It’s the second week of July and after a spring that was below normal with cool temperatures and copious amounts of precipitation, summer is finally here in the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. Last summer was tough one for most people, agricultural crops, and vegetation is general. Temperatures were in the 90’s much of the summer and the rainfall was way below normal causing drought conditions in much of the state and particularly the southern third of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin River was at the lowest level that I’ve seen in many years. There were locations where you could even walk across the river. Navigating the Wisconsin River was difficult if you didn’t “know” the river and even then there were spots that made fishing and canoeing difficult and limited where you could go. Canoes, kayaks, and tubes were about the only means of transportation where you didn’t have to get out and pull your vessel over the sand and rock.
Last summer was one of the toughest years that I’ve spent on the Wisconsin River. The lack of rainfall made it difficult on all vegetation; gardens, flowers, trees, and shrubs had a tough time unless you watered regularly. This is why I’ll never complain about getting too much rainfall as many people said this year when we got more that our scare of rain till the last two weeks. You can still drive the surrounding area and see the many trees and other forms of vegetation that didn’t make through the summer’s drought. After receiving inches of rain a few weeks ago, the weather is back to what summertime should be. Believe it or not that after the above normal rainfall all spring and early summer, we now could use some moisture. I planted some trees over the weekend and there is dry dirt and sand only inches below the surface. If you drive around Dane, Sauk, Iowa, and Columbia Counties you’ll see crops, gardens, trees, and bushes that look green and lush. Crops that didn’t get flooded early on are looking very good, but we’ve gone over a week without any rainfall which we need regularly for vegetation to grow and produce their bounty. Much of the soil around the Wisconsin River is sandy and absorbs moisture quickly. We need to receive at least an inch of rain every week just to maintain water levels and keep our vegetation growing.
This spring, the Wisconsin River was at a high or above normal level for as long a period as I can remember! I’ve seen the River at higher levels, but not at a consistent high level for such a prolonged period of time. The high water prevented people and canoe/kayak businesses from renting because the high water was dangerous and there were not any sand bars and places to camp overnight because of the higher than normal water. You may call Alliant Energy at 1-(800)-242-1077 to see what the flow on the Wisconsin River is that day you plan to fish or paddle. The flow from the Prairie du Sac Dam was above normal for most of May and June with gates open and allowing the water to flow downstream to the Mississippi River.
Since the beginning of July things have changed and are back to normal on the water. The traffic on the river was quiet on the Fourth of July, but that may have been due to the holiday falling during the week. But, this past weekend the Wisconsin River was full of people using the river for all kinds of outdoor recreation. There were canoes, kayaks, tubes, and boats enjoying the refreshing waters of the river. Fishermen have been lucky to have deeper water than last summer which has allowed many anglers to get out and enjoy the wonderful fishing that we have in our backyards. The Wisconsin River has receded and the current flow has gone down allowing fishers a slow enough flow to fish and still have access to most if not all of the river’s water. Normally, flat-bottomed boats with jet engines are the way to go on the river if you want to have access to all of the river’s hot-spots. This year, even V-hull boats have had water high enough to fish and travel. The Wisconsin River is going down now and if you plan an outing or fishing trip, make sure that you check the river’s level and flow.
I’m lucky enough to be able to get out and enjoy the river most days and I’m amazed that on some week days I don’t even see another boat or canoe. The Lower Wisconsin Riverway is one of the most under utilized rivers in the state. There is so much natural beauty to enjoy and the Wisconsin River is only 30 minutes from the state capital. Families, friends, and individuals can enjoy this magnificent body of water that runs almost 85 miles from the Prairie Dam to the Mississippi River. Last week while fishing, I saw eagles, ospreys, many species of songbirds, beavers, deer, and turtles not to mention the abundant wildflowers. If you like to take photos, this is a place to go and enjoy the beauty. There are now sandbars to camp on and this will most likely continue the rest of the summer. If you’re looking for a great get-away then this is the place to go.
The fishing has been good with walleyes, saugers, smallmouth, catfish, and now a good muskie population providing action. You can fish most any way that you want from fly fishing, jigging, casting, trolling, and live bait fishing. All these methods will catch fish and it’s not unusual to catch 7 or 8 species in an afternoon. This is a wonderful place to fish, camp, canoe, and at the end of the day cook yourself a shore lunch from the fish you’ve caught. Live bait always catches fish, but artificial bait works too. This area is a close-by place to go where you can find peace, solitude, and beauty. The Wisconsin River is a great place to go and it’s close enough to many cities and towns where the gas you have to buy won’t break the bank just getting there! Everything you could possibly want is close by and very accessible.
The water level is down, the fishing is good, and the costs are reasonable. This is a magnificent place to go for a day, an afternoon, or even a few days. Be sure to check the rules and regulations like no glass containers, Styrofoam, or fireworks on the river and if you plan to fish make sure to have a valid fishing license. Make the Wisconsin River the site of your next outdoor outing and I’m sure that you’ll return for more memories!
Contacts; Wilderness Fish and Game, Sauk City, WI. (608)-643-5229. They have the best live bait, fishing supplies, camping gear, fishing licenses and about anything that you need.
Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce, Sauk City, WI. (608)-643-4168 or 1-800-683-2453.
Wisconsin River Outings, Sauk City, WI. Canoes, kayaks, tubes. 1-866-41-CANOE, !-(608)-375-5300.
Black Hawk River Runs, Sauk City, WI. !-(608)-643-6724. Canoes.