What is the official sign that spring has arrived in Madison? Look no further than the Wingra Creek dam! Every spring, a crowd of observers gather at the Wingra Creek to watch Muskies attempt to jump the dam where the creek exits Lake Wingra. I myself enjoy watching the spectacle, and love to see some HUGE muskies swimming in the water below the dam. It usually begins early April and lasts for a few weeks but everything is dependent on the weather.
The muskies enter the creek from Lake Monona and travel the distance up the creek to the dam just below Lake Wingra. It is an annual spring migration for the muskies and believed to be instinctive and spawning related, mostly muskies searching for warmer water and a place to spawn. Since muskies are stocked in our Madison lakes and there is little or no natural reproduction it is not muskies returning to their original place of birth. Believe it or not, some muskies do succeed in jumping the dam and make it into Lake Wingra. When the dam was rebuilt a couple of years ago, much thought was given into the design of the dam as to protect these jumping muskies. Members of local fishing clubs provided input on making the design better for these fish. It is thought, very few muskies successfully make the jump over the dam and fishing experts would rather not see more muskies in Lake Wingra.
I know what you are thinking, what a great place to wet a line and get a shot at landing one of these beauties! Be forewarned, the area right below the dam is a protected fish refuge area and is carefully monitored by both the DNR and local fishing club members. You will get ticketed if caught fishing in this area.
This is a great place to take kids to observe these big fish. There is often chatter on the internet as to when the best time arrives to observe the fish. I myself have found that bright sunny days can sometimes make it easier to see the fish in the water and rainy days seem to make the water murkier and more difficult to see fish. I have also heard lots of stories of fish really active on full moon eves and when a rain or strong wind comes out of the southwest. I would simply say if you are in the area, see if there are people watching and check it out, it is worthwhile.
There are lots of videos on you tube, lots of discussion boards and lots of articles written about this annual right to spring. Simply google, “Wingra creek dam muskies”. The UW limnology dept also usually posts a blog on the muskies. Last year the limnology dept concluded the musky jumping ended May 10. If you time your trip to the dam just right, you will be amazed at the numbers and size of some of these muskies. Mostly, if you are a musky fisherman, you will see first hand just some of the monsters that swim in our Madison lakes!