A Great Lake to Go To When Fishing Gets Tough

by Free Speech on July 9, 2010

Lodi, WI~

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

River Currents
by Gary Engberg
©2010 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Devil's Lake provides both great scenery and fantastic fishing opportunities

Devil's Lake provides both great scenery and fantastic fishing opportunities

This fishing season has been one of inconsistency. The spring started out with lower than normal water on most of the rivers in Wisconsin and hot and cold fishing. Then, the weather turned warmer than normal making the spring about 10 days to 2 weeks ahead of schedule. So, with a shortened spring fishermen were into early summer patterns for fishing by the end of May and the beginning of June. This didn’t last long with warmer temperatures again and periods of heavy rain. These conditions forced most fish into their summer patterns and mid-lake haunts earlier than usual. This is when fishing gets difficult for the average angler! Plus, the dreaded toxic blue-green algae continues to take hold on the Madison Chain of Lakes (particularly Lake Kegonsa and to a lesser degree Lake Waubesa) making fishing tough and the water conditions ugly and foul-smelling. I’m sure there are active fish on all area lakes, but the problem is finding any open water to fish for them in!

For longer than I care to admit whenever I’m faced with these types of conditions there are two locations where I go and would recommend. One is the Lower Wisconsin River from the Prairie du Sac Dam at Sauk Prairie. I like to fish 4 or 5 miles below the dam near the Highway Y boat landing and down-river for another couple of miles. But, the river has dropped tremendously the last 2 days, so wait on this one till the water significantly rises. There currently is work being down at the dam, so the flow has been reduced to a trickle.

My pick for someone wanting to have some beautiful scenery and catch brown trout and a chance at a large or smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, and panfish then go to Sauk County’s “little gem” Devils Lake at Devils Lake State Park south of Baraboo, Wisconsin. The park gets over one million visitors a year, but few come to fish unless they are a local who has experienced the beauty of the park and joy of fishing. Rarely have I gone to Devils Lake and been disappointed in the fishing. Devils Lake was formed when the glaciers covered most of Wisconsin. When the glaciers receded what was left was rock hills and bluffs with a beautiful 369 acre lake in the middle with a water depth of almost 50 feet. Boats are allowed, but only with electric trolling motors which keeps some anglers away. You’ll see sailboats and canoes, but few fishing boats especially during the week. Most years the Wisconsin DNR stocks over 15,000 brown trout in the lake for catching with most above the 9 inch minimum size.

Devils Lake is managed for brown trout and they are very plentiful and the most sought after fish by most anglers who you’ll see. Devils Lake has good depth, clear water, some good rock structure, and beautiful green weeds. All of these attributes make this little lake perfect for a varied a diverse fishery.

The stocked trout are for eating since the lake is regularly stocked. It is legal to keep 3 trout per day and 12 to 14” trout are common with a few 20” plus trout. You are required to have a valid inland trout along with a Wisconsin fishing license. Both are available at the park’s main entrance. There are boat landings at both ends of the park (with a much improved one at the south end) and you must have a valid sticker for state parks.

Brown Trout are stocked and plentiful in Devil's Lake

Brown Trout are stocked and plentiful in Devil's Lake

The best and by far the easiest way to fish this lake is to drift the main basin with a lively 3-inch fathead minnow on a # 6 or # 8 VMC hook and a split shot about 2 to 3 feet above the hook. I suggest drifting with the wind try to position your boat with your Minn Kota trolling motor to keep your boat drifting parallel with the wind or waves. Vary the amount of line you have out and the size split shot till you contact fish. Then, try to let out the same amount of line as the rod that caught the fish. Count the number of pulls, tie on a rubber band, or measure using your rod to get the same general amount of line. This method is because I know most people don’t have line-counter reels. If you do, use them and after a couple of trout on the same rod use that depth on all your rods. Remember, it is legal for each individual to use three rods. Initially, set all rods at different depths. If you have electronics, you’ll be able to see the thermocline on the lake because all the fish (trout and baitfish) that you mark will be above this line. This is simple, back to basics fishing, nothing about this too high-tec. All a successful angler needs is a rod and reel and some lively minnows. This time of the year, leeches will also work well on a slip-float or just as I do with a minnow by casting the bait out without a split shot and just letting it sink and wiggle on its own. Often, this method works well and the trout hit the bait before it hits the bottom. But, you must keep your bait lively so bring a cooler and keep your extras on ice. One must have fresh bait, so you must keep it cool in warm weather.

Fishing through and over the weed tops is the best way to catch some 2 to 4 pound largemouth bass. Buzz baits, spinners, and shallow running crankbaits work well when casted and retrieved over the weeds. The past few weeks there have been a 8 and 9 pound largemouth bass caught on Devils Lake! The smallmouth are deeper and relate to the many large rocks and boulders that surround the lake’s shoreline. The same pattern hold true for the few walleyes in the lake.

Panfish (nice bluegills) are close to the weeds, where you find most of the largemouth, and near any downed wood. Small jigs and ice fishing jigs work best tipped with wax worms and leaf worms for panfish. Another panfish method is to cast a slip float and small jig tipped with a worm just outside the weed edge.

There also are some large northern pike that have grown fat gorging themselves on protein rich brown trout. Most of the northern are large fish in excess of 40” that have been there for years. There have been a few springs where the pike had high enough water to spawn up the small creeks that have been low the last few springs. Northern’ need vegetation for their eggs to adhere to when they spawn. Conditions haven’t been right in recent years for a good northern pike spawn. You’ll occasionally catch one of these big fish while trout fishing because they suspend over deep water in the summer chasing the brown trout. You could fish for northern pike by drifting the deep water casting large baits and floating a large sucker or shiner close to your boat.

Devils Lake is worth fishing whenever you have the time. It rarely will let down and whenever I guide or fish with friends we are usually driving home with a smile on our faces. You have spent a day in the beautiful surroundings of the Baraboo Bluffs, caught fish, and maybe a “bonus” walleye or bass. What more could an angler want? Call ahead if you plan to camp and there are many motels in the area. Devils Lake is about an hour north of Madison south of Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Contacts; Wilderness Fish and Game, (608)-643-2433 for bait equipment of all kinds, and information.

Guides; Wally Banfi, (608)-644-9823

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Previous post:

Next post: