Are You Ready for Spring & Summer Fishing?

The La Crosse region has some of the most unique and remarkable fishing opportunities. Reel in memories along the Mississippi River, confluence of rivers, Lake Onalaska, a Dam and barge, and more!

No matter what kind of fishing you want to do, there’s an opportunity for you in the La Crosse Region. Check out our guide for anglers arriving to the area and get ready to fish these lively waters!

What Can You Fish in Spring & Summer?

Kenneth Reaves, an Outdoor Writer, mentions that “just about every species of fish can be found in the area in spring and summer. The walleye are out in full force just after the ice and snowmelt. Head downriver or to one of the many dams if they’re your target fish. 

“As the waters warm up, so do the panfish and pike. But if you’re after bass, then late spring, early summer is the ideal time to be casting your line. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass are abundant in the La Crosse waters—largemouth in shallow backwaters and smallmouth in the bigger rivers. 

“Channel and flathead catfish also put up an excellent fight in the warmer months, providing a challenge for anglers of all levels. 

“Other fish you may just find at the end of your line include sturgeon, sauger, crappie, and sunfish, and trout (depending on which waters you’re fishing in). “

Why Should You Fish in Spring & Summer?

Spring is a time when many anglers in La Crosse County turn their eyes to walleye. Shortly after the ice leaves the river, walleye are running, and the catching can be spectacular. On the Mississippi, many anglers head to the dams where large numbers of walleye congregate. However, there’s often great fishing downriver as well. As waters warm in the spring, panfish action starts picking up, particularly in the flats and backwaters of the Black River, Mississippi River, and Lake Onalaska that tend to warm faster than the moving waters near the river’s channel. The warming waters also make northern pike fishing pick up.

Late spring, and early summer can be excellent times to catch nearly every species of fish – but bass fishing really stands out. Both largemouth and smallmouth can be found in the river system around La Crosse. Look for smallmouth in the main river channels in spots that protect them from the heavy current, such as rocks, downfalls, and wingdams. Largemouth bass is plentiful in the shallow backwaters. Fishing for catfish during the warmest months of the year can be also an exciting affair as both channel cats and flatheads provide some of the best catfishing in the Midwest.

What Gear Should You Bring?

Kenneth Reaves also mentions, “if you’re fishing in the spring or summer, you’ll want to use a rod and reel that’s appropriate for the fishing you want to be doing. 

“Take your pick of a fly fishing rod and reel if you want to fly fish for trout. But a normal spinner reel or baitcasting reel and rod will work well for most people if you’re fishing for bass, crappie, walleye, or other fish. 

“Other than that, be sure to dress for the weather. Remember to wear a hat and sunscreen in summer. Non-slip shoes are a must, and make sure you have first aid essentials just in case.”

Which Fishing Spots Are Best According to Kenneth Reaves?

Neshonoc Lake

This 606-acre, 11-foot deep lake is about 15 miles outside of the city and offers good fishing opportunities. You can expect to catch largemouth bass, catfish, northern pike, and a variety of panfish. 

Depending on the day, the water can be a touch cloudy. Brightly colored lures may have the best luck in these waters. 

You can fish from the shore or head out on the boat. Surrounded by trees and marsh, it’s a beautiful spot to spend some time. 

Lake Onalaska

Lake Onalaska, 4 miles wide and 40-feet deep at its deepest point, is a reservoir on the Black and Mississippi Rivers. It’s the ideal place to visit with the family in summer, as there’s a variety of activities on offer. 

While you’re fishing for walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, or bluegill, the family can go waterskiing, wind-surfing, or bird-watching. 

Lake Onalaska also holds the state record for spotted sucker. The big fellow, 20.5-inches in length and weighing 4 pounds 10 ounces, was caught in 2018 in these waters. 

Black River

The Black River in La Crosse is a backwater river that offers exciting fishing. The part of the river at MM 695 across from La Crosse is dotted with small islands, providing a variety of hideaways for walleye. 

It’s a little more remote than the first two locations, which is ideal if you’re looking for a serene spot without others around.

Participate in the La Crosse Lunker League

Fishing is an excellent choice of outdoor activity to partake in if you happen to have some time to spend in the great outdoors in the La Crosse Region. If you want to add an extra element of excitement to your fishing, you can join the La Crosse Lunker League

It’s simple. Catch a qualifying species in the La Crosse area, take some pictures for size and memories, release your fish, and submit your catch! You’ll be notified when your catch has been approved and you can see the awards you’ve gained. There are goals, milestones, and various awards to be won. 

It’s open to both residents and visitors. It’s a fun way to challenge yourself and possibly win some cool awards! 

Top Shorelines to Fish Today

No boat?  No problem! 
The area has amazing options to fish from shorelines, docks, piers, floats, and more without ever having to step foot on the water.

Fishing 101 for First Time Anglers

We’ve put together a guide for anglers arriving in La Crosse to fish these waters. You’ll find all you need to know in this guide: Fishing 101 for first-time anglers in La Crosse.