Lost Lake: a Long Walk, but Well Worth It


Besides being an outdoor writer, radio show host (Outdoor Horizons) and video producer, I’ve been a Wisconsin licensed fishing guide for over 30 years. A guide makes his living helping people catch fish. It’s nice to get out in beautiful scenery, and see eagles soaring overhead on a sunny day, but people are with you to catch fish. Every day is not sunny, but if people hire you, you go out in any kind of weather—rain, snow or shine! Over the years, I’ve found that the species of fish is not as important as having action.


My point is, that most guides don’t share too many of their “secret spots” with clients and other guides. I think I’m a little different, because in my writings, seminars and on my website, I share honest information that will help, and show you places where you, too, can catch fish. Some of the places that I write about are out-of-the-way places, and not always easy to get to. But they are locations that I fish myself, and if I write about them, then they are worth fishing.


The older I get, I’m not as crazy about ice fishing as I was 20 and 30 years ago. But I do get out with some of my “young buck” friends, and a few of my lifelong friends. Also, if you live on the water in Wisconsin or anywhere else in the upper Midwest, you will likely ice fish—especially when there’s a good bite, and you want a great meal of fresh fish. I don’t care about the actual species, but walleyes, yellow perch, northern pike and panfish are my favorites anytime. There’s something about catching fresh fish in cold water, isn’t there?


Lost Lake is a small backwater lake or slough off the Wisconsin River, off Highway Y between Mazomanie and Sauk City, Wisconsin. It is part of the Wisconsin DNR’s Mazomanie Unit of public land. The public land consists of thousands of acres along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway between the Wisconsin River and Highway 78.


Highway Y runs along the river, and there are two ways to get back to Lost Lake. One way is to drive Highway Y to Laws Drive, which is about five miles east of Mazomanie, turn left, and follow the road ‘til it ends at a gate marked by DNR signs. This would be easy, if you could use a 4-wheeler; but this is a walk-in-only trail. You follow this trail to the end, where you’ll see Lost Lake, and the river backwaters that it connects to which runs into the Wisconsin River. This is a long walk in the winter, depending on if there is snow.


The other way to gain access is to drive about 1/2 mile back (west) toward Mazomanie, and turn right at the dirt road that is marked with a sign reading Mazomanie Unit and Dog Training Area. Drive the mile to the end of the road, where there is a parking lot and shelter. GPS and modern electronics will have this area marked. There is a gated walking path, which you follow for a little over a mile to where it ends. You will see lost Lake on your right, and all the connecting backwaters.

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You need an Otter-type sled to carry and pull your gear in for the 30-minute walk. Depending on the weather, I try to pack the sled with the least amount of gear and equipment that I’ll need. I bring a hand auger with sharp blades (the Lazer and Mora are good ones), because they are light, and you probably will be fishing in less than 10 feet of water. Next, bring 2 or 3, 2-foot rods for jigging up some of the nice bluegills that Lost Lake can produce. Frabill and H.T. both make good rods, on which I use an ultra-light Frabill reel with 4-pound-test Stren Hi-Vis line. I like to use Hi-Vis line, because I can see bites better. It isn’t made in 2-pound, so I use Ice line in 2-pound and attach it to the 4-pound Hi-Vis line. Then, I tie an ice jig and a couple of waxworms on one rod, and on the other rod, I’ll put on a jig and one of the many kinds of plastics that are now the rage.


Some days, I catch all my fish on live bait, while other days, fish want something different. And that’s where plastic wedgies or noodles come in. Always have a wide assortment of ice jigs in all colors, shapes and sizes. An old film canister can hold a lot of ice jigs. I have tear drops, dots, Ratfinkees, Shrimpos and Cobras. I’ve had great success with the Bait Rigs Cobra; with its hook design, you rarely miss a fish.


Since Lost Lake flows into the Wisconsin River, you can also have some northern pike and largemouth bass. I have never seen any winterkill in these waters from lack of oxygen. Bring along a couple of tip-ups and shiners for pike and bass. You’re out of the wind, so it’s your choice whether or not to bring a shanty. If it’s a nice day, I dress right for the day. You can always take clothes off, so dress in layers.


Drill all your holes when you first get there, so fish are only disturbed once. Do some hole-hopping, and you’ll find some bluegills that run 8 to 10 inches. Yes, 10 inches, and those fish are close to a pound! I’ve also caught northern pike from 25 to 35 inches on tip ups.


It’s not easy to get to, but the trek is usually worth it. When you catch fish at Lost Lake, they usually are good ones!