Walworth County, Wisconsin

By Ken Poor

     A chain of lakes is basically a series of lakes connected together by navigable channels. Typically, each lake in a chain will have its own personality or more correctly stated, “variety of fishable features”. Any lake with a wide variety of lake features provides the most flexibility when trying to match daily or seasonal weather conditions and species of fish to the best location for you to fish. Variety is what makes any chain of lakes a flexible and exciting fishing opportunity.

     The Lauderdale Chain is located on Highway 12 in north central Walworth County, Wisconsin, and approximately 15 minutes north of Lake Geneva. Highway 12 is on the east side of the lake; County Trunk H on the west, and County Road A is to the south.

     Three lakes make-up the Lauderdale Chain, Green Lake to the north, Middle Lake, and Mill Lake in the south. Combined surface area of the three lakes is 850-acres with a total shoreline of approximately 16 miles. At 311 acres, Green Lake on the north end of the chain is the largest and deepest at 55-feet.

     Weed beds on the west side of Green Lake are a mix of lily pads and milfoil. The bottom composition in this section of the lake is muck. The rest of the Green Lake has clear water and a sand/gravel bottom with sparse, isolated, patches of reeds, cabbage, coon-tail or sand grass. Milfoil is less prevalent in the east sections of the lake with a sand/gravel bottom.

     Significant structural elements include sharp drop-offs adjacent to the main lake point, along the north and east side of the lake, and the flats in the southwest and southeast sides of the lake.  Gravel bars with slight humps are common along the north and east shore and leading into the channel on the southeast side of the lake.

A typical Lauderdale bass caught on a bush hog.

     Middle Lake is long, narrow, and at 259 acres, is the smallest of the three lakes. The deepest section of Middle Lake is on the east end with a maximum depth of 40 feet. Access to the channels inter-connecting the lakes is also on the east side. Normally the water is clear, but during the summer light algae blooms are common.

      Bottom composition adjacent to the deep water on the east end of Middle Lake is primarily sand or a combination of sand/gravel. Milfoil is the predominant plant species on this end and on the weed flat at the entrance to the long narrow channel off the west end of the lake.

     Bottom composition in the west channel off Middle Lake is peat, sand, and muck. Unique features of this relatively shallow section of the lake include large patches of lily pads, reeds, logs, brush, and stumps.

     Mill Lake on the south end of the chain has a surface area of 271 acres, and a maximum depth of 40 feet. Water clarity varies from relatively clear in the deeper north end to slightly murky in the shallow south end of the lake.

     Dense milfoil, mixed with reeds or lily pads covers most of the east, west, and south sections of the lake. The bottom composition in Mill Lake is primarily muck or peat except around the access channel and along the north shore of the lake where the bottom is sand or a combination of sand and gravel.

Launch ramp on the Lauderdale Chain.

     The W.D.N.R. public launch ramp is located on the west side of Green Lake on the north end of the chain. From Route 12, take County Road A west to County Road H, County Road H north to Green Lake Road, east on Green Lake Road to West Shore Drive, south on West Shore Drive to the launch ramp. Parking is available for about 10 vehicles with trailers at the public launch ramp. The launch ramp is concrete and is connected to the main lake by a short shallow channel.

     Combinations of cover such as logs, stumps, piers or brush laying in the weed beds, lily pads, and reeds are plentiful throughout the Lauderdale Chain and also provide prime holding areas for bass. Open pockets or weed edges along the main channel and finger channels located on the west side of Middle Lake are also prime bass spots. Don’t overlook the peat edges in channels or holes in areas with a peat bottom. Middle Lake and the northwest side of Mill Lake are good places to find these conditions.

     The following list is the way I rate each species in Silver Lake.  It is based on my experiences, information from the WDNR and very importantly, conversations with other fishermen. Size and bag limits are posted at the landing – read and obey them.

                              Largemouth Bass – Good Numbers – Fair Size (Slot Limit)

                              Smallmouth Bass – Fair Numbers – Fair Size

     Twenty bass days and limits of bluegill are realistic on the Lauderdale Chain. Although bass numbers are very good to excellent, there is a slot size limit so don’t expect to catch large numbers of big bass. Northern pike numbers are fair, most are sticks, but there are some decent size northern pike in the lake. Crappies are probably the most under-fished species in the Lauderdale Chain. Walleyes are stocked in the lake and their numbers and size are improving.

                              Walleye – Fair Numbers – Fair Size

                              Northern Pike – Good Numbers – Good Size

                              Crappie – Good Numbers – Good Size

                              Bluegill – Excellent Numbers – Fair Size

     Early mornings and late in the day focus your efforts on combinations of cover along shorelines, weed covered flats or edges of channels. Deep weed edges leading into all channel entrances are also good early morning locations.

     Twitch a weedless plastic frog over the tops of thick cover or a silver/black floating minnow imitator along open edges, in open pockets and over submerged weeds.

A white spinnerbait with a red split-tail dressing took this bass on Middle Lake on the Lauderdale Chain.

     A good set-up for plastic frogs would be a 6 ½-foot medium/heavy to heavy-action bait casting rod with an extra-fast tip with a high-speed reel spooled with 20 to 30-pound test braided line. You need the heavy equipment to get a proper hook set and horse fish out of thick cover. The high-speed reel with a good drag system will help you keep the bass’s head up and maintain control of the fish during the retrieve.

     For a small floating minnow imitator use a 6-foot, light action, spinning rod and spool your reel with monofilament or braided line rated at 6 to 8-pound test.

     Typically, you can expect the action in the shallows to slow down around midday (10 AM to 3 PM), especially on bright sunny days. When this happens moving to deeper water is a good choice. Start with the deep weed edges and open pockets in the weed beds in deeper water on the main lake body.

     A good choice for these locations is 3/8 oz., white, over-arm spinner baits, with willow leaf blades. Dress the spinner bait with a white split-tail dressing. Use a 6-1/2 to 7-foot, medium/heavy action, bait-casting rod and spool your reel with a high-quality line rated at a minimum of 12-pound test line in either monofilament or a suitable super line.

     Another good presentation for locating active bass in deep water is a Texas rigged plastic worm or a plastic creature. Fishing the Texas rigged worm requires fairly heavy gear, typically a 6 ½ foot medium-heavy to heavy action baitcasting rod and reel, that will drive the hook through the worm and into the fish’s mouth when you set the hook. In some cases, when the cover you are fishing is light enough, you may do fine with spinning gear.

     Line choice varies depending on the type of cover and how heavy the cover is that you are fishing. For light cover 12-pound test monofilament is usually a good choice.  When fishing heavy brush and dense weed beds switch to at least 17-pound test or a braided line.
     When I first learned to fish plastic worms purple was the hot color, then it was black with a fire-tail. My advice is to use whatever color you have confidence in. Don’t get too hung-up on color when using plastics. Fish whatever color that will catch and let the fish tell you what they want.

    Spinning gear is also a good choice for blue gill or crappie. Rig your spinning gear with 6-pound test line, a slip-float, but instead of a plain hook use a small ice-fishing jig.  Dress the jig with a couple of spikes or a small piece of night crawler for bluegill and minnows for crappie.

     Work open pockets in areas close to logs, brush, open pockets or edges of weed beds for bluegill and early spring crappie. Deeper water (10 to 16 feet), but always close to weed beds, normally is a better choice than shallow water for bigger bluegills.

     If you are using smaller jigs or hair jigs for smallmouth bass or walleye, spinning gear will most likely be your best choice because of the weight of the jigs. For walleye and smallmouth bass, it is a good choice to use two 6-foot rods, one rod with a medium action for deep water and heavier jigs and a second rod with a light action for smaller jigs used in shallow water. For walleye, tip the jig with a small minnow or night crawler.

    The wide variety of fish holding habit on the Lauderdale Chain, as well as most other chains, provides a unique opportunity to broaden your skills as a fisherman. Understanding when and how to fish different types of cover or structure are a skill every serious angler should strive for.