The 5 Best fish to catch in Wisconsin this summer

walleye
© FedBul/Shutterstock.com

Written by Crystal

Updated: September 11, 2022

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It was summertime, 2009 when the biggest largemouth bass was caught. The behemoth fish was an incredible 22 pounds and 4 ounces. Can you imagine how exhilarating it’d be to land a catch that big?

Maybe you don’t have to imagine. When you go fishing in Wisconsin this summer, you could try breaking the world record. The state’s lakes and rivers are teeming with all sorts of popular gamefish.

What are the best fish to catch in Wisconsin this summer? Read on to find out!

1. Crappie

Crappie jumping out of water

Crappie swim in large schools.

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When you’re in Wisconsin, you’ll have access to crappie havens! There’s white and black crappie in Wisconsin’s lakes and plenty of them. The white crappie has light vertical bars on its sides and is longer than the black ones. In comparison, black crappie has rounder bodies and dark black colors.

Crappie Hot Spots

You’ll find the most crappie swimming around Wisconsin’s lakes and backwater pools. They like areas with a lot of cover. If you find a lake with downed trees or rock piles, you’ll be able to find crappie. Try looking in the clear shallow waters by aquatic vegetation too. Since they swim in large schools, finding one means you’ve found a ton! 

Crappie Fishing Techniques

You can target giant crappie with the right lures. Some of the best options include high-quality crankbaits such as Rapala Ultra Light Shad. You could also use jigs or even hair jigs. Flies and leeches work great with hair jigs.

Crappie Flavor Profile

There isn’t a lot of meat on crappies. However, the meat that’s there has a tremendous flavor. Be sure to cut out the red parts since they usually taste too fishy.

2. Walleye

Fishing Walleye fish in the angler's hands.

Walleye eat insects, small fish, and crustaceans.

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When you’re ready to target a larger fish, walleye is one of the best fish to catch in Wisconsin this summer. They have golden sides, white bellies, and olive-colored backs. They’re long, thin fish that can see exceptionally well at night. A brag-worthy walleye would be anything over 28 inches, with 31 inches considered extra large. They usually weigh around 24 pounds, but you could find larger specimens.

Walleye Hot Spots

Walleyes are a lot like trout when it comes to habitat preference. They like cold, deep waters. They usually sleep during the day, and can be found by tree roots, aquatic vegetation, and downed logs. During the night, walleye move to shallow waters to feed. Their diet consists of insects, crustaceans, and small fish.

Walleye Fishing Techniques

Spinnerbaits work particularly well for walleyes. But you’re not going to catch anything if you don’t throw. Be prepared to throw a lot of spinners before getting any action. You can troll them on a braided line for deeper waters. Other popular lures include ringworms and paddle tails. Grubs are an excellent alternative to live bait that you have to keep alive. Putting grubs on a jig is a tried and true walleye method.

Walleye Flavor Profile

Walleye have a fine texture, and they don’t taste super fishy. Instead, the meat is more mild, bordering on bland. It’s not watery meat either; it’s firm and delicate at the same time.

3. Catfish

Channel catfish

Catfish are a prominent species in Wisconsin.

©Aleron Val/Shutterstock.com

Did you want to catch a giant fish? Then try targeting catfish. They’re hands down one of the most fun and best fish to catch in Wisconsin this summer. Flathead catfish are one of the most popular species since they can weigh over 40 pounds.

Catfish Hot Spots

You’ll want to fish the Wolf and Fox Rivers to target giant catfish. You’ll also need to visit Lake Winnebago. The 138,000-acre lake is a catfish hot spot. There’s a huge population of catfish, many growing past the 30-pound mark. Along with flatheads, you’ll also have a chance to catch channel catfish. The flathead and channel catfish are the most prominent members of the bullhead catfish family. 

Catfish Fishing Techniques

Be prepared with a variety of catfish lures. Jigs, soft plastics, and spinners all work great. Some of the best artificial and live bait include shrimp, white suckers, punch bait, and crawfish.

Catfish Flavor Profile

You’ve probably heard people talking about how good fried catfish is to eat. But hearing is nothing like tasting. You’ll have to eat a freshly caught catfish to experience it yourself. The meat is perfect for absorbing seasonings and has a slightly sweet flavor. Coating a catfish fillet in cornmeal and frying it up is an angler’s favorite.

4. Lake Sturgeon

man holding sturgeon fish

Lake sturgeon have barbells like catfish.

©Fabien Monteil/Shutterstock.com

What was the largest fish ever caught in Wisconsin? A lake sturgeon. Caught with a rod and reel, the record-breaking fish weighed 170.5 pounds.

Sturgeons have long torpedo-shaped bodies and rows of bony plates on their sides. They have gray-green colors and sport barbells, similar to catfish. The barbells are whisker-like appendages that help them locate prey. Sturgeons enjoy eating mussels, crayfish, fish eggs, and snails.

Sturgeon Hot Spots

Increase your chances of catching a lunker by targeting the right fishing spots. A few hot areas include the lower Wolf River, Lake Wisconsin, and Winnebago lake. You’ll also have to wait for late summer since Wisconsin’s sturgeon season opens in September.

Sturgeon Fishing Techniques

You won’t need extravagant lures to catch a lake sturgeon. Some of the best lures include using a combination of baitfish and a handful of nightcrawlers. You can also try using crawfish, lamprey, or shrimp.

Sturgeon Flavor Profile

Mild and delicate are the best words to describe how sturgeon tastes. You’ll need to purchase a harvest tag if you plan on keeping a sturgeon. However, most anglers practice catch and release.

5. Muskellunge

Musky or Muskellunge

Muskellunge isn’t a schooling fish.

©iStock.com/FedBul

Elongated body, flattened shape, silver colors? You’re probably looking at a muskellunge. It’s one of the best fish to catch in Wisconsin this summer for a few reasons. For one, they can grow between 28-48 inches long and weigh over 30 pounds. There are even records of muskies reaching 6 feet and weighing nearly 70 pounds.

Muskie Hot Spots

Wisconsin has more than 186 places to find musky. You’ll find the most in waters between the 68-72 degree range. A muskie is probably close if you find a patch of water lilies. They aren’t schooling fish and prefer swimming alone around aquatic vegetation. If you’re targeting rivers instead of lakes, look for rivers with a moderate gradient. If the river supports bass, walleyes, and northern pike, it’s a good spot for muskies.

Muskie Fishing Techniques

Swimbaits, spinnerbaits, and bucktails are the best artificial baits. You can use bucktail lures and create a figure 8 on the top of the water. The movement will entice reluctant muskies to strike.

Muskie Flavor Profile

Do you like eating bass? Then you’ll love the way muskies taste. They have a mild flavor profile that mimics bass and northern pike. It’s more of a bland taste when compared to species like tuna or salmon.


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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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