There are numerous excellent ice fishing lakes in Wisconsin, mostly in the state’s northern region. Some of them are located farther south closer to its population centers however, including Lake Mendota.
Lake Mendota is the northernmost lake of the four lake system around Madison, Wisconsin that also includes Lake Monona, Lake Kegonsa, and Lake Waubesa. The lake is surrounded by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, luxury homes and condominiums, and public parks and government protected natural areas.
Lake Mendota generally freezes over by late December or early January. How late in the winter you can ice fish changes with the conditions from year to year, but usually it extends into March.
Some of the prime ice fishing locations on the lake include the areas around the Tenney Park locks, Second Point, the sailboat basin off of Middleton, Four Doors near Nelson State Park, Picnic Point, and Governors Island.
Don’t expect an opportunity to commune with nature in isolation on Lake Mendota. The best ice fishing areas are populated by hundreds of eager fishermen and their shanties.
Among the available fish are bluegill, pike, and walleye. It is not uncommon for anglers to land walleye up to 25 inches, and northern pike up to 40 inches.
The lake is also well known for its abundance of yellow perch. There are concerns, though, that overfishing has put the perch population in jeopardy. Perch limits have been lowered from 50 to 25, and the size of the average perch caught is significantly smaller now than even just a few years ago.
For variety, you can also try your hand at fishing the neighboring Lake Monona. Ice fishermen on Lake Monona like to go after largemouth bass and muskellunge, the latter of which can run up to 50 inches.
Of course safety should always be your primary concern when ice fishing. In January 2010, two men fishing in different parts of the lake fell through the ice the same day.
With the big city, college town of Madison right on Lake Mendota, there is no shortage of things to do with the portions of your days not taken up by ice fishing. State Street is an especially popular destination, with its many restaurants, bars, and quaint shops.
Barry Adams, “Where Ice Fishing is Capital.” Parade.
Gary Engberg, “Ice Fishing on Mendota About to Get Hot.” Madison.com.
“2 Fall Through Ice On Lake Mendota In Separate Incidents.” Channel 3000.
“Wisconsin’s Best Bets for Ice-Fishing.” Wisconsin Sportsman.