River Currents

by Free Speech on August 7, 2009

Lodi, WI~

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

Lodi, WI
8/7/09

Why Travel for Great Fishing?

Guide Jeff Hanson with a 52" monster caught on the Madison Chain.

Guide Jeff Hanson with a 52" monster caught on the Madison Chain.

The slow economic period that our country and state is going through has greatly affected much of what people are buying and where they are spending their summer vacation time and money. Generally, the boating and marine industry is in tough shape with many boaters and anglers spending money on keeping their “older” boats running instead of looking at new boats and motors. The recent International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) held in Orlando, Florida on July 15-17th experienced a record crowd of manufactures, buyers, and media. This is the largest trade show in the world for the fishing industry. But, the buyers were concentrating on smaller ticket items like rods, reels, and angling accessories which were selling well despite the dour economic times. The ‘word” at the show was that the sport of fishing was growing again in the number of participants as people realized that fishing doesn’t have to be expensive, is available close to most people’s homes, and is a great family activity that can include the entire family.
Why I’m writing about this is because much of southern Wisconsin and particularly the Madison area have some of the Midwest’s best fishing for most fish species and even trophy muskies. One doesn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to fish, rent a motel room or cabin, and spend money on meals if you’re on a limited budget and trying to save while still going fishing. You may not have the beautiful scenery of the Northwood’s and the abundant wildlife, but if good fishing is what you’re after then the Madison Chain of Lakes has all you and your family need.
Many anglers and their families have traveled north for decades to fish for muskies, the state fish. Years ago, this might have been necessary because muskies were native and more abundant in the northern counties. But, two things have changed that and they are; an aggressive stocking program by the Wisconsin DNR and fishing organizations like Muskies Inc. (Capital City Chapter and the Oregon Muskie Busters) who have funded some of the stocking and the concept of catch and release which is the mantra of the vast majority of muskie fishers. Muskies are now getting a chance to reach their full growth potential instead of being killed for mounting when reaching a “trophy” size. Plus, the skills of taxidermists (Mark Edwards at Bio-Taxidermy, (608)-241-3774 is a good one) have improved so much that a good photo and or the measurements make a life-like graphite reproduction the way to go instead of killing a big muskie. This has allowed many more trophy size fish to be released and caught again while still growing to their potential.
This year is the first year that there have been verified (with pictures) of 50 inch muskies caught in the Madison Chain of Lakes. A 50 inch muskie is the goal of many fishermen and women much like a 10 pound walleye is to the walleye angler. I know of at least 5 muskies over 50 inches that have been caught and released this season. Professional angler and guide, Jeff Hanson (www.madisonmuskyguide.com), has had a great season already with two fish over the magical 50 inch length. Jeff has a 52 inch and a 50 ½ inch fish to his credit this year and always is one of the state’s and country’s top release guides. Hanson fishes Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa, and Lake Wingra with most of his clients and has had tremendous results on these local fisheries while to his credit releasing these huge fish.

Jeff Hanson with a 50"+ musky caught at night on the Madison Chain.

Jeff Hanson with a 50"+ musky caught at night on the Madison Chain.

I’ve been out with the DNR fisheries technicians experts during the spring netting and have seen and photographed some big muskies in the high 40’s in length and well over 30 pounds in weight. But, I have never scene, caught, or been in the boat with anyone who has caught a 50 inch muskie in the Madison waters. But, this year has proved that there are trophy class fish in our local lakes and more and more anglers are catching big muskies in these urban waters.
The future of muskie fishing in the area is also bright with the stocking of the Leech Lake muskie strain from the Minnesota Muskie Farm and the Chippewa muskie strain from the state’s Thompson Hatchery at Spooner, Wisconsin. The Leech Lake strain is supposed to possess better genetics that may be better suited for Wisconsin waters than those from the Thompson Hatchery. Wisconsin is constantly trying to upgrade their stockings and put the best fish available into our waters. Many people think that the Leech Lake muskie strain is the answer, but it will take years before data is available for comparison. According to DNR Fish Biologist, Kurt Welke, “This comparison process will take many years to track the growth over time and see if there are better genetics for the muskies that the state stocks.” Time will tell, but in the mean time the Madison Chain has a muskie fishery that most states would envy!
There is also another factor that is helping anglers catch more and bigger muskies. More and more anglers are now trolling for muskies instead of casting for them which was the norm for years. Remember the saying that muskies were the fish of a thousand casts? This is no longer true! Dane County allows an angler to troll for muskies with three rods while some counties like northern Wisconsin’s Vilas County banned muskie trolling many years ago because they felt it gave fishermen a better chance or unfair advantage for catching big muskies. I’m not talking about row trolling which is an old and highly successful method for catching these top-level predators. I row trolled with famous Northwood’s guide, Porter Dean, over 40 years ago and this technique has been making a come-back in recent years and is still a tried and true tactic. Anglers are now trolling for muskies much like fishermen troll for walleyes with long rods, line-counter reels, planer boards (Off Shore OR-12’s), and big stick baits. Guides in the know, now concentrate on following contour lines and targeting suspended muskies over deeper water instead of casting bucktails, spinners, top-water baits, big crankbaits, and large plastic baits. Casting is still viable technique which will always be used, but trolling with a smaller “kicker” motor is now the rage. Trolling allows the angler to cover more water, run multiple lines at different depths in the water column, and target suspended muskies in open water and close to deep water structure.

Leech Lake muskies are transplanted to Lake Monona.

Leech Lake muskies are transplanted to Lake Monona.

It is no longer necessary to travel long distances to chase muskies with the fishing that is available in the Madison lakes and many more waters in the southern half of the state. Some other waters that have quality muskies include much of the Wisconsin River, Little Green Lake, Swan Lake, Pewaukee Lake, Yellowstone Lake, Twin Valley Lake, Lake Redstone, Lake Wisconsin, the Castle Rock Flowage, and the Petenwell Flowage. Now, is the time to fish the good lakes and rivers closer to home which saves you money while still giving you the opportunity to catch that trophy fish.
Most of these locations are also near state and county parks with all the amenities for you and your family if you want to get a way for a few days of fishing and family fun. I’ve talked about muskies, but there is also good fishing for most species in all of these waters close to Madison.
Always, feel free to contact me (www.garyengbergoutdoors.com) for any information and help if planning an excursion in the waters of southern Wisconsin.
Guides; Wally Banfi, (608)-644-9823 or wallybanfi@gmail.com, Ron Barefield, (608)-838-8756 or barefish@chorus.net, Lee Tauchen, (608)-444-2180 or leetauchen@email.com, and Jeff Hanson, (608)-848-3906 or musky@tds.com.

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