River Currents

by Free Speech on June 11, 2009

Lodi, WI~

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

Lodi, WI
by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Lower Wisconsin River Muskies

I live on the Lower Wisconsin River, about five miles downriver from the Prairie du Sac Dam which is the last dam on the “hard working” Wisconsin River. Here, are the twin cities of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac which are located on the river’s shoreline. The Wisconsin River flows unobstructed from Sauk Prairie to its convergence with the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien, about 85 miles downriver. Above the dam at Prairie du Sac and to the north is Lake Wisconsin, a flowage of the river that flows south from the dam at Wisconsin Dells. I’m trying to give you a little background on how the current population of muskies on the Wisconsin River and the Lower Wisconsin River initially got there. These fish are growing rapidly and hopefully reproducing with a noticeable increase in recent years.

There is now a fishable population of muskies below the Prairie du Sac Dam to the Highway 12 Bridge and to a lesser degree from the Bridge downriver (Lower Wisconsin Riverway) to the Mississippi River. The deep scour hole below the dam, formed during periods of high water, is ideal for muskies. The fish can feed in the shallows and have the security of deep water close by and very accessible. Muskies are regularly being caught in this four mile stretch directly below the dam by both casting and trolling. Most of the muskies came from Lake Wisconsin during periods of high water and to a lesser extent up from the Mississippi River. Now, these predator-fish are common and fishermen who want to try a new water should find time to fish this portion of the Wisconsin River. I know of dozens of fish from 38” to 46” caught since last fall and that’s just the fish I see or hear about from other fishermen.

This 44" muskellunge was caught just below the dam in Sauk

This 44" muskellunge was caught just below the dam in Sauk

Muskies have been stocked in Lake Wisconsin, just the other side of the dam, for many years. Whatever way these muskies came into the Lower Wisconsin River, they have found a “home” where they are growing fat on good forage and increasing in their numbers. Previously, a muskie was caught now and then by anglers mostly fishing for walleyes and saugers in the spring and fall. Now, you can go out and put in at any of the local launching ramps and be muskie fishing in a few minutes! The boat landing that I would recommend is the one at the VFW Park which is a mile or so below the dam and just past the Highway 60 Bridge. From there, you have a short ride to the Prairie du Sac Dam. The area directly below the dam (the tailrace area) is the best place to start your muskie excursion.

Begin, by fishing the east shoreline just below the dam. I’d spend some time (at least an hour) casting your favorite baits. Bucktails, jerkbaits, glidebaits, spinner baits, and shallow running crankbaits all will catch fish throughout the year. The Bait Rigs Esox Cobra jig and its assorted plastics is working well with many muskies being caught on this jig with its plastic grub and reaper tail combinations. Other baits that work in the river’s stained water are; Smity Baits, Bucher Shallow Raiders, Grandma Baits, Mann’s Minus I jerkbaits, and Bull Dawgs. The best colors are the natural ones; like perch, shad, firetiger, and baits with orange and blue colors. Baits that give off a flash, a sound, and vibration will all catch muskies in the off-color water of the Wisconsin River.

As I just said, the east shore line is the best place to start with this shore having a large back eddy (pushing the water back toward the dam) along the golf course shore. Next, work the willow trees and brush on both sides of the islands which are a couple hundred yards down from the dam. From there, I’d fish both sides of the river casting crankbaits, bucktails, and spinners all the way to the Highway 12 Bridge. You’ll find slack water areas, fallen wood, rip-rapped shorelines, bridge abutments, islands, sand flats, drop-offs, rock, gravel, points, and spring holes in this four mile stretch of the river. Again, fish both shores of the river. The best method for fishing is to use your bow mount trolling motor (Minn Kota’s work great and make sure it’s fully charged so that you have a plenty of thrust) to position your boat and slowly drift with the current while casting the shorelines. As the weather and water warms up, the muskies get more aggressive and will readily attack top water baits and the new, big bladed spinnerbaits like Cowgirls and Figure 8’s when “burned” at a high speed just under the water’s surface. Near the Highway 12 Bridge is Ray’s Riverside Resort and an island with a small bay just below it. Fish this in warm and hot weather because there are springs in the little bay that holds muskies in the warm months of summer.

Trolling is legal in the Wisconsin River and well worth trying! Trolling allows you to cover a larger area of water in a shorter period of time. It makes sense that the more baits or lures that you have out at different depths gives you a better chance for success! Spread your crankbaits out with Off Shore planer boards to cover as much water as possible when trolling both down and up-river. You should have some action on both sides of the Wisconsin River as you travel downriver and again as you head back upriver after reaching the Highway 12 Bridge.

Use the same muskie gear that you would use anywhere else where you fish large muskies or northern pike. I suggest an 8 to 8 ½ foot rod (G. Loomis or Fenwick) for easy casting, a bait casting reel (Garcia or Shimano), strong braided line (Berkley or Power Pro), some strong steel leaders from 12 to 18 inches long, and a good assortment of lures and crankbaits in mixed colors. Make sure that you have a large quality net (Frabill or Beckman) and an assortment of tools so that you’re ready for a quick release after catching the fish.

The minimum size for muskies on the Wisconsin River is 34” inches which is too small in my opinion. I was part of a group of local anglers and DNR personnel that submitted a resolution in this year’s Spring Hearings to raise the size limit to a more respectable 50 inches. All muskies should be released ASAP anyway! Good fishing and if you follow these tips, you should have some quality esox action.

Contacts: Guides Wally Banfi, (608) 644-9823 and Gary Engberg (608) 795-4208.  www.garyengbergoutdoors.com .
Wilderness Fish and Game in Sauk City (608)-643-2433 for gear, bait, and good information. (608) 643-2433.

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