Dane County’s Crystal Lake is located about a little over half an hour from Wisconsin’s state capital, Madison, and a few miles north of Roxbury, east of Sauk City, and the Wisconsin River. Though, only a few miles from Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River, anglers have a tendency to forget about fishing Crystal Lake when fishing gets difficult during summer’s heat. Locals are about the only people who fish the lake during the summer months. There’s an improved boat landing at the south side of the lake that has been flooded so you may have to park along Crystal Lake Road.
Crystal Lake gets pounded early in the year because it is so shallow (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 for the easy pickings. Many shore anglers regularly get their daily limit of 25 panfish in the spring. I’m 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. After the initial spring attack, things slow down on the lake, except for the weekends.
I happened to talk 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 how good the fishing was at Crystal Lake. Larry used to be a guide and I know the information that he passes on true. Larry is always on the water before sunrise and off by mid-mourning. So, he’s fishing 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 6 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 # test monofilament line. Then, put on a quality Thill slip-float and an ice fishing jig baited with a wax worm 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 you’re fishing. In Wisconsin, anglers are allowed to fish with 3 rods, so it’s 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, you’ll go through plenty of bait.
I’d 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. You’re now coveredfor 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 you’re drifting too fast, try putting out a drift sock to slow you down and allow you to fish over the side of the boat. The bluegills have been biting regularly with most fish in the 8 inch range. Crappies are a round 10 inches long and the perch are 8 inches plus. Most of the action lately has been on bluegills, but don’t be surprised to catch crappies, perch, and the occasional largemouth bass. If you fish a crawler on the bottom, you’ll catch all the bullheads that you want. This is another great place to take the kids because they’ll catch fish and it’s also a good place to catch some fish for a family meal. Don’t be a fish hog, keep just enough to eat, and release some of the larger fish for brood stock. The boat landing is on the south end of the lake, just off Crystal Lake Road. But, there’s also the chance of high water!
Information; Wilderness Fish and Game, (608) 643-2433.
Guides; Wally Banfi, (608) 644-9823 and Gary Engberg (608) 795-4208.