate area has everything that you may need; motels, resorts, eateries, campgrounds, boat rentals, and bait shops. The boat landings are good and give access to any of the lakes locations.

 Guides; Tony Puccio, (608)-212-6464, Ron Barefield, (608)-235-7685, and Gary Engberg, (608)-795-4208. Wally Banfi, (608)-644-9823m Terry Frey, (608)-220-6366. Lee Tauchen, (608)-444-2180.

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