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Gary Engberg - River Currents - The Best Waters for Winter Bluegills in Southern Wisconsin
The southern third of Wisconsin has many lakes that have both numbers and good size bluegills. The waters that I'm recommending are all within 50 to 60 miles of Madison, the state capital.
The waters of the Madison Chain of Lakes all provide good bluegill action if you do a little research. Though the lakes can be crowded on weekends, it's still possible to get away
from the crowds and find your own fish without other anglers drilling holes closer to you every time that you catch a fish!
First, we'll start with the Madison Chain and go north from there. Here are some very good locations that will provide you with action and some tasty 'gills for the frying pan.
You now have numerous good fishing locations for bluegills of all sizes in southern Wisconsin. Here are a few more tips for success; 1) Use a quality monofilament (Berkley Ice Line)
in 2 # test for bluegills. The smaller diameter line really makes a difference for finicky fish. 2) Make sure that you are using a spring bobber to detect the slightest bite. 3) Have
a good selection of jigs in all sizes and colors (Bait Rigs and Custom Jigs and Spins make great panfish gear). Change jigs and colors till you find what the fish want that day. 4) Try
using some of the new plastics for bluegills. I know many good fishermen who use nothing but plastics with great success. 5) If using live bait, wax worms and spikes seem to work
best. 6) Trust your electronics, especially if fishing in water deeper than 5 feet. The new color units (Lowrance) are great and easy to use. 7) Try drilling your holes before you
start fishing, so that you don't keep spooking fish. Keep moving and experimenting till you find the biting and active fish.
- Around downtown Madison, fish the "Triangle" area which is a short walk from downtown Madison.
The Triangle is near Brittingham Park and Monona Bay. This is a good spot if you're taking the children and want "action" to keep them interested in fishing. You will have to sort through
the numerous smaller fish to get your "keepers", but it's easy to find fish in this shallow and weedy bay. There are some eaters in the 8 inch range, but this is mainly a location for
catching numbers and getting the youngsters interested in ice fishing. Access is easy and the walk is an easy one for both children and seniors.
- Warner Bay on Lake Mendota's north-east side is another quality spot during the winter.
There's a distinct break line and numerous green weeds in the winter. It also is a good idea to out a few tip-ups because the bay has a good northern pike population with many fish
over 30 inches. The minimum length is 40 inches, so this is definitely a trophy lake for pike.
- Lake Mendota, the largest lake in the "Chain" (almost 10,000 acres) is one of the best
bluegill lakes that I know. This is the last lake to freeze in the Chain, but once it does be ready for big slab bluegills. The last few winters, the bluegills started biting in
University Bay by the middle of December and continued throughout the winter months. This "bite" was no secret and I worry about all the big bluegills that were taken out of this
lake the last few winters. The average bluegill was almost 9 inches with many fish 10 and almost 11 inches long. A 10 inch bluegill weighs almost a pound and that is a big bluegill!
Though the limit is 25 fish, you don't have to keep that many fish for a few great meals. Keep 10 or 12 fish and leave some for the next guy or for brood stock. The fish moved around
the Bay some, but basically they stayed place all winter.
- Lake Waubesa, south of Madison, also has good bluegill and panfishing at the north end and
around Hog Island. There also is a good bite directly out from the Lake Farm boat landing in water 7 feet deep or less.
- North of Madison about 30 miles are Fish and Crystal Lakes. They are a few miles from the
small berg of Roxbury and 5 miles from Sauk City. Bluegills can be caught throughout the winter if you keep moving and "popping" holes till you find active fish. Fish Lake is weedy
and the water level is still high, but it contains many bluegills that readily bite. This is another "action" lake where you have to sort through your fish for a good meal. But, you
will catch fish! Crystal Lake has larger fish with bluegills, crappies, and perch. The deepest water is only 10 feet deep. A good location to start fishing is the east end where
you'll find many stumps and trees which hold fish much of the year. Again, keep moving till you contact fish. Fish and Crystal Lakes are only a half mile apart and both can be fished the same day.
- Gallus Slough is another top location north of Sauk City about 7 miles and on the north
end of Lake Wisconsin. The Slough requires a little walk to get to the ice. The slough is just north of Lake Wisconsin's Moon Valley and off Highway 78 and 113. There's parking
along Highway 113 and then a 10 minute walk to the slough and water. The walk may scare away a few anglers if there's snow on the ground, but its well worth it! Gallus Slough is
shallow with all water less than 5 feet. The bluegills that you'll catch are some of the larger in the area and I'd put this location on my must fish list. Bluegills over 8 inches
are the norm and there are some 'gills over 9 inches.
- Devils Lake, south of Baraboo, though known for its trout has a sizeable population of
quality bluegills, crappies, and rock bass. The best fishing spots are at the south and east end of the lake. There's ample parking, but you do need a state park sticker to park
and fish. You can buy daily and yearly stickers at the park's office on the lake's north end. There are bluegills, crappies, and sunfish close to and in the green weeds. I also
suggest fishing near the creek mouth at the lake's south end especially if the water is at a higher level. There also are big northern pike, so put out a tip-up or two for a bonus
- The last locations that I'm recommending are the numerous sloughs and backwaters along
the Wisconsin River from Sauk City to Spring Green. Highway 60 runs along this 12 mile stretch with many of the sloughs visible from the highway. Traveling west from Sauk City,
the sloughs will be on your left where you'll see the Wisconsin River. There's been enough moisture this fall, so the backwaters should be full. Rainbow, Badger, Jones, and Helena
sloughs can all be productive for winter bluegills. Remember, to be extra careful because there is flowing water from the river in all of these spots.
For more fishing articles visit www.garyengbergoutdoors.com
Gary Engberg Outdoors
P.O. Box 92
Sauk City, WI 53583
Host of Outdoor Horizons on 1670-WTDY, Saturday's 8:00am-8:30am