River Currents – Gary Engberg

by Free Speech on January 5, 2011

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lost Lake, a Long Walk but Well Worth It!

 The winter of 2010-2011 looks like it should be a good season for the ice fisherman. We had snow early in November, but we lost much of that during the brief warm-up that we had at the end of last week. But, the temperature has stayed below freezing during the day and at night there have been cold temperatures in the single numbers that have allowed for a good thick layer of ice to form on even the largest lakes. So far, it looks like the winter will be a good one for the growing number ice anglers. A good example is Madison’s Lake Mendota; Lake Mendota usually freezes over and has safe and fishable ice by the first of the New Year. Mendota is large with about 10,000 acres of water (or ice) and is always the last lake in the Madison Chain to freeze over. This year, Lake Mendota was frozen before Christmas with angler’s traveling the lake on their ATV’s and fishing for almost two weeks.   

     Living where I do, gives me access to the Wisconsin River and also to its many backwaters and sloughs which depending on water level can provide some quality ice fishing. All of these backwaters and sloughs connect to the main river channel and depending on what the water level was when it froze over can contain any species of fish that the river contains. This fall was a good one for water level with above normal water right up to the freeze-up.

     Lost Lake is a secret to many fishermen and even those that live in the immediate area. The lake is part of the DNR’s Mazomanie Unit of public land. This area of state land consists of thousands of acres along the Lower Wisconsin River and Highway 78 in Dane County. The lake is between the towns of Sauk City and Mazomanie off Highway or County Road Y. I live within a few miles of this lake and it took me a few years before I even found it. There are two ways to get back to Lost Lake. One way is to drive east from on Highway Y from Mazomanie (about 5 miles) to Laws Drive where you turn left and follow it to the chained gate. The DNR has marked this trail which is a walk only trail and no ATV’s allowed. This is the same trail that leads down to the infamous “Nude Beach.” You’ll need a sled or Otter to carry your gear and equipment the mile or so back to the lake. When you reach the trails end, you’ll see Lost Lake and the backwaters that connect to the Wisconsin River.

     The other way to gain access to Lost Lake is to drive back (west) toward Mazomanie on County Highway Y about ½ mile to a dirt road that is marked with State and DNR signs reading Mazomanie Unit and Dog Training area. Drive to the end of the road where there is a parking lot and covered shelter. Here, you’ll find another gated trail that you follow for a mile or so to its end where you’ll again see Lost Lake and the surrounding backwaters. This walk depending on how much snow there is and how many people have “blazed” a trail is about 35 to 40 minutes. A slow walker like me may take 40 minutes to reach the “secret” lake.

      As I mentioned, an Otter type sled is necessary for transporting your equipment and gear back to Lost Lake. I try to pack my sled as light as possible but, you must bring a good sharp hand auger (like a Lazer or Mora), a couple of light jigging rods for bluegills or crappies, a few quality tip-ups rigged for northern pike (Beaver Dam or Frabills), good electronics (Vexlar, Lowrance, or Marcum), and plenty of ice jigs and bait (wax worms, spikes, and a few shiners if possible). I spool my rods with Berkley Ice Line in either 2 or 4 # test line and I always lubricate my reels with graphite powder, so that they don’t freeze-up on a cold day.

      During the day, I’ll use different types and styles of ice jigs on my rods baiting one with live bait and the other with plastics.  Some days, the panfish want the waxies or live bait and on other days plastics will get the nod. I always bring both live and artificial bait because this can change from hour to hour or day to day. Bring an old film canister and fill it with different color and size jigs and in another canister fill with your favorite live bait. Another good tip for this smaller backwater lake is to drill your holes when you first get on the ice. This will prevent you from spooking the fish all day while you drill continually more holes. Do it once and you’re set for the day! The deepest water you’ll find is about 6 feet and fish can be up and down the entire water column.

      Most of Lost Lake is the same depth, so drill your holes scattered around the entire lake for complete coverage. There often are northern pike in the sloughs and backwaters’, so scattering and drilling your fishing holes over the entire lake is to your advantage. If you can bring some shiners or golden shiners with you on your sled, so much the better because the pike will attack them! The northern pike will average about 24 to 28” with the occasional fish in the mid 30 inch size. The bluegills will average 8 inches with the occasional ‘gill being over 9 inches and close to one pound.

      The walk is long, so plan on spending the day at Lost Lake. Make sure to dress properly for the day and remember to dress in layers because you can always take clothes off if you get too warm. Bring some matches and a little kindling with because a fire can add a little “fun” to any day when you’re outdoors. Rarely, do you run into any other anglers and if you do there’s room for everyone. Make sure to bring plenty of jigs, bait, drink, and food because it can be a long day. I wouldn’t suggest fishing alone because you are out in the outdoors and a long walk from other people.  Always let someone know where you are, bring a cell phone, ice picks, and check the weather report before going fishing so that you are covered should any emergencies arise. The walk is well worth the fishing that you can have on this “secret” Wisconsin River backwater lake. But, don’t tell anyone that you head it from me!  www.garyengbergoutdoors.com

    Information, Gear, and Bait; Wilderness Fish and Game, Sauk City, Wisconsin, (608)-643-2433 and ask for Wally or Wayne.

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