Jewels of the Dog Days

By Lawrence Van Veghel - July 1, 2003
The "Dog Days of Summer" often make it seem like the fish left Wisconsin's waters. Actually, July can be a fantastic fishing month. It's also good for other outdoor activities, such as swimming, diving, hiking, skiing, picnicking, birding, and much more. I get another year older, but I can't stop that. I guess I'll just go fishing.

For my outings, I refer to the same collection of reports I use when writing articles for you. This helps reduce our unproductive outings.

Is fishing slowing down for you? Try the Fox River Valley waters. There's quite a variety of fish to choose from. Trout, walleyes, muskie, northern pike, bass, panfish, and the rest of the Wisconsin species we seek are ready to snack on your baits. Walleyes are active during morning, evening, and night hours, and so are the largemouth bass. For muskies, fish the

"The 'Dog Days of Summer' often make it seem like the fish left Wisconsin's waters. Actually, July can be a fantastic fishing month. "
clear-water lakes at night. Their northern pike cousins are active during daylight hours, often midday. Use bright colored spinnerbaits, crankbaits, or large shiners. Gamefish are shallower during lowlight hours, while daylight has them deeper in what is often called their sanctuary. Panfish suspend or are on the outside weed edges. In deeper water lakes, the perch go deep. Adjust to where the fish are, and you'll be successful.

Dodge County's Fox Lake is again producing fish. It's taken quite a few years since the lake was "fixed." This fine, 2,120-acre lake is excellent for crappies and bluegills. Fish the outside weed edges near the islands for panfish and bass. Trolling the drop-offs takes walleyes.

Bait Walker or Lindy rigs slowly trolled along rock bars on Green Lake County's 236-foot deep Big Green Lake is great for smallmouth bass. I've had success in 23 feet of water along rocky shorelines. For northern pike, use chubs and suckers in 25 feet of water along the deep weed lines. If you still have a Young's Giant Shad, troll it along these weed lines. Rapala Shad Raps have taken many fish for me. On some days, scents have helped make fish strike.

Panfish anglers catch numerous white bass and bluegills. Immediately, put the white bass on ice to keep the meat firm. Some anglers remove the red meat when cleaning white bass. Look near drop-offs for suspended fish.

Smallmouth bass anglers take their quarry from the rock piles in Norwegian Bay. The old-fashioned night crawler on a spinner harness is effective. Use 1/2 crawler for added scent.

Deep water is where the lake trout are. It's not that these are normally deep-water fish. In Canada, they'd be shallower. The fish like cold water, so Big Green's July lake trout are deep. Keep your bait in their feeding zone and use cut bait. 110 feet down is a good starting depth.

Rivers still produce white bass in July. The Wolf River and the Fox River mouth in Oshkosh are worth trying. Fish during the night hours, and use minnows. You'll also land some tasty walleyes. Catfish fans fish the deep channels during the day, or they anchor over deep holes at night. Below the former dam in Eureka on the Fox River is always great for cats.

Wisconsin anglers don't always think of rivers for largemouth bass, but the channels and sloughs on the Wolf River are great for casters and fly fishers alike. Smallmouth bass fans cast to rocks, riprap, riverbanks, and piers. The piers block river current and create eddies. Smallmouth like rocks, especially where crayfish live. Active smallies are along the main river channels and in any holes. When these bronzebacks are resting, they are in calm water near stronger currents.

Lake Winnebago is always hot in July, per Mike Klaeser of Mike's Bait and Gun in Kiel, WI. He picks this big inland lake and Lake Michigan as the places to go in July.

On Winnebago, Bagley's bronze foil-finish Shad lures take walleyes from rock bars in 9- to 12-feet of water. On cloudy days, fish shallower. Some anglers cast small jigs and minnows toward rocky shores. Roy Hammond, president of the Wisconsin Fishing Club, perfected this technique, and now the walleye pro's and other knowledgeable anglers have caught on. (For information on joining the Wisconsin Fishing Club, call Roy at 262-786-9320. Meetings are on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month.)

Trollers use Rapala Fat Raps, Hot 'N Tots, the no longer made Rebel Double Deep Shads, Walleye Divers, and No. 250 Spoonplugs for walleyes. When using planer boards, Thundersticks are super. Some anglers prefer perch colors, while others like bright colors and shad colors. Let the fish tell you what they want.

Once you find fish along the bars, stop and cast jigs and 1/2 crawlers or use slip-bobber rigs over the reefs. Less active fish move deeper along the reefs. When hatches occur on the deep mud flats, follow the fish.

Start walleye fishing on the west and north shores. The east shore had early open water activity this year. If trolling isn't effective, switch to 1/2 pieces of 'crawlers on Lindy rigs or jigs. You'll have less bite-offs with 1/2 pieces of 'crawlers. When you catch sheepshead, be happy something is present to eat the zebra mussels.

Winnebago perch become active in July. Fathead minnows, small shiners, red worms and hellgrammites take limits of these rascals. Cast to shore reefs and flats. Mudget's Point holds some big perch.

Bass seekers have excellent success in the Waushara County lakes. Plastic worm and creature tossers take fish by using a slow, crawling retrieve. Set the hook with an upward snap of the wrist. Always keep slack out of your line for both good feel and for hook setting power.

Bluegills are on steep drop-offs along food plains and are suspending over deep water. I like to feel the deep water strikes, so I straight-line 10- to 18-feet down while using Dick Smith's Panfish Grubs. Slip-bobbers are excellent too!

Trout streams in Waushara County give up plenty of feisty fish. Keep your shadow from spooking fish into cover. Late July sees anglers battle German brown trout to 6-pounds in the Mecan, Roche-A-Cri, Pine and White Rivers.

Crappies haven't gone into hibernation. They are just deeper. Deeper lakes have perch in deeper water too, but more toward the bottom. Small minnows, shiners, crab tails, 1- to 2-inch curly tails, Dick Smith's Panfish Grubs, tube jigs, Mini Mites, and similar offerings are effective. 2- to 4-pound line is fine!

The Lower White River Flowage is outstanding for pike fishing. Try chartreuse spinnerbaits with bright yellow plastic worms. Pike like flashy lures. East of Wautoma, Alpine Lake is great for walleyes and bass.

Drift across deeper water on 14,102 acre and 11-foot deep Lake Poygan, in Winnebago County. Use 'crawlers or leeches on the bottom. Hold your fishing line in the crease of your forefinger to feel strikes. The Wisconsin River offers walleyes, and the Dells Dam is good. The Columbia County portion is superb for walleyes.

There are 30 Pine Lakes in Wisconsin, but the one northeast of Wild Rose, and Irogame Lake serve bluegills and bass. Should you keep any bass, remove the skin and the lateral line for better taste. Many anglers practice catch and release. Try Scott's Bay on Buttes de Morts for walleyes. This lake means 'Hill of the Dead" in honor of the many Indians who were buried in the hill after a major battle. Wisconsin has plenty of history.

On Lake Wisconsin, in Columbia County, panfish are popular with many anglers. Fish in the bays and channels. The Spring Green area of the Wisconsin River is terrific for smallmouth bass.

Fond du Lac County's 65-acre Crooked, 63-acre Mauthe, and 76-acre Wolf Lakes are terrific for panfish in July. Mauthe and Crooked feature crappies. Wolf Lake drops to 47 feet and a public launch is on the south shore. The Kettle Moraine lakes are great for panfish, and a move to Marquette County's Buffalo Lake can have you catching yellow perch on small minnows. Garden worms will get you some bluegills. Fish the weed pockets. For dandy northern pike, cast silver Johnson Silver Minnows tipped with 2- to 3-inch white curly tails.

In Green Lake County's Little Green Lake, there are pugnacious muskies waiting to play tug-o-war with you. Bass are along shore in the evenings. Toss Texas-rigged plastic worms under piers. The bluegills aren't the biggest, but they are great for fish fries.

If you see me on the water, feel free to stop by and talk fishing. Quality fishing clubs do this, and it helps anglers' success rates.

Have a super summer, and go fishing!

Author Lawrence Van Veghel
Lawrence Van Veghel
L.A. Van Veghel has been writing and selling outdoors articles for 35 years. He's a fishing tournament winner both in open water and in ice fishing in panfish and gamefish, including winning both the northern pike and panfish categories in the 2008 Wisconsin Governor's Fishing Opener. He's an officer in numerous writing and fishing organizations, including serving as media director for the Wisconsin Fishing Club, Ltd. and as secretary and media director for the statewide Wisconsin Council of Sport Fishing Organizations. As a writer, he's sold over 1,650 articles, and as a technical writer, he's written and had published 154 books, plus a rotary saw operating manual. L.A. is an angler who also writes, and he believes "you can't talk the talk, unless you can walk the walk."