Lake Wisconsin’s Spring Slabs


If you’re fishing for slab-sized crappies, then Columbia County’s Lake Wisconsin is the place to be in May. Lake Wisconsin is actually a flowage formed when the Wisconsin River was dammed at Prairie du Sac and north at Wisconsin Dells. The lake (flowage) is 5,000 acres with a constant flow of water passing through with its water replaced every four days.

Crappie fishing starts soon after the ice leaves the lake by the end of March and steadily improves throughout April when the water temperatures hit 50 degrees. Lake Wisconsin has plenty of good crappie structure with many shallow bays that warm quickly to attract the hungry crappies. Crappies move into the bays here for the warmer water and forage in the spring then spawn here when the water temperatures reach the 60s.

Concentrate your efforts near brush piles, around any shoreline cover, at laydowns and the docks and piers. There’s scattered weeds in these bays, but the constant water flow prevents them from growing in the main-lake area.

The average crappie here is 10 inches, but there are numerous larger fish. Many crappies will be over 12 inches. These are usually the spawning females so try not to harvest these.

Lake Wisconsin has many older wooden piers that provide shade, cover and forage sites. These wooden piers warm quicker than metal ones, which helps warm the water. These also seem to hold more fish because the wood has algae growing on them, which attracts the small insects and gets the whole food cycle in motion. However, the number of wood piers is diminishing due to the large number of new homes and lake development. So, when you find wood, timber, and or brush, fish it because there will be crappies.

Though crappies can be found all over Lake Wisconsin, there are some traditional locations and hot spots where you can usually find them in May.

Weigands Bay is divided into a north and south bay. There’s an old pump house (light blue) that splits the bay. Stay to the left and go to the back of this bay and fish the piers and fallen trees. Watch out for shallower water just past the blue pump house. There’s also some deeper water in the back of the bay where spring crappies will suspend if the weather cools down.

Moon Valley is at the north end of this lake and warms quickly in the spring, attracting crappies. There’s a shallow stump at the entrance to the bay that also provides early-season catches. Fish the scattered cribs located throughout the bay in about 7 feet of water. If you go through the bay at Moon Valley there’s an underpass that goes under Highway 78 that takes you into Gallus Slough. This shallow, weedy slough holds crappies and bluegills. Fish it early in the spring before it becomes weed-choked waters.

Okee Bay is a spot that has many cribs and slack water that holds crappies. The area around the Okee Bridge is a good location for walleyes with shore anglers catching them along with the crappies.

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Sticky Bay is at the east end of the lake and has four fingers or boat channels that are shallow and warm. Crappies hold here throughout the spring and through the spawning period. The channels have some early weed growth and piers too so concentrate your fishing here.

Finally, Sunset Bay is another quality location with some weeds, cribs and stumps. This hot spot is on the bay’s west side of the lake.

Lake Wisconsin has cribs scattered around the lake, put there by the DNR to act as fish-attractors and to provide structure for crappies and other species. These cribs are easily marked on your electronics and some areas to look for them are off and near Tipperary Bluff, Stoners and Breezy points, at Pine Bluff, Moon Valley and Weigands Bay. Plus, there are many more cribs located around this lake that you may find on your electronics.

The water in most of the bays here is stained with a muck bottom that warms quicker with the sun and attracts food for the spawning and hungry crappies. Fish will move in and out of the bays depending upon the weather. When it’s nice and the sun shines you can find crappies in 2 to 3 feet of water and close to any structure. There’s no reason to start fishing early in the morning because these crappies like to wait until the sun warms the waters by mid-morning. If you have a stretch of weather that’s inconsistent, try a little deeper because crappies will move in and out of spawning areas during these unstable periods.

For equipment, a 6 1/2-foot graphite rod is ideal and allows you to make longer casts without spooking the shallow-water crappies. Next, you need a quality spinning reel spooled with 4-pound Berkley Trilene in their Green, which blends in with the lake’s stained water. The 4-pound-test mono works better than 6-pound-test line for these spring fish. Next, use a slip bobber with small split shot and an ice-fishing jig tipped with waxworms or spikes. Black is an underused color and works well on Lake Wisconsin. And the nice thing about a slip bobber is that you can change depths easily when searching for crappies that have moved or are suspended out in the deeper water. Make long casts and slowly work your rig back, stopping and letting the bobber rest now and then.

Another rig that works well is a number 8 VMC hook fished below a Thill Mini-Stealth Float baited with a crappie minnow. Also try a 1-inch tube jig below a small round float set anywhere from 15 to 30 inches below the float. Cast the shoreline, twitching and stopping the bait back to the boat.

Be sure to bring varying sizes of crappie minnows because fish can be inconsistent with food choice. Another option that works on active fish is a small plastic noodle or wedge in different colors dressed with a waxworm or two. The old standard “pinkie” jig under a float also works with and without a minnow.

The stable weather and warming sun of May is here, so these “slabs” will be active on this lake. Give Lake Wisconsin a try, as the immediate area here has everything you need, the boat landings are quality and provide access to many locations, and the crappies are hungry.