Friday, January 27th, 2023
Friday, January 27th, 2023

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North & South Twin, Vilas County

North, South Twin still growing big walleyes, muskies

By WON Staff

Vilas County’s North Twin Lake and South Twin Lake have long been a northern Wisconsin fishing, trapping, and hunting destination with some of the earliest visitors being French fur trappers who reached the area in the late 1600s, according to historical information collected by the North and South Twin Lake District.

As early at the 1880s, many resorts sprung up on the shores of North and South Twin lakes. One of the original resorts on South Twin Lake is now run as Camp Birch Knoll, a girls’ camp, but most are now private residences.

Along the way, the lakes also gained a reputation of growing big muskies and walleyes.

North and South Twin are drainage lakes. Military Creek enters North Twin Lake just north of Phelps. The outlet, the Twin River on South Twin Lake, is controlled by a dam that is owned and operated by Wisconsin Valley Improvement Corp., of Wausau. North Twin Lake has two public boat landings and South Twin has one landing.

The local DNR fisheries team ran a fishing survey on the two lakes in the spring and early summer of 2017, from April 13 through
June 7 of that year to assess the status of the game fish populations. The two lakes have a predominantly sand and gravel bottom with a total surface area of 3,430 acres and 14.1 miles of shoreline. The two-lake chain’s walleye and muskellunge populations are sustained through natural reproduction, according to the team’s survey report.

During 10 days of fyke netting, 4,004 adult walleye were captured and marked with a fin clip. Three crews then sampled with electrofishing boats and captured 983 adult walleyes. 

During the electrofishing survey, 31% (301 of 983) of captured walleyes bore the fin clip given to them during the earlier fyke netting effort. Based on those results, the two lakes were estimated to contain 12,814 adult walleyes, or 3.7 adult fish per acre.

An estimated 39% of the adult walleyes were 15 inches long or larger. The largest walleye was a 29.2-inch female.

The minimum walleye length limit is 15 inches, but walleyes from 20 to 24 inches may not be kept, and only one walleye longer than 24 inches is allowed per day. The daily bag limit is three walleyes.

During the crew’s fyke netting and electrofishing sampling of the two lakes, 85 adult muskies were captured. Of those adults, 35% (30 of 85) were 40 inches long or larger, with the largest being a 47.4-inch female. There also were a healthy number of muskies of 36 to 39 inches. Also, six juvenile muskies ranging from 13.7 to 29.7 inches also were captured.

The lakes’ muskie size limit is set at 50 inches.

The crew also captured 48 smallmouth bass that were 8 inches or longer, with 75% of those fish being 14 inches long or larger. The largest smallmouth went a whopping 21.1 inches long. Due to the low number of smallmouth bass captured that spring, the crew was unable to develop a reliable population estimate.

Largemouth bass numbers came in a lot stronger during the crew’s sampling efforts, with 161 largemouth bass 8 inches or longer sampled. Of those fish, 35% were 14 inches long or longer, and the largest went 18.9 inches long.

Again, the team was unable to come up with a population estimate because they didn’t capture enough largemouths.

The bass daily bag limit is five fish, with a 14-inch size limit, but smallmouth bass must be released from opening day through the third weekend in June. There is no early catch-and-release season on largemouth bass.

The crew caught just five adult northern pike, with the largest pike being a 33.7-inch female.

The team caught another 13 species of fish during fyke netting and electrofishing of North and South Twin Lakes. They caught: yellow perch (2.1 to 9.9 inches) and rock bass (3.8 to 8.9 inches). Those two panfish species were the most commonly caught species from the list of 13.

White suckers were caught in moderate numbers. Other species sampled included: black crappies, bluegills (3.8 to 7.4 inches), pumpkinseeds (4.6 to 7.4 inches), burbot, golden and common shiners, log perch, bluntnose minnow, mimic shiner, and mottled sculpin.

A quick look at the contour map shows that any angler looking to fish structure – whether it be open water or winter season – will want to focus on the almost unending humps, points and bars of North Twin Lake. 

However, North Twin also has expansive weed flats that, at one point or another throughout any given day or part of the season, will harbor panfish, bass, pike, walleyes, and muskellunge.

In fact, those weed flats, and the weeds on the east side of South Twin, are great place to run surface baits for muskies after dark in July and August.

North/South Twin Lakes

Nearest town: Phelps

Surface area: 2,788, 642 acres

Max. depth: 60, 43 feet

Water clarity: Clear

Fish species present:

Black crappies, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, rock bass, yellow perch, white suckers, ciscoes, smallmouth  bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleyes, and muskies.

For information:

DNR regional fisheries office (715) 365-8900, the DNR web site, or call Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.

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