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Fishing the Wisconsin River

The Wisconsin River is a tributary of the Mississippi River in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. At approximately 430 miles long and is the state’s longest river. The Wisconsin River originates in the forests of the Lake District of northern Wisconsin, in Lac Vieux Desert near the border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It flows southward, along the route of US 51, across the glacial plain of central Wisconsin, passing Wausau and Stevens Point. In southern Wisconsin it encounters the terminal moraine formed during the last ice age, where it forms the Dells of the Wisconsin River. North of Madison at Portage, the river turns to the west, flowing through Wisconsin’s hilly Western Upland and joining the Mississippi approximately 3 miles south of Prairie du Chien.

The Central Wisconsin Basin is a subset of the entire Wisconsin River corridor, located in Central Wisconsin. The Central Wisconsin Basin extends south from the Merrill dam located on the Wisconsin River in Lincoln County to the Castle Rock Flowage Dam in Juneau and Adams Counties.  The basin is 4,021 square miles with an estimated population of 301,599 (+/- 1%). The Central Wisconsin River Basin is comprised of 29 watersheds.

The Central Wisconsin River Basin contains numerous scenic vistas including rock outcroppings and flowages. This basin is characterized by agricultural activities throughout the basin with intensive row cropping taking place in the central sands region. The last glaciers to cover Wisconsin only extended through part of the basin. The glaciers created a network of warm and cold water streams fed by surface and groundwater sources that all connect to the Wisconsin River. The Central Wisconsin River Basin has one of the largest and most diverse arrays of surface water systems in the state.

The Wisconsin River system is home to excellent populations of eater sized walleyes along with the potential for trophy sized fish. Additionally, these same waters are also home to underfished, abundant muskies. Likewise, trophy potential also exists, especially on the Wisconsin River system and its flowages. Looking further beyond muskies and walleyes? It’s home to big panfish such as crappies and bluegills, and pike too, which can both be had on its many backwaters and weedy areas. Bass, yep, both largemouth and smallmouth abound. Channel catfish and sturgeon too.

Primary Fish Species of Interest

  • Walleye (Abundant)
  • Muskellunge (Common)
  • Northern Pike (Common)
  • Smallmouth Bass (Common)
  • Largemouth Bass (Present)
  • Crappie (Common)
  • Bluegill (Common)
  • White Bass (Common)
  • Channel Catfish (Present)
  • Flathead Catfish (Present)
  • Sturgeon (Present)

Wisconsin River Sections of Interest

  • Rhinelander to Tomahawk (Wilderness)
  • Merrill to Brokaw
  • Wausau & Lake Wausau
  • Wausau to Mosinee
  • Lake Du Bay & Eau Pleine
  • Stevens Point



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