Musky lakes in Wisconsin stocking reports
Below is a list of Wisconsin Counties and certain lakes. This offers a lake breakdown and the amount of fish that have been stocked. It has some good information about the total fish stocked and what the forage is in each lake. This might be something interesting when you’re planning next years trip. All information was pulled from https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/.
Day Lake Flowage – This 625-acre, stained-water impoundment on the Chippewa River within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in western Ashland County presents anglers with a couple unique opportunities. Day Lake is teaming with muskies giving anglers a realistic chance of catching a fish each time out. However, while anglers can experience some fast-action, the average size musky will be around 30”. You also could harvest a smaller-sized musky, if you so desire, because of a 28-inch minimum length limit. In addition to a high abundance of Muskies, the most recent 2020 electrofishing survey showed good numbers of Black Crappie, Bluegill and Largemouth Bass. With the variety of species Day Lake has to offer this gives fishing opportunities for all. There is a boat launch located just off Highway M just west of Clam Lake, along with a USFS campground located right on the flowage.
Red Cedar River – The Red Cedar River from CTH W to the Barron-Dunn County line (~19.5 river miles) has a respectable muskellunge fishery that is often overlooked by anglers. Based on recent electrofishing surveys, the Red Cedar River has a fair number of muskellunge over 40 inches, with some fish surpassing 45 inches. The muskellunge population is managed with the statewide 40-inch minimum length limit and one fish daily bag limit. Barron County has several well-marked and maintained river accesses. These would include the accesses at County Highways W, OO, D, I, and AI. Anglers will likely have the best luck by floating a canoe, kayak, or small boat and targeting any deeper pool habitats. The Red Cedar River is stocked with muskellunge at a low level, gets muskellunge from upstream sources, and a low level of natural reproduction also occurs. Musky do well in the Red Cedar River with the abundant sucker and redhorse populations.
CALUMET, FOND DU LAC, GREEN LAKE, OUTAGAMIE, SHAWANO, WAUSHARA, WAUPACA, AND WINNEBAGO COUNTIES
The Winnebago System includes the four lakes (Lakes Winnebago, Butte des Morts, Winneconne, and Poygan) along with all their tributaries from their mouths upstream to the first dam including the upper Fox and Wolf Rivers. 165,246 acres for the lakes and roughly 142 river miles. Great Lakes spotted strain muskellunge were stocked throughout the Winnebago System during the years 2002-2007. During this time span, 613,248 fish were stocked (589,643 fry; 1,162 small fingerlings; 22,397 large fingerlings; 40 yearlings; and 6 adults). As a result, the system currently supports a low density muskellunge population that provides trophy (>50 inches) opportunities for anglers. To help bolster the population, 2,943 yearling Great Lakes spotted muskellunge have been stocked in the Upriver Lakes since 2015. This included 946 fish with an average length of 16.2 inches that were stocked near Omro on the upper Fox River in 2020. These stockings should provide a boost to the population and provide additional angling opportunities. All fish stocked received right ventral fin clips to indicate that the fish was stocked. Anglers who catch a muskellunge on the Winnebago System can help with management efforts by checking their fish for fin clips and reporting it to the Oshkosh DNR office. All fish were also tagged with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, which are small radio transponders that contain a specific identification code for each fish. This will allow DNR staff to assess stocking location and growth of PIT tagged muskellunge that are captured during future surveys. Current Regulations: The 2021 open season for muskellunge is May 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021 with a daily bag limit of 1 fish and a minimum length limit of 50”. Access Information: There are numerous access points around the Winnebago system. Consult a system map or the DNR’s Boat Access Website to search for launch information near where you want to fish (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/lands/boataccess). With the help of local fishing and conservation clubs 46 acoustic tags were purchased and surgically implanted in yearling muskellunge in 2016 and 2017. There are currently 29 acoustic receivers located throughout the Winnebago System that are programmed to pick up the signal from acoustic tagged fish that swim by the receiver. Because each tag has a unique signal, individual fish can be tracked as they move by receivers. Conducting this acoustic tag study has allowed for muskellunge movement and stocking strategies to be evaluated. The battery life of these tags is 5 years and has already provided valuable information. Fisheries staff will continue to collect information during the final 2021 and 2022 study years. -Adam Nickel, Fisheries biologist, Oshkosh
Chippewa River – The reservoirs on the lower Chippewa River are well known for their musky populations and trophy potential, but the riverine portions do not get the credit they deserve for producing big musky. In particular, the 10 miles stretch from the NSP Dam in Chippewa Falls to the Eau Claire County line consistently produces nice musky. The forage base in this portion of river is excellent with numerous species of redhorse sucker readily abundant, so it is no surprise that musky stocking efforts have paid off. This stretch of river does not see a lot of pressure and is generally shallow, so a fishing trip is best done as a float trip in a canoe, kayak, small aluminum boat or drift boat. Check the river level prior to embarking to ensure it is at a safe level. There is a boat landing in Chippewa Falls to put in and a few to choose from closer to Eau Claire to take out. The daily bag limit is one fish and it must be at least 40”. – Joseph Gerbyshak, Fisheries biologist, Eau Claire
Lake Wingra – This 336-acre lake is in the heart of Madison, Dane County and offers a unique urban fishing experience. 2018 and 2019 surveys showed a robust musky fishery, well above average densities with most fish in the 35-40” range, offering anglers a good chance at hooking into a fish on any given day. However, anglers shouldn’t expect a harvest opportunity due to the 50” minimum length limit. In addition to a high abundance of muskies, the 2019 netting and electrofishing survey showed high abundance of bluegill and an improving largemouth bass fishery. A newcomer to the fishery, northern pike are also present. Boat parking is difficult within the city limits, but shore and ice anglers can park near the Zoo and surrounding neighborhoods.
Lake of the Falls – At 338 acres, Lake of the Falls located upriver of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage is often overlooked as a destination to musky fish. Relative to its size this waterbody has the potential to produce some big muskies. In 2015, muskellunge up to 50.5” inches were netted. Overall, the lake is shallow with stained water and a high density of weeds. There are three inlets entering this body of water providing a wide variety of lake and riverine habitats to try. This lake has relatively high densities of adult muskies with a balanced size structure, which will provide good action and the occasional chance at a wall mounter. There is a nonpaved public boat landing located on the westside of the lake. Current regulations allow for a daily bag limit of 1 fish that must be at least 40”.
JACKSON, MONROE, LA CROSSE, AND TREMPEALEAU COUNTIES
Lower Black River (below the Black River Falls dam), Jackson, Monroe, La Crosse, and Trempealeau Counties. Catch rates are based on 2020 electrofishing results (expressed as number of fish captured per mile of river surveyed). Black River, lower: Total catch rate was 0.6/mile, catch rate of 40”+ fish was 0.1/mile, and maximum size captured was 42.3”. In 2019, total catch rate was 0.6/mile, catch rate of 40”+ size fish was 0.15/mile, and maximum size captured was 49”. Regulation: 40” minimum length limit / 1 fish daily bag limit. Access Information: Lower Black River – 3rd Street Canoe Landing (City of Black River Falls), Perry Creek Landing, Mason’s Landing, Irving Township Canoe Landing, Highway 108 Landing near Melrose, WI, North Bend Landing off CTH VV, and Highway 35 landing in Van Loon Bottoms. Other Information: The 4 mile stretch of the Black River downstream of the Black River Falls Dam consistently yields one of the highest densities of 40”+ muskellunge found in annual surveys.
Wisconsin River system in Marathon County including all flowages (Lake DuBay, Mosinee Flowage/Halfmoon Lake, Lake Wausau, and Wausau Dam Lake). Flowages ranging from 300-5000 acres in size along 52 miles of river from the Dubay Dam upstream to the Merrill Dam. Muskellunge angling records from the Muskies, Inc. “Lunge Log” and local leagues have shown strong increases in musky size structure in the Wisconsin River in the last 10 years. In particular the percentage of 45” or larger musky reported increased from 1% to 15%. Fyke netting and electrofishing survey data from these systems indicate that maximum length on average is 47.8” and ranges 40.8”–53” among systems. Similarly, growth data trajectories from tagged musky that have been recaptured have indicated that on average muskellunge ultimate length is 51.7” which ranges from 48.5” to 53.2” depending on the flowage. All this data indicates that this portions of the Wisconsin River provides trophy muskellunge fishery. And although the relative abundance information is variable, anglers indicate that chances of catching a musky on Wisconsin River is more probable than most low-density trophy populations in lakes. Upstream of the DuBay Dam, the Wisconsin River muskellunge regulation follows the statewide 40” minimum length limit with a daily bag limit of 1. Numerous Landings can be found at each Marathon County flowage in the Wisconsin River. Popular landings include Oak Island Park Landing on Lake Wausau, Riverside Park Landing in the Mosinee Floage, and Chucks Landing downstream of the Mosinee Dam (tailwater upstream of Lake DuBay). Muskellunge are entirely supported by natural reproduction above Wausau Dam, but the flowages downstream of the dam it is unknown how much natural reproduction occurs. Currently, the DNR is working with several musky clubs and leagues on a PIT tagging project to better understand musky natural reproduction, stock survival and contribution, and flowage retention and loss of fish via downstream emigration. Club members assist with the tagging of both stocked musky fingerlings and fish surveyed in the field. Volunteer anglers outfitted with PIT tag scanners participate in weekly leagues and solo fishing efforts to actively monitor for PIT tagged individuals. So far, this project has been fairly popular among participants and the recapture data gained from both anglers and DNR surveys has provided justification to propose changes to the minimum length limits on the Wisconsin River upstream of the DuBay Dam.
Caldron Falls Reservoir (1,018 acres) and High Falls Reservoir (1,498 acres) The musky fisheries are maintained through a combination of stocking and natural reproduction. The density (fish /acre) of musky is higher in Caldron Falls than in High Falls but large fish are present in both flowages. Current regulation: 50-inch minimum length / 1 fish per day Access information: There are 5 boat landings on Caldron Falls and 6 on High Falls. Shore fishing opportunities are excellent. Musky were stocked in High Falls for the first time in 2017. A 50-inch minimum length limit went into effect in 2018.
George Lake – 443 acres, 5.5 miles of shoreline, 26 feet maximum depth. George is home to a thriving action musky fishery which is sustained through stocking every other year. Most fish range between the mid-30s to mid-40s. There is a wide variety of structure to fish so between that and the abundance of muskies, anglers keep busy. The regulation is the statewide 1 fish over 40”. A concrete public boat launch with good access and ample parking is located off Nostalgia Lane on the east side of the lake. – Zach Woiak, Fisheries biologist, Rhinelander
SAUK AND COLUMBIA COUNTIES
Lower Wisconsin River – 92.3 miles.The Lower Wisconsin River supports a healthy musky fishery from the Prairie du Sac Dam to Mazomanie. Anglers can expect to see musky 35 to 42 inches with some in the upper 40’s present in the population. Electrofishing surveys during October & November of 2020 sampled 83 individual musky that ranged from 23.2 to 49.9 inches total length. Average size was 35.4 inches. Musky ≥ 40 inches made up 15.6% of the sample while musky ≥ 35 inches made up 57.8% of the sample. Current regulation: 50-inch minimum length limit with a daily bag limit of 1 upstream of Hwy. 12 to Prairie du Sac dam in Dane, Sauk, and Columbia Counties. Downstream of Hwy. 12 there is a 40-inch minimum length limit with a daily bag limit of 1. Access information: Public boat launch and accessible bank fishing opportunities are located thru out the Lower Wisconsin River way. There is a public boat launch close to the dam at Veterans Memorial Park. A daily or annual fee is required to use the launch at this park. Boaters should use caution near the dam as many rock bars, wing dams, and shallow sand breaks are present in the river channel. In the fall of 2020 the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources marked 83 musky with a plastic floy tag. These tags will be located near the dorsal fin of the fish and have a phone number on one side and 4 digit number unique to that fish on the other side. If a tagged fish is caught, record the date, location, size, the 4 digit tag number, and if the fish was kept or released. If the fish is to be released, please leave the tag in the fish. Information can be texted to the phone number or anglers may leave a voice mail. – Bradd Sims, Fisheries biologist – Dodgeville
North and South Twin lakes – Lake size: 3,430 acres. North and South Twin lakes support a low density, trophy muskellunge population that provides excellent angling opportunity for more experienced and patient musky anglers. Fyke net surveys were conducted on the Twin Chain in 2017 and 2018 to estimate muskellunge abundance. The population estimate for the two lakes was 168 adult muskellunge (0.05 per acre). During the 2017-18 surveys 36% of the muskellunge encountered were 40” or larger with the largest being 48.6”. Although no fish over 50” were captured during these surveys, there are reports of musky greater than 50” being caught out there relatively regularly. Current Regulation: 1 bag; 50” minimum length. Access information: There are multiple boat access sites located on North and South Twin lakes. North Twin has landings located on the northwest shore (off Lakota Rd.) and southeast shore (off Hwy 17). There is also a boat landing located on the north shore of South Twin off Twin Lake Rd. One of the largest muskellunge ever caught in Vilas County was caught on North Twin Lake in September 1954 by Myrl “Ozark” McFaul. The fish measured 57.5”, weighed 53lbs., 12oz. and sat atop the leaderboard of that year’s Vilas County Musky Marathon contest. – Eric Wegleitner, Fisheries biologist – Vilas County
Pewaukee Lake – 2437 surface acres. Species population information: Average length – 36 inches, population estimate – 0.5 adults per acre. Pewaukee lake is the largest muskellunge lake in Waukesha County and has experienced recent increases in northern pike and walleye abundance, improved panfish size structure, trophy smallmouth bass and trophy muskellunge potential making Pewaukee an exciting angling destination for all anglers. Current regulation: 40-inch minimum length, daily bag limit of 1. Access information: There are two boat launches found on Pewaukee Lake; the Nagawaukee County park boat launch on the west side and Smokey’s Muskie Shop on the east side. Shore fishing can also be found at Nagawaukee County Park and the public fishing pier in downtown Pewaukee.
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