Kenosha County, Wisconsin
By Ken Poor
The challenge when fishing Camp Lake is the density of its weed beds and the entirety with which they fill the lake. On the other hand, the dense weed growth keeps fishing pressure relatively light while providing excellent habitat for largemouth bass, northern pike, and panfish.
Camp Lake is a difficult lake to fish even for the experienced angler. Weed choked lures, fouled boat propellers, and losing fish when they bury themselves in a weed bed are typical of the frustrations you will face when fishing this lake. If you are up for the challenge — 461-acre Camp Lake is an exceptional fishery that continues to produce excellent numbers of healthy largemouth bass and a few small northern pike.
Camp Lake is located in south central Kenosha County, Wisconsin about ten minutes north of the Illinois and Wisconsin border. The junction of Highway 83 and C is about two miles east of the lake. Highway C parallels the south end of the lake.
The south section of the lake includes about ¾ of the total surface area of the lake and is a large, shallow, weed choked flat with a maximum depth of 11-feet. A large patch of lily pads covers the west and south shoreline of the south end of the lake. Additionally, there are scattered patches of lily pads throughout the lake. Except for a few small patches of reeds, the rest of the south end of the lake is covered with dense milfoil. There is no deep weed-line in the south end of the lake. Pockets or small open areas are plentiful and easy to locate.
Normally, by early June, vegetation in the south end of the lake is so dense that weed-clogged propellers are common, as a result in the past, most pleasure boats stayed in the north end of the lake. For the past few years a boat designed to cut and remove aquatic plant growth, down to a depth of three or four feet, has been used in a large section of the middle of the lake.
Thick weed beds also limit water turbulence and act as a natural sediment filter. As a result, the water is normally clearer in the south end of the lake than in the north end.
In contrast to the south end of the lake, the north ¼ of the lake has a maximum depth of 19-feet, distinct weed edges and open water. The deep weed edge generally follows the 12-foot contour line in the north section of the lake.
The bottom composition of Camp Lake is primarily muck, but there are a few areas with a peat bottom, and a man-made sand beach in the north end of the lake. Small patches of gravel can be found in some of the man-made channels leading off the south end of the lake Water in the south section of the lake warms up very quickly and relatively early in the season. Combine warm water, a dark muck bottom, plus very fertile water and it is understandable why plant growth can be so “explosive” on Camp Lake.
Fish will relate to the bottom composition in different areas of a lake under a variety of conditions and Camp Lake is no exception. It is important to locate and identify the different lake features so that you can use them to your advantage as seasons or daily weather conditions change.
Public access to the lake is on the southeast end of the lake, off 276th. St., north of Highway C. The junction of Route 83 and Highway C is approximately two miles east of 276th. Street. The launch ramp is maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and no fee is charged for using it. Parking at the launch site is normally not a problem. On some weekends and especially some of the major holiday weekends it can be crowded.
A second access is located on the west shore off the north end of the lake off County Rd. AH. Parking is very limited at this site and the ramp is more suitable for launching canoes or car top carry-ins. I do not recommend using it for boats on a trailer. It is a good place to get on the lake during ice fishing season.
Largemouth Bass – Excellent numbers – Good size
Crappie – Fair numbers – Fair size
Perch – Good numbers – Small Size
Walleye – Weak numbers – Fair size
Catfish – Fair numbers – Fair size
Bluegill – Good numbers – Good size
Northern Pike – Fair numbers – Small size
The key to fishing Camp Lake successfully is to match your techniques and equipment to the conditions that are present. Bass and pike hold in the thick weed cover in the south section of the lake. Working a fish out of heavy cover can be a challenge even for an experienced angler with the correct equipment. Use a 6 ½ or 7-foot medium/heavy action bait casting rod and spool your reel with a high-quality line 17-pound test monofilament line or an equivalent braided line.
Work the tops of the weed beds with a 3/8-ounce white over-arm spinner bait dressed with a red split tailed dressing. When your spinner bait hits an open pocket, slow your retrieve or dip your rod tip and let your lure drop slightly. Often times this will trigger a hit. White with a touch of red is an excellent color choice for Camp Lake.
Spinner baits will often foul with weeds, but that’s part of the challenge you must learn to tolerate when fishing the heavy cover on Camp Lake. Expect to pick-up some weeds with your lure on every cast. With a little practice you should be able to make a fairly clean retrieve on about 3 out of 5 cast. When you reach this level – you are doing great – especially in the heavy cover that typifies Camp Lake.
On windy days wave action will hold the tops of weeds just below the surface. When this condition occurs consider using a surface plug or floating minnow imitator. Silver/black or silver/blue are both good color choices to start with.
Texas rigged plastic worms are an excellent alternative to the spinner bait. Weed-less when rigged correctly, they can be worked very slowly even in the thickest cover. A wide ribbon tail worm will provide you with excellent lure action even with the slow retrieve you should be using with a Texas rigged worm on Camp Lake.
Open water fishing on Camp Lake is for the most part limited to the north end of the lake. Weed harvesters are used extensively on Camp Lake in an attempt to keep channels open for navigation and the edges of the open water slots created by the weed cutters can provide good action.
Inside the channels off the south end of the lake use a small surface plug or floating minnow imitator. Both of these lures are most effective when used in an area that has not been disturbed. Use a quiet approach and long casts to slowly work these lures close to the edges of the channels, and around piers, or brush. Silver/black or green /black are good color choices for these lures.
As an alternative, especially in “heavy slop,” switch to a “plastic weed-less” frog imitator. Normally, plastic frogs are most effective around the lily pads and especially along the west shore of the south.
Most of the techniques I have outlined in this article are reliable presentations for largemouth bass. Northern pike are present in Camp Lake and will aggressively hit a variety of bass presentations and especially spinner baits.
No-wake hours are in effect from sunset to 10 AM and within 200-feet of the shoreline. Additional restrictions and regulations are posted at all launch ramps.
The north bay of the lake is the center of activity during the ice-fishing season. This section of the lake has the deepest water and large weed beds. Most species of fish will relate to deeper water soon after the lake freezes over. Channels off the south bay receive little or no ice fishing pressure and are a good choice for panfish at “first ice”.
Often times I have compared the fishing conditions on Camp Lake to fishing the fairways of a golf course or even your front lawn. Although the conditions are very challenging – the end results are well worth the effort. Master the fishing conditions on Camp Lake and weed beds will never intimidate you again.