Fishing Without a Boat

by Free Speech on May 28, 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

Sometimes, fishing from shore can provide great angling opportunities. It is also a chance to teach children the proper use of equipment.

Sometimes, fishing from shore can provide great angling opportunities. It is also a chance to teach children the proper use of equipment.

This is the time of the year when most if not all fish species of fish are active and can be caught without much trouble or fancy equipment. I regularly talk to people who say that they would love to fish more, but they don’t have a boat, access to one, or friends who fish. Now, fishers of all ages can go to many locations in the immediate Madison area and have fishing success. The weather is very warm now and has most fish feeding regularly with the warming of the local waters. I’ve seen thick weed growth and the dreaded blue/green algae growing and making fishing difficult on some waters and in shallow locations. But, there are “good” weeds growing that hold fish like coontail, sand grass, and cabbage, but the invasive Eurasian milfoil is not favored by many fish if there are other choices, but it can hold fish despite being difficult to cast and fish. So, now is the time to get the children and family out for a day or even an afternoon of fishing. Try to make a day of it with a picnic basket of food and goodies, some games to play during lulls in fishing, and a five gallon pail to take a few fish home for a tasty meal. The water is now warm enough where you can wade with or without waders and as long as you gained access to the water from a public area or somewhere where you have permission, you can stay in the water and fish.

Some good shore fishing locations on Lake Mendota include; the rocky shoreline near the locks and Tenney Park breakwall and its lagoon, the Lake Mendota shoreline from the University to James Madison Park, the inlets at Mendota County Park and the public pier near the boat landing at Captain’s Bill’s, Governor’s Island, the lagoon at Warner Park, the Highway 113 Bridge, and most of the Lake Mendota shoreline if you can gain access. Be sure not to trespass.

Lake Monona gives shore fishing opportunities at Brittingham Park, off the pier at the boat landing and along the Olin Park shoreline, Monona Bay, near the MG and E discharge and along the Lake Monona shoreline to the Convention Center, Law Park, Yahara Park, the Olbrich Park breakwall, and the Winnequah Road Lagoon. These are tried and true locations that have produced fish from shore for decades and continue to this day to be good fish producers.

Lake Waubesa, Lake Kegonsa, and Lake Wingra don’t have as many shore fishing locations as Lake’s Mendota and Monona, but there are a few good spots. Babcock Park, near the locks in McFarland on Lake Waubesa, is a good location to fish as is the Lake Farm boat landing and pier. Two good spots on Lake Kegonsa are the boating landing at the Fish Camp launch near Lake Kegonsa State Park and all along the park’s shoreline.

Lake Wingra has a fishing pier near the dam, shore fishing around much of the lake near the zoo, and the Vilas Park lagoon also has some small panfish. But, there are still a few bass and muskies that can be caught along the shoreline, at the pier and boat launch on Knickerbocker Street, and in Murphy’s Creek that runs into Lake Monona.

Many of these locations offer camping areas, fishing piers, playgrounds, hiking spots, dog walking areas, and playgrounds for children. These locations offer anything that a shore angler could want and also give the angler the opportunity of catching some nice fish for release or the frying pan. Keep only enough for a few meals and don’t be a fish hog!

I’ve tried to give you a good selection of places to shore fish and have an enjoyable day or days with family and friends within a few miles of downtown Madison. As I said earlier, these are “spots” that will produce fish especially in May and June. It is well known that children who have good fishing experience early in their lives will be more likely to continue fishing. Here are a few more tips when taking kids fishing;

  • Practice safety wearing life jackets, sunglasses for eye protection, hats, and sun block.
  • Keep things simple and let the child have their own rod, not yours.
  • The most important thing is to have action and numbers, size and species are not important to children.
  • If things are slow, don’t stay too long, but go again soon.
  • Be sure to bring some snacks, fruit, and drinks because hungry children get bored.
  • Have some other activities to do if the fishing is slow like looking for frogs, skipping stones, or playing games.
  • Always bring a camera. The disposable cameras are great and digital camera can be put in your bag. Praise the children’s catch and photos.
  • Always try to teach ethics, obeying rules and regulations, and never litte.
FAther and daughter with their catch from the Clements Fishing Barge in Genoa, WI

FAther and daughter with their catch from the Clements Fishing Barge in Genoa, WI

The last point to remember is to get some good quality equipment. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but buy decent equipment because it is worth the added price. Teach your children to take care of their rod, reel, and equipment. For most fishing, where you will be catching panfish (crappies, bluegills) use light line in four pound test because it will catch more fish. If you may catch bigger fish, then use six pound test monofilament. Always use the new and light floats or bobbers. The fish can pull them under easier and not let go. When panfishing, use ice fishing jigs with a piece of nightcrawler or a wax worm that can fit into the fish’s mouth. A simple and effective technique is to take a plain small hook, split shot, and nightcrawler. Cast the rig out and slowly retrieve it. You have a chance to catch about anything on this simple rig. Check your line regularly for nicks and always cut off the few yards of old line whenever you fish, so that you don’t loose the big one!

There is a good primer for those who fish from shore and would like to take their children fishing and catch a few fish. Ask the bait shop owner or sales person if they have any tips or know where the fish are biting. They are in constant contact with people who are fishing and can help you if asked. You may contact me and I’ll try and help you in anyway that I can at .

There are other good locations in the area like the Wisconsin River near Sauk City, Fish and Crystal Lakes out Highway 12 near Roxbury. Lake Marion, just outside of Mazomanie and off Highway 14, is another great family and fishing spot. I was there a few weeks ago doing a Family Fishing Day and the fish cooperated for the children. Indian Lake on Highway 19 has bluegills and bass plus a wonderful park and surroundings. Devils Lake, south of Baraboo, offers excellent fishing for trout, bass, and panfish from its entire shoreline. If you feel like a drive and want to go to a great spot on the Mississippi River, try Clements Fishing Barge at Genoa, Wisconsin. Their float or barge is in a great location on the Mississippi River for catching about any fish species there is in the river. Everything is available there even with a cabin for rental. The fishing is good now with the white bass going crazy as I write! They charge $16.00 for a day of fishing with equipment rentals available. They may be contacted at 1-(800)-903-4903 or email at for more information. Have fun, be safe, don’t litter, and follow all DNR rules! I’d like to thank Charlie Grimm, the Yahara Fishing Club President, for his vast knowledge of area lakes.

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