A nice summer bluegill. / Gary Engberg/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
A bluegill caught on a Slo-Poke jig. / Gary Engberg/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
Dane Countyís Crystal Lake is located about a half an hour from Madison, a few miles north of Roxbury and east of Sauk City and the Wisconsin River. Despite being only a few miles from Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River, anglers have a tendency to forget about fishing Crystal Lake when the angling gets difficult during summerís heat.
Locals are typically the only people who fish the lake during the summer months and the high water has stopped some would-be anglers this year. Thereís an improved boat landing at the south side of the lake that has been flooded, so anglers may need to park along Crystal Lake Road or visit to Crystal Lake Campground and pay to launch your boat. The non-stop rain that weíve experienced recently is not helping matters.
Crystal Lake gets pounded early in the year because it is so shallow (the deepest water is only 11 or 12 feet) and warms up quickly in the spring. Crappies and bluegills are easily caught from the rip-rapped shoreline by anglers who come from all over the area for the easy pickings. Many shore anglers regularly leave with their daily limit of 25 panfish in the spring. Iím amazed at the large number of fish that this 500 acre lake produces, but it is extremely fertile and the DNR says it has the capacity for large harvests of panfish. After the initial spring attack, things slow down on the lake.
I recently talked to a friend, Larry Wipperfurth, who is the manager of Wilderness Fish and Game store in Sauk Prairie. Larry lives only a couple of miles from the lake and fishes it regularly. The other day he told me that the fishing was good at Crystal Lake. Larry used to be a guide and I know the information that he passes on is true. Larry is always on the water before sunrise and off by mid-morning. He fishes in low-light periods.
The bluegills, crappies, and occasional perch are away from the shorelines this time of year and out in the shallow lake basin. Drifting across the main lake is the technique that most anglers use to catch fish. Fishermen that I know rig a six foot light action rod (like a G. Loomis SJR 720), with a Daiwa SS 700 ultra-light reel, and then spool it with Berkley Trilene XL in green color and 4 lbs. test monofilament line. Then, put on a quality Thill slip-float and an ice fishing jig baited with a wax worm or two hooked in the middle. The depth to set the slip-float can vary from day to day, so you have to experiment at different depths till you find the right one for the day youíre fishing.
In Wisconsin, anglers are allowed to fish with 3 rods, so itís easy to set your slip-floats at different depths from the top to the bottom of the water column till you find what depth the active fish are at. Active fish are usually higher up in the water column.
Make sure that you have a good assortment of ice fishing jigs in various sizes and colors (try the Bait Rigs Cobra, Dots, Teardrops, Rat Finkies, Ratsos, and Shrimpos). Also, bring some small plastics (try Techni-Glo tails that can be charged, Wedgies, and Gulp or PowerBait) because they work well when the fish are active. Last, bring plenty of wax worms and red worms because if the fish are biting, youíll go through plenty of bait.
Iíd also rig a rod with a plain long shank Aberdeen hook (#10 or #12) and a small split shot under a slip-float baited with a piece of worm. Youíre now covered for any situation you may run into on Crystal Lake this summer. Drift with the wind and watch your slip-floats. If there is too much wind and youíre drifting too fast, try putting out a drift sock to slow you down or use your trolling motor so that you can fish over the side of the boat.
The bluegills have been biting regularly with most fish in the eight inch range. Crappies are a round ten inches long and the perch are eight inches-plus. Most of the action lately has been on bluegills, but donít be surprised to catch crappies, perch, and largemouth bass.
Thereís also a sizeable bass population that are scattered around the lake, especially near the many stumps and wood that surround the lake. Most of the largemouths are 13 to 17 inches and can be caught on crankbaits, spinners, and all kinds of plastics. If itís bass that youíre after, have a rod rigged with a rubber worm, Gulp and Powerbait products, and safety pin spinner baits.
Top water baits also work well in the summer months.
If you fish a crawler on the bottom, youíll catch all the bullheads that you want to clean and give you plenty of action. This is another great place to take the kids because theyíll catch fish. Itís also a good place to catch fish for a family meal.
Donít be a fish hog, keep just enough to eat, and release some of the larger fish for brood stock.
Gary Engberg is a professional tournament angler, fishing guide, and writer. He began fishing tournaments in the early 1990ís and has fished the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT), North American Walleye Association (NAWA), Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC), World Walleye Association (WWA), FLW, and Mercury Nationals in the years since. Gary has hosted the Outdoor Horizons radio show weekly for 14 years in Madison on WTDY 1670 AM and WTDY 106.7 FM Saturdays at 8:05 am. and is also a correspondent for the Wisconsin State Journal for the last 12 years. Visit http://www.garyengbergoutdoors.com for more from Gary Engberg.