180916_PECK

Ft. Atkinson’s Eric Hummel caught this pike near flooded Blackhawk Island on Koshkonong last weekend.

The boat launch at Anchor Inn on Lake Koshkonong’s west end provides the best access to this wide spot in Rock River when the fishery is running belly-full.

If it weren’t for taking on the needed ballast of one of this popular watering hole’s substantial cheeseburgers and fries prior to launching, there is serious doubt the boat could have made it under the Highway 59 bridge.

Walleyes and pike usually hang in the riverine portion of this 10,000-acre fishery’s east end for one primary reason: the food is there.

On a rapidly rising river, fishing is usually better among rock piles at the opposite end of the lake and the first mile or so of Rock River along Blackhawk Island where it enters the lake.

Food is the key to unlocking this enigmatic, shallow basin lake with limited mid-lake structure to hold fish—which are drawn by food.

Don’t go out there thinking walleyes. Try wrapping your mind around smaller critters called benthic macro-invertebrates.

This two-dollar term covers everything from zooplankton, to bigger bugs and annelids, a fifty-cent term for worms.

Walleyes seldom chomp their way down the food chain to zooplankton, but the marble-eyes do have an affinity for nightcrawlers and get downright giddy over river shiners, which feed heavily on the zooplankton.

Pike won’t be far away, as this larger predator likes to feed on larger baitfish and walleyes that aren’t focused on their own survival.

Necked down portions of Koshkonong at either end have greater ambush potential for predators than the vastness of the lake, in addition to always carrying some degree of current that also funnels food.

Wind can be a major factor in food location.

Like current, trying to swim against the wind is pretty much a lost cause for benthic macro-invertebrates.

This is another reason why master angler Eric Hummel and I started fishing at the west end last weekend. The wind was howling out of the northeast, pushing walleye food toward Newville with towering whitecaps.

Water temperatures have dropped 10 degrees since last weekend and are now hovering in the low- to mid-60s. Cooling water will change the forage base paradigm on Koshkonong, even though the lake usually only has a maximum depth of perhaps six feet.

Water gains density as it cools. Zooplankton and phytoplankton-the next step down the food chain-tend to drop out of the water column once water temperatures drop into the mid-40s.

Cooling water temperatures also enhance the prey drive in larger predators, pushing them into looking for larger prey.

This concentration of prey also concentrates the predators, a major reason why walleye fishing on “Kosh” goes from good to excellent as we move into October.

Trolling and drifting are effective ways to hook up with gamefish just about any time on this premier walleye fishery.

With extremely high water last weekend bringing the average maximum depth in the main lake basin up to eight feet, Salmo Hornets and the new Bill Lewis Lures MR-6 replaced the #5 Flicker Shad as the bait of choice on this water.

Hummel has a very small cache of MR-6s that he was not keen on sharing—the prime reason he outfished me last weekend.

But long before DNR resource hero Don Bush got the Bark River hatchery facility up and running and rode off into retirement on his Harley, I was catching walleyes on Koshkonong.

Sea stories distracted Hummel just enough to miss a couple of fish.

I must confess the first planer boards we used on Kosh were not made from whitetail shoulder blades. That stuff about rough water on Kosh being a nine-wave day, with just this number of waves—all 40-footers—covering the lake from end to end, is also baloney.

But I was out there once on a 12-wave day. We used to catch a lot of Stizotaurs back then. The Stizotaur looked like a walleye, but it only had a single dorsal fin and blue eyes.

I believe we caught the last one back in the late 1960s—before catch-and-release was a common practice.

Without selective harvest, I fear the walleye population, now so vibrant on Lake Koshkonong, will also slip away.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc

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