Fishing Info

Fishing the Madison Chain

The Madison Chain of Lakes presents great fishing opportunities for muskie and many other species. The clear water is fertile so can become colored with algae blooms as the year progresses before clearing again in late fall. Casting and trolling are both popular methods of fishing for muskies, as is the use of live bait during colder periods. During midsummer, water temperatures will often spike above 80 degrees so many anglers take a break from fishing so as not to stress them in the hot water. The Madison Chain has a 45 inch size limit and the promotion of catch and release has steadily improved the overall size structure. As a result, several 50 inch plus muskies have been released over the past few years and Capital City Muskies Inc encourages you to “handle with care”!


Lake Monona is surrounded on three sides by the city of Madison. It is the second largest of the four lakes along the Yahara River. The Northwest Shore of the lake forms part of the isthmus in the downtown area. The name Monona is a Chippewa word believed to mean “beautiful.” The lake is 3,274 acres with a maximum depth of 64 feet. It offers a number of bays, deep weed lines, rock piles, humps and steep drops for catching musky. The weeds are primarily Eurasian milfoil with some Coon Tail mixed in. A good start to fishing Lake Monona consists of finding the weed points, inside turns and deep weeds.

The large bays of Squaw, Olin and Monona will be your best shot early in the year as the fish seek out the warmest water. Early success is often associated with throwing smaller bucktails, jerkbaits or slow moving topwater baits. The north end of the lake near Olbrich Park has some extended weedy shallow sand areas that are popular especially as the panfish stage to spawn. Fishing the large pods of baitfish holding in deeper water nearby can also produce. As the spring and early summer progresses, the fish seem to move out from the bays and set up on the deeper weed lines. When the water temperatures reach near 70-72 degrees the fishing heats up and bucktails or topwater bites can be ferocious.  Fishing is often interrupted by the heat of the summer, but as the fall nears there is a large migration of fish back into weeds. This time of year can be the best time to be on the water as the fish are accessible and susceptible to baits.  In the early fall, muskies can be found very shallow and the inside weed lines should get your attention. As the fall progresses, fishing deeper weedlines and steep drops with slower moving baits such as bulldawgs or live bait can lead to success.


Lake Waubesa is to the south of Madison and Lake Monona. It is surrounded by the city of McFarland to the east and connected to other lakes by the Yahara River. The name Waubesa is a Chippewa word which means “swan” or “white bird flies past.” The lake is 2,074 acres with a maximum depth of 34 feet. It offers a number of bays, weed lines and rock piles for catching musky. The weeds are primarily Eurasian Milfoil with some Coon Tail mixed in.

Fishing Lake Waubesa also consists of finding the weed points, inside turns and deep weeds. The migration and movement of muskies tends to mirror those of Lake Monona and style of baits tends to be similar. However, pay attention to color, as Lake Waubesa has less water clarity and more of a stained look, so brightly colored bucktails or jerkbaits can be the ticket to more fish encounters. Toward the south end of the lake, there are two rock piles marked by buoys and surrounded by weeds. These “community” spots continue to produce year after year and are a good place to start a search for large fish. Along the east shore are extended weedlines that run parallel to the city of McFarland. Boats will often line up for an extended run along the weeds. Pay careful attention to subtle changes in the weeds or the weed points that extend out to deeper water. A host of different style of baits can be used to catch muskies on the Madison chain, but trying new baits or something different can often trigger these pressured fish into biting.


Lake Wingra is the smallest of the three lakes located within the city limits. The lake takes its name from the word for “duck” in the language of the Ho-Chunk Nation. The lake is 330 acres with a maximum depth of 14 feet. Along the northern shoreline is the Henry Vilas Zoo and Edgewood College. During the fall, loud roars can be heard from nearby Camp Randall Stadium, home of the Wisconsin Badgers. In the early spring, there is a musky run up the creek from Lake Monona and visitors are often entertained by large muskies trying to leap the damn into Lake Wingra. Fishing Lake Wingra consists of fishing the weeds which can extend well out from shore. The lake is a favorite for row-trollers as it is no wake during the week and no gasoline motors on the weekends. Fish can be caught by casting near or over the weeds, or throughout the lake in open water. Trolling can be very successful on Wingra, especially in the early part of the year. The sucker bite is always something to look forward to both in early spring and later in the fall. Wingra offers a good chance of catching a musky, but the size structure tends to be smaller than on the larger lakes.