Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Ready and waiting: The muskies of Waukesha County

Contributing Editor

Mention muskies and most people immediately think of a lake up
north somewhere. The Chippewa Flowage, for instance, home of the
world record; or Vilas County’s Trout Lake, where some of the
state’s biggest muskies currently live.

On those lakes, muskie season won’t open until May 29. Here in
southern Wisconsin, though, the season opened May 1. You can wait
if you want, but you’re missing out on some good spring
fishing.

A handful of lakes in southern Wisconsin have good numbers of
muskies. Recent surveys of several Waukesha County lakes revealed
what muskie fanatics have known for awhile: There are plenty of
muskies here, including some big ones.

DNR fisheries biologist Sue Beyler conducted a muskie population
assessment on Okauchee Lake in April of 2002. Using the
mark-and-recapture method, Beyler came up with a population density
of about .2 muskies per acre. That’s just about what you’d find on
many muskie lakes in northern Wisconsin, according to DNR fisheries
supervisor Mike Vogelsang of Woodruff, whose area encompasses some
of the better muskie lakes in the state.

“That (.2 muskies per acre) is low-average, but I wouldn’t pay
too much attention to the population density, unless you want an
action’ water,” he said.

What he would pay attention to is the size of some of the fish
surveyed. One muskie Beyler’s crew tagged in Okauchee Lake that
year measured 51 inches and weighed 41 pounds. Males averaged 37
inches and 16 pounds, while females averaged 42 inches and 20
pounds.

Okauchee’s big muskies shouldn’t come as a big surprise, because
that lake has been stocked every year since the 1970s at the rate
of two fingerlings per acre. Last month, however, Beyler conducted
a similar assessment on Oconomowoc Lake, which is not stocked, and
found about the same number of muskies there as on Okauchee.

The lakes are connected via the Oconomowoc River. Muskies go
over the spillway of the dam at the outlet of Okauchee Lake and
downstream to Oconomowoc Lake.

“We marked about 120 muskies on Oconomowoc Lake and in the river
between the two lakes,” Beyler said. “I haven’t run the numbers yet
to determine recaptures, but I think we’ll have a density similar
to what we found on Okauchee Lake.”

The longest fish Beyler’s crew handled on this survey measured
46 inches. Another fish was a little shorter but heavier, weighing
in at 30 pounds. Beyler’s crew caught about 10 muskies in fyke nets
set in Oconomowoc Lake. The rest were caught by electroshocking in
the river between the lakes.

Muskies stocked in Okauchee Lake also have moved into several
more lakes on the Oconomowoc River. Some muskies swim upstream into
North Lake and even into Pine Lake. Some go downstream over the
Oconomowoc Lake dam to Fowler Lake, then over another dam to Lac
LaBelle. It’s unlikely many muskies squeeze through the narrow
metal grate at the outlet of Lac La Belle, Beyler says.

“They’re travelers,” she said. “We don’t know how many muskies
there are in the smaller lakes because we haven’t surveyed them.
There are certainly enough for people to fish for, though.”

Pewaukee Lake, which is stocked with two muskies per acre each
year, is on the upper end of a different river system. Pewaukee’s
muskies also wander far from home. Some fish go over the outlet dam
into the Pewaukee River, and from there to the Fox River, Tichigan
Lake, and on into Illinois.

A survey on Pewaukee Lake in 1998 revealed a density of .5
muskies per acre, which is still in the average range. The average
size of the fish sampled there was smaller than on Okauchee or
Oconomowoc, Beyler says.

During the Pewaukee Lake survey, biology professor Bob Anderson,
of Wisconsin Lutheran College, implanted radio transmitters in 20
muskies ranging up to 46 inches in length. Anderson monitored those
fish for three years and found they had an average home range of 30
to 40 acres. In spring and fall, they moved around a lot, but in
summer, they remained near structure in fairly shallow water.

If Anderson’s tagged muskies are typical, anglers should target
shallow structure, such as humps, rock piles, and weeds. Those
structure types abound on these Waukesha County lakes.

There’s public access on all the lakes mentioned. There are no
special muskie regulations on any of these waters, so the limit is
one fish over 34 inches per day. Most anglers release their muskies
anyway, and Beyler says anglers seem happy with the current
situation on these lakes.

Why wait for the North to open when you can fish for muskies on
productive water right now? Go it alone, or hire a guide. The
muskies of Waukesha County are ready when you are.

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MUSKIE GUIDES

Sterling Guide Service

Dennis Radloff

(262) 560-1309

www.sterlingmusky.com

Miljat’s Guide Service

Steve Miljat

414-769-9496

www.miljat.com

Esox Abe’s Guide Service

Abraham Lang

262-567-8089

esoxabe@yahoo.com

Sunshine Fishing Adventures

Dennis Skurulsky

262-574-9086

dskurulsky@yahoo.com

Peterson’s Guide Service

Bruce Peterson

262-644-4255

fishing@execpc.com

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