Kenosha County, Wisconsin
By Ken Poor
Muskie fishing opportunities continue to improve on many of the lakes located in southeast, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. Both the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) working with a number of local fishing clubs or organizations deserve the credit for providing us with this excellent fishing opportunity. Anglers, in turn, have shown their appreciation for these efforts by practicing catch, photograph, and release (CPR). As a result, the prospects look very good, for both numbers and the size of muskie and other species of fish in many of our lakes in Northeast Illinois and Southeast Wisconsin.
Silver Lake is located in Southeast, Wisconsin twenty minutes west of Interstate 94, ten minutes south of Highway 50 or ten minutes north of Highway C. From the interstate take Highway C or 50 west to Highway B which runs along the north and west shore of the lake.
One of the most significant features of 464-acre Silver Lake is the large area of deep water (44-feet) in the east half of the lake. In contrast, the west and south sides of the lake are shallow weedy flats. Except for the 22-foot hole, located in the southwest end of the lake, maximum depth on these flats is less than 12-feet.
Water clarity varies in different parts of the lake. Most deep basins of the lake are relatively clear. Some sections along the north shore tend to become murky during warm weather. Other shoreline and shallow areas of the lake can become turbid (muddy) during sustained windy conditions but these are temporary conditions.
Bottom composition along the east, west and south shore is primarily sand/gravel that transitions into muck in deeper water. In contrast, there are large muck flats located in the north, east and west sections of the lake and smaller patches in other places. A large pile of rocks is located in about 6-feet of water out in front of the Kenosha County Park.
Weed beds are the primary source of cover for fish on Silver Lake. Heavy plant growth will be found in practically all areas of the lake with a muck bottom. Inside or outside weed edges are well defined and easy to locate most of the time. Occasionally the wind will kick-up and create turbid (muddy) water conditions that can hide them from sight.
The public launch ramp is operated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and is located on the north shore of the lake just off the south side of Highway B on Cogswell Drive. The lake access channel, at the launch ramp, was up-graded a few years ago and was a much-needed improvement. During peak use periods, such as weekends or holidays, parking can be a problem at this site. There is a second launch ramp located on the south end of the lake at the Silver Lake Marina. The marina also has a restaurant that is accessible by vehicle or from the water by boat and is open for lunch and dinner. Check out their website for the menu and details. A fee is charged for use of the marina facilities.
On Silver Lake there is a minimum size limit for northern pike 32- inches – daily bag limit of one, muskie 40-forty inches – daily bag limit of one, bass 18-inches – daily limit of one, walleye 18-inches – daily bag limit of three. It is each angler’s responsibility to check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website for the latest information on laws and licenses related to hunting and fishing (608) 266-2105.
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.
Musky – Fair Size – Fair Numbers
Walleye – Fair size – Fair numbers
Bass (largemouth) – Good Numbers – Good Size
Crappie – Fair Size – Fair Numbers
Bluegill – Very Good Numbers – Good Size
Catfish – Fair Size – Fair Numbers
Northern Pike – Good Size – Good Numbers
Perch – Good Numbers – Good Size
The key to fishing Silver Lake successfully is to locate transition areas where muck changes to sand/gravel, adjacent to deep weed-lines, in 8 to 12- feet of water. The best spots are just outside the deep weed edge and will have sparse, low growing weeds present. Bass and muskie will relate to these areas at various times of the day either for protection or for the feeding opportunities they provide.
Lure selection should be simple, but flexible enough to use with a variety of depths, weeds, sunlight, and wind conditions. Most importantly the lure should match the forage base of the species you are fishing for and present an easy feeding opportunity.
For bass I recommend small, 3-inch maximum, fat body, perch colored or silver/black crankbaits. Match them to the depth of the plant growth in the area you are fishing.
A good alternative for bass, especially for areas with heavier weeds is a Texas rigged plastic worm or plastic creature. When fishing most lakes in Northeast Illinois or Southeast Wisconsin my two go to colors are watermelon with red flakes or chartreuse. Typically, I will set-up a medium-heavy baitcasting rod with a 1/0 wire worm hook and use a smaller profile plastic worm or creature that does not over-fill the hook gap.
For muskie a white bucktail or noisy surface bait is a good choice. Typically, smaller muskie baits are the most productive on the relatively small high-pressure lakes in Southeast Wisconsin and Northeast Illinois. Live bait worked on or close to the bottom is the best option for walleye.
Silver Lake provides an excellent opportunity to catch good numbers and decent size bass, walleye, muskie and northern pike as well as plenty of panfish. At the same time Silver Lake is a small lake and we all need to practice catch, photograph, and release so that we can continue to enjoy this great fishing opportunity for years to come.