With chilly winters and an abundance of lakes, Wisconsin is the perfect state for those who love ice fishing, and the state’s capital, Madison, is something of an ice fishing paradise too. If you’re looking for places to go ice fishing near Madison, you won’t have to go far. In this post, I’ll guide you through the chain of lakes that neighbors the city.
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Lake Mendota is the largest of the lakes you will find near Madison. You can’t miss it. The lake spans 9,842 acres. Its maximum depth is 83 feet.
The lake is a popular place to catch perch. You just might find some jumbo perch when fishing here, with some measuring over 12 inches.
Mendota is a big lake, so some parts will be better than others for ice fishing. Some areas that local residents have recommended in the past include the Governers Island area, the “Four Doors” near Nelson State Park on the north shore of the lake, Mendota County Park on the northwest side, Second Point on the south shore, and Picnic Point also on the south side.
These areas are great places to park your car. You will then need to walk a bit to get to the lake itself, up to a mile in some cases. Of course, there are many boat landings surrounding the lake, so any you find will give you a place to access Mendota.
It’s a good idea to use a snowmobile or four-wheeler to make it really easy to get to the lake. That way, you save all your energy for fishing.
The daily limit for perch at Mendota is 25, so you can bring home quite a lot of food. Just be sure to throw back the small ones.
Anglers also frequently catch walleyes here. Also, there’s a good population of crappies and bluegills.
Note that Mendota often does not freeze until January, so don’t be too impatient to get out there. It’s the last lake to freeze in the area, so if you’re eager, check out one of the other lakes. You don’t want to get into a dangerous situation by stepping on thin ice.
A knowledgable fisherman can use a contour map provided by Wisconsin to know the shape of the lake and find the best places to catch fish.
Lake Mendota is a fantastic lake with an abundant fish population and plenty of different spots to choose from.
Thanks to this source for information I used for this section.
To the southeast of Lake Mendota, with the State Capitol sitting in between, is Lake Monona. This is the second-largest of the Madison chain of five lakes.
Monona spans 3359 acres, with a maximum depth of 74 feet. There are 5 boat landings you can use to access the lake. There are also 18 public lands or parks within 1000 feet of the lake as well as 7 beaches. With so many spots made for people to enjoy this lake, getting onto it to start ice fishing is rather easy.
The most common type of fish you’ll find here is panfish, including crappie and perch. These fish are especially good catches in winter, so expect to encounter many on a good day. Also common, though not as abundant as panfish here, are largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye.
Less common in the lake but still present are musky, smallmouth bass, sturgeon, and catfish.
You can do some highly strategic fishing at this lake if you use this detailed contour map. If you’re new to fishing, you might find this map hard to read, but with practice and advice from other anglers, you can use it to identify spots where fish are likely to gather.
More simply, the map also gives details about the surrounding land, in case you want additional help in finding out where you can go to access the lake.
Lake Monona is another large lake right near the heart of Madison. You can actually see the Capitol from the lake. As someone who grew up in the much drier Western United States, having cities and lakes so close together is a bit of a foreign concept to me. It must make winters more fun for those who live here.
Anyway, don’t miss out on Monona if you’re wondering which lakes to visit for ice fishing in the city.
We travel a bit further south from Lake Monona to arrive at Lake Waubesa, which is also the fourth-largest lake among this chain.
Waubesa is a 2074 acre lake with a maximum depth of 38 feet, so while it’s a bit smaller than what we’ve looked at so far, it’s still pretty big.
You can access this lake via either 4 boat landings, 1 beach, or 11 public lands/parks close to it. For example, there’s Goodland County Park on the southwest side of the lake or Lake Farm Park on the northwest side.
Like with Lake Monona, panfish are abundant in this lake. Expect to catch plenty of crappie, which are rather active in the winter. You should find perch as well. In addition to panfish, largemouth bass are in abundant supply in this lake as well.
You will also find northern pike and walleye. They are common but their population is not as great as the panfish or largemouth bass. Muskie, smallmouth bass, and catfish are also present.
A contour map is available for the strategic angler. You can use it to know how deep the water is across the lake and go to places where fish tend to gather.
Lake Waubesa looks like a rather nice place to be in the summer, but in the winter it becomes an excellent place to catch many different types of fish. For ice fishing, you should definitely check it out if you have the chance.
We’re getting a bit farther away from Madison now, yet the drive from Madison to Lake Kegonsa is under 30 minutes long and only about 15 miles. You can see why ice fishing is a popular activity in Madison: there are so many lakes to choose from within such a short distance.
Kegonsa lies southeast of Lake Waubesa. It’s 3200 acres and has a maximum depth of 32 feet. This is the third-largest lake of the chain, though it’s not all that deep.
There is a state park adjacent to this lake, though you don’t need to go through there to get to the ice. There are 4 boat landings and 4 parks nearby. There is also 1 beach.
Similar to the other nearby lakes, panfish are what you are most likely to find here. Less abundant but still common are largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. You can find muskie here too.
A contour map is available. Such maps are often built into electronic fish finders, but if you don’t have one, that doesn’t need to stop you from fishing a bit more strategically.
Lake Kegonsa may not be in the heart of Madison, but that means you will likely find it a bit less crowded on the weekend than the lakes that are. It’s definitely a place to visit if you’re looking to ice fish.
A much smaller lake than the other four in the Madison chain, Lake Wingra is a mere 336 acres and has a maximum depth of 14 feet. That doesn’t mean it’s not good for ice fishing, though.
You can find this lake east of Lake Monona and south of Lake Mendota. A lovely, large park neighbors its south side. In total, there 4 parks nearby. There is only one boat landing, and it’s on the north side.
At Wingra, once again, you are most likely to find panfish. Muskie actually seem to be more common here than at the other lakes I’ve mentioned, so this is a good place to go if you are looking for them. Largemouth bass are common, and northern pike and walleye are present but less common.
You can find a contour map of this lake, but with this being such a small and relatively flat lake, it doesn’t have a ton of detail.
With this being such a small lake, it wouldn’t be my first choice of where to go ice fishing in Madison. However, it’s still worth checking out. If I wanted to ice fish more casually on a free winter day, I wouldn’t mind coming here at all.With this being such a small lake, it wouldn’t be my first choice of where to go ice fishing in Madison. However, it’s still worth checking out. If I wanted to ice fish more casually on a free winter day, I wouldn’t mind coming here at all.
Madison, Wisconsin is an excellent place for ice fishing. With five lakes to choose from very close to the city and even more, I didn’t mention if you want to travel farther, there is no shortage of ice fishing opportunities.
Statistics for this post came from dnr.wi.gov.