Some Top Fall Fishing Locations in Wisconsin

by Free Speech on September 24, 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

Fall is the prime time to fish for most fish species in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. Fish realize that the day’s are getting shorter, the amount of sunlight is diminishing, the “good” green weeds of summer are dying off, baitfish are schooling up, and the water is cooling down. All of these factors contribute to the good fall fishing because fish realize that they better eat and bulk up for the cold of winter. All fish species feed heavily in preparation of their metabolic slow-down during winter.

Though anglers can find good fishing for most fish species, I have picked out five popular Wisconsin species that all are readily available from shore and by boat. I’ve picked some top locations and techniques for salmon, muskie, walleye, smallmouth, and northern pike. All of the fishing locations that I’ve chosen are within a few hours or less from anywhere in the Badger state. The rest of this month and all of October and November are primetime for fishing. Most of this good fall angling will continue right up to freeze-up.

Water temperatures in southern Wisconsin are still in the upper 60’s and as you move northward in Wisconsin the temperatures drop to the low 60’s in the north’s Vilas and Iron Counties. Fishing will continue to improve as the state’s waters continue to decline. Ideally, once water temperatures get below 60 degrees fishing should really start to kick in. This week has some warmer weather which won’t help the fishing, but it’s only temporary. Here are my early fall choices.


King Salmon caught by the Thompson's of Lodi, Wi. while fishing with Captain Andy Carraro out of Kenosha

King Salmon caught by the Thompson's of Lodi, Wi. while fishing with Captain Andy Carraro out of Kenosha

Chinook salmon make their fall migration into shallower water and the harbors that dot the Lake Michigan shoreline in October and November. These are the four year fish that are completing their life cycle. You’ll still find 2 and 3 year old fish, but the vast majority of salmon are the older ones that have a pronounced hooked jaw and color change. They are nearing the end of their life cycle.

Anglers can catch salmon in the harbors, off the piers, and in the tributaries of Lake Michigan from Racine to Sheboygan. My top salmon choice would be Sheboygan, where an angler can fish off the North and South Piers or fish the harbor area (the Gap) in a boat.

The pier techniques are two-fold; an angler can cast and slowly spoons retrieve spoons and crankbaits. Good spoons are Cleo’s and Crocodiles in green, glow, and chartreuse. Salmon can also be caught Rapala’s, Fastracs, and Junior Thundersticks. The other good tactic is to soak spawn sacs just off the bottom, using a # 4 red treble hook attached to the sac. Use Styrofoam balls or marshmallows pinched to the hook eye to keep the bait or sac off the bottom.

Boat fishermen slowly troll spoons, crankbaits, and spawn in water 15 to 30 feet deep. The “Gap” between the piers is the best area to fish from a boat. You can always check on fishing and water conditions at the Wharf (920)-458-4406 which is located right at the harbor or call Captain Doug Rood at (920)-980-3339 or


Wisconsin is muskie country! Trout Lake in northern Wisconsin’s Vilas County has muskies in the 30 to 40 pound range. This deep and large lake is located east of Highway 51 and west of Highway M. Its depth (115 feet) and size (3870 acres) make it a difficult lake to fish, but well worth it.

Trout Lake deserves it trophy reputation. Big baits like the Eddie or Smity jerkbaits work well as do bucktails. The best colors are black, yellow, and natural for all baits. There are many deep drop-offs, so weighting your bucktails and crankbaits can help put your bait in the fish’s zone. Always try to have a good-sized sucker (12” to 16”) on a quick set rig close to the boat for follow ups.

Good locations include;

  • The south-east shoreline of North Trout Lake before the “Narrows” because it has numerous rocky and steep breaklines. Cast parallel to the breaks with deep-running crankbaits and bucktails.
  • Both shorelines going through the Narrows have deep breaks that will hold muskies. Be sure to “work’ both sides thoroughly.
  • Work around the South Trout Lakes islands (Miller, Haunted, and Zimmerman) because their bottom structure (rocks, gravel) attracts fall muskies.

Quality electronics (Lowrance) are always important because Trout Lake has structure that can vary dramatically. There are dozens of submerged islands, reefs, rock bars, underwater points, and steep drop-offs that good electronics will show you!

Guides; Russ and Jake Smith (715)-356-5565 are excellent muskie guides for northern Wisconsin.


Lake Dubay is located south of Stevens Point and west of Interstate 39 in Marathon County. An angler can catch both numbers and trophies from this flowage of the Wisconsin River. This coffee colored lake is my fall pick for walleyes.

The fishing pro’s at Gander Mountain (715)-3555-5500) say that “the walleyes are mostly above the 15 inch minimum with many in the 17 to 20 inch size. The overall size is outstanding. There are walleyes caught over 10 pounds throughout the year.”

Good locations to fish include;

  • The area around the DuBay Dam at the south end is a good location for walleyes with deep water and sand flats close by.
  • In the lake’s middle, there are three distinct “stump fields.” One is just south of the boat landing off Highway 34, another north of Koss Point, and the third is north of Goose Point.
  • The lake has a distinct river channel which should be fished along with the abundant flooded timber. The lake lacks weeds, so wood is the main structure.

The best way to catch fall walleyes is the standard jig and minnow combo with blue and glow being good colors. Casting jigs with plastic (Gulp, Walleye Assassin) also works well when casted and slowly retrieved. Try trolling the channel edges with bright-colored crankbaits (Shad Raps, Mann’s Stretch 5’s, and Wally Divers) too.

Lake DuBay is less than 100 miles from Madison, 10 miles from Stevens Point, and 120 miles from Milwaukee. Good guides are available from Hooksetter’s Guide Service and Phil Schweik, (715)-693-5843. Phil and their other guides know the area well and can put you on fish.

A nice fall muskie caught in northern Wisconsin by Guide and Pro angler Mike Pecosky of McFarland, Wi

A nice fall muskie caught in northern Wisconsin by Guide and Pro angler Mike Pecosky of McFarland, Wi


Madison’s Lake Mendota is my pick for fall smallmouth. The lake is large (10,000 acres) and deep (90 feet). Lake Mendota has structure and an excellent smallmouth fishery that is rarely fished in the fall.

The lake has numerous points, rock bars, islands, and sharp contours. It seems that the later in the fall that you fish Lake Mendota the better! Once the water gets below 55 degrees, the smallmouth will start bulking up for winter. Live bait will catch most of the fish, but you can often end up gut-hooking too many fish. If you use live bait, use a circle hook and start reeling in as soon as you feel the bite. You don’t have to set the hook, just reel and the hook will be in the side off the fish’s mouth. Circle hooks are the key!

Top locations include;

  • The steep drop-off near Governors Island where the water can go quickly from 10 to 70 feet. Jig and drag jigs (Slo-Pokes) up and down the breaks for “smallies”.
  • Work the contours and breaks off Maple Bluff and Warner Bay concentrating on depths from 5 to 20 feet.
  • Fish Picnic and Second Point on the lake’s south end. There are numerous humps and bars off these points to go along with the deep water. Rocks are the key to fall smallmouth on Lake Mendota.

As the fall progresses, smallmouth will move shallower. They will go on a “feeding frenzy” before the real cold water sets in and they go semi-dormant.

Good guides are; Wally Banfi, (608)-644-9823, Ron Barefield, (608)-838-8758, Tony Puccio, (608)-212-6464, and Terry Frey, (608)-220-6366.

Also, contact Gene Dellinger at D and S Bait (608)-241-4225 for good bait and fresh information. Gene is always on top of the Madison fishing action.

Madison is 70 miles from Milwaukee, 125 miles from Chicago, and 70 miles from Rockford, Illinois.

Northern Pike

My top location for northern pike is Lake Puckaway. This large and shallow lake is 5,039 acres, with stained water, and a maximum depth of about 5 feet. But, it contains big fish! The state record northern pike of 38 pounds was caught here in the 1950’s. Fish over 20 pounds are caught every year on these waters. The trophy potential has been maintained with a 32 inch size minimum and a daily bag of one fish.

Daryl Christensen, a pro angler and fishing guide from Montello, (608)-296-3068) says that the best fall location are the Fox River area and the whole west end of the lake where the river enters the lake. The reason to fish here is because this is where the shad or forage base moves into the river to spawn. Fish any green weed beds with spinnerbaits and crankbaits in white, black, and orange colors. Christensen said to follow the scattered weed edges along the west shoreline while casting. Daryl also said that thee big fish that you see in the weeds are not carp, but big pike! Big spoons casted and quickly retrieved catch pike and the odd muskie.

Lake Puckaway is located in Green Lake County about 75 miles north of Madison. Drive Highway 51 north till it runs into highway 23 and continue to Montello. From Montello, take Highway C to the lake.

Contact; Holiday Shopping Center, Montello, Wisconsin, (608)-297-7170 for bait, licenses, and information.

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