By: Blake Tollefson
Living in the Midwest, there is definitely not a lack of water available to fish and recreate. As you look at a map, there are countless areas where lakes exist in any direction for miles. Knowing the rules, how to access a lake, and what kinds of fish swim in the lake is vital to having an enjoyable and successful day on the water.
Both Minnesota and Wisconsin do an excellent job of equipping anglers with the necessary information.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website is an excellent tool to utilize for finding information regarding a new fishery. The site includes lake specific information pertaining the fish species that inhabit a lake, how to access the lake, and any waterbody specific fishing regulations. Additional information on the lake may also be included on the lake specific link. This includes topographic (bathymetry) maps, water quality data, and external links to relevant associations and groups.
If you’re in need of more specific information regarding a fishery and its water dwelling inhabitants, additional resources are available. The Wisconsin DNR has stocking reports accessible through an external site. This site provides up-to-date information regarding the fish species that were stocked in a given body of water. Additionally, I have found that local DNR staff are eager to share the latest fisheries surveys for lakes throughout the territory they cover. DNR staff are assigned to regions, so it is important to ensure you contact the appropriate individuals.
The State of Minnesota’s DNR utilizes an application called LakeFinder. The LakeFinder program is an amazing tool for finding info on most lakes. It includes recent survey data and in depth information regarding the species that inhabit the given lake, as well as historical data. Information related to water clarity and water quality is also available via the LakeFinder. The tool is quite efficient for for narrowing down which lakes you want to fish.
Looking for bathymetric maps? Those are also available on a lake specific basis under the LakeFinder application.
The DNR has a searchable stocking database for anglers, which is available under the LakeFinder umbrella.
In new areas, don’t hesitate to reach out to more localized resources. The local residents and the bait shop in town might be more willing to share information than you’d think. It’s not uncommon to find some extremely valuable tips and tricks by chatting with the guy or gal at the local bait shop. Online resources, such as fishing report websites and social media, are often full of helpful information as well.
Depending on the lake, it may be important to check resources from local lake associations. There are occasional regulations regarding boat traffic, no wake zones, and so forth, however, these are typically posted at the landings. Remember to carry a few bucks on you, as some landings charge daily launch fees.
Remember to follow the regulations related to invasive species especially when trying new lakes. Pull the plug, drain the live well, and check your boat and trailer for any critters looking for a free ride.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Spend a little time doing your research, and you may just find one of your new favorite lakes.
Wisconsin DNR Lakes: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/lakes
Wisconsin Stocking Reports: https://infotrek.er.usgs.gov/doc/wdnr_biology/Public_Stocking/StateMapHotspotsAllYears.htm
Minnesota DNR LakeFinder: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html