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 April and 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, or flowage, is over 5,000 acres with a constant flow of water passing through and normally the lake’s water is 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 temperature hits 50 degrees. Lake Wisconsin has plenty of good crappie structure with many shallow bays that warm quickly, attracting the hungry fish. Crappies move into the bays for the warmer water and forage in the spring and spawn there when the water temperature reaches into the 60s. Concentrate your efforts near brush piles, around any shoreline cover, by fallen trees and around and under the lake’s numerous docks and piers. There’s scattered weeds in the numerous bays, but the constant water flow prevents weeds from growing in the main lake body.

The average crappie is around 10 inches, but there are larger fish. There are days when most crappies you catch will be over 12 inches. These are usually the spawning females and try not to harvest too many of these so that there are crappies for future years. It is not unusual to catch crappies in the 12- to 15-inch range on any given day.

Lake Wisconsin has many older wooden piers that can be found in many of the bays. The piers provide shade, cover and forage. And, the wooden piers warm faster than the metal ones, which help warm waters nearby. The wooden piers also seem to hold more fish because the wood gets algae growing on them, which soon attracts small insects, putting the whole food cycle in motion. But the number of wood piers is diminishing due to large number of new homes and development. The wood piers are being replaced with new metal piers and much of the shoreline’s brush and wood is being cleared from the lake. So, when you find wood, timber, and/or brush in any of the bays, fish it, because there will be crappies in the immediate area.

Though crappies can be found all over Lake Wisconsin, there are some traditional locations where you can usually find spring crappies. These hot spots include:

  • Weigands Bay, which is divided into a north and south bay. There’s an old pump house (painted light blue) that splits the bay. Stay to the left and go to the back of the bay and fish all the piers and fallen trees you can find. Watch out for shallow water just past the blue pump house. There’s also deeper water in the back of the bay where spring crappies suspend if the weather cools down.
  • Moon Valley is at the north end of the lake and warms quickly in the spring, attracting many crappies. There’s a shallow stump at the entrance of the bay that provides early crappies. Fish the scattered cribs that are located throughout the bay in around 7 feet. If you go through at Moon Valley, there’s an underpass that goes under Highway 78, taking you into Gallus Slough. This shallow and weedy slough holds both crappies and bluegills, but fish it early in the spring before it becomes weed-choked.
  • Okee Bay is a spot that has many cribs and slack water that holds crappies during the spring and even into the summer months. The area around the Okee Bridge is another good spring location for walleyes with shore anglers catching them along with crappies.
  • Sticky Bay, at the east end of the lake, there are four fingers or boat channels that are shallow and warm early, attracting and holding crappies throughout spring and the spawning period. The channels have some early weed growth, and piers, so concentrate some of your fishing here.
  • Sunset Bay is another quality location with some weeds, cribs and stumps on the bay’s west side of Lake Wisconsin.

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

The water in most of the lake’s bays is stained with a muck bottom that warms faster with the sun and also attracts food for the spawning and hungry crappies. The crappies will move in and out of the bays depending upon the weather on any given day. When the weather is nice and sunny you can find Lake Wisconsin crappies in 2 to 3 feet of water close to any structure, be it wood, piers or shoreline brush. There is no reason to start fishing early in the morning because the crappies like to wait until the sun warms the water at mid-morning. The best time in spring fish crappies is during the middle of the day, especially if the weather is stable. If you have a stretch of varying weather, try fishing deeper because crappies will move in and out.

The equipment needed to catch Lake Wisconsin crappies is nothing special or expensive. A 6 1/2-foot graphite rod is ideal and allows you to make long casts and not spook the shallow-water fish. Next, you need a good quality spinning reel (Daiwa or Shimano) spooled with 4-pound Berkley Trilene in the Green color that blends in with the lake’s stained water. The 4-pound- test mono works better than 6-pound-test. Next, use a slip bobber with a small split shot and an ice fishing jig (have a good assortment in different sizes and colors) tipped with a few waxworms and or spikes. Black has seemed to be an underused color and works well on Lake Wisconsin. The nice thing about a slip bobber is that you can change depths easily when searching for crappies that have moved or even suspended over 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. The last rig is a 1-inch tube jig below a small round float. Set the floats anywhere from 15 to 30 inches below the float and cast the shoreline, while twitching and stopping the bait back to the boat.

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Be sure to bring different sizes of minnows because fish often want different-sized bait at different times. Another option that works on active fish is small plastic noodles or wedges in different colors dressed with a waxworm or two. The old standard “pinkie” jig under a float still works with or without a minnow.

All you need now is stable weather and warming sunshine. The “slabs” will be active on the lake, so why not give Lake Wisconsin a try? The area has everything you need including motels, resorts, eateries, campgrounds, boat rentals and bait shops. The boat landings are also good and give you access to any location.

            If you have any questions or comments you can reach Gary Engberg at 608-795-4208 or

For more information…

Contact guides, Gary Engberg at 608-795-4208, Tony Puccio at 608-212-6464, Ron Barefield, 608-235-7685