There’s no denying that Walworth County is home to some of the clearest and cleanest waters in the entire Midwest. In fact, the abundance of beautiful fresh water lakes has drawn people of all ages to the area for over a century. With all the recreational activities available, there’s something for everyone: for the swimmers, for the boaters, and of course, for the fishermen.
Take Dave Duwe, for example. For the past 27 years, he has operated guided fishing expeditions on some of the most prominent fishing lakes in this area: Geneva, Delavan, Como and Lauderdale Lakes.
“The lakes in Walworth County are some of the best lakes to fish in the entire state,” says Duwe. “We are blessed to have such great fishing here. Geneva Lake is one of the best lakes around to catch a trophy fish.”
Fishing is about more than just dropping a hook in the water, and Duwe has a boatloads of insight to prove it. According to Duwe, fish tend to move to various depths throughout the year, depending on temperature changes in the water. They do this to remain comfortable as the seasons change. In the springtime, when shallow water is warmer, fish tend to stay closer to the shore. As summer approaches, fish will move out of the shallow, warm water in order to seek out the cooler water that they find at increased depths. As a general rule, shore fishing is best practiced during April and into the first part of May. Fisherman can then follow the fish further away from shore as they transition into deeper waters.
Fishermen from all around the world come to Geneva and Delavan Lakes for the diversity of fish species available. They can find walleye, bass, northern pike, musky and panfish such as bluegill, perch and crappies.
“Memorial Day through the second week in June is the best time all year to catch bass on Geneva Lake,” Duwe says, adding that bass can likely be found in shallow water (8 to 12 feet) during the first couple of weeks in May. “Geneva is unique because it is a premier smallmouth bass fishery,” he elaborates.
On Delavan Lake, early May is also an ideal time to catch bass in shallow water (about 2 to 3 feet), according to Duwe. As summer progresses, bass, as well as northern pike, move further out into deeper water and more comfortable temperatures. Bass and pike then tend to locate along the deeper weed lines. Northern pike and bass on Delavan Lake need to be at least 32 inches and 18 inches, respectively, in order to keep. Last year Geneva Lake did not have a size limit on northern pike, stating instead that fishermen could keep up to 5 pike per day. However, Duwe cautions that this might change this year. He also shares an insider’s tip: people can fish for panfish prior to the official start of the season, as well as catch-and-release some other species.
On both Geneva and Delavan Lakes, walleye fishing is best during the fall season when the warmer surface water begins to cool and become denser. As this occurs, the newly cooled surface water sinks and causes the bottom layer of water to “turn over.” This typically occurs in mid-October and causes fish to become very active. Caught walleye on both lakes need to be at least 18 inches in length in order to be kept. Duwe notes that the best time to catch walleye is at night because this is when they come up from the deeper waters to feed.
Panfish is also in abundance on the area lakes. These fish, specifically bluegills, crappies and yellow perch, are the best tasting fish to eat. “Geneva and Delavan are exceptional for fishing bluegills and crappies,” says Duwe. “The bluegills on Geneva are more elusive than those on Delavan, but they are a lot bigger.” He adds that Williams Bay is an ideal place to fish for crappies during the early spring months. Fisherman can keep up to 25 panfish per day.
Duwe suggests heading out early in the morning for the most productive fishing experience, in part to avoid the heavy boat traffic that tends to increase as the day progresses. “I like to start early, 5 or 5:30 am, and get off the water by 10 or 10:30 am,” says Duwe. “After about 11 am the fish have seen a lure and most of the key spots have already been hit, so they are less likely to bite.”
Of course, not all fishing spots are alike. When fishing Geneva Lake in the early spring Duwe likes to spend time around the Elgin Club, Rainbow Point and in Geneva Bay near the Riviera Pier. In the summer months, some of the go-to spots on Geneva include the deep waters near Black Point and Conference Point. On Delavan Lake some spring hotspots include the outlet dam, near Lake Lawn golf course and Highland Bay. And near the Village Supper Club, Willow Point and by Brown’s Channel, people can fish all season long. As for Lauderdale Lakes, prime fishing can be found near Sterlingworth, as well as the Lauderdale Landing Restaurant. He adds that the ideal time to fish Lauderdale is before 9 am, because the area has a no-wake zone in effect during the morning, after which the lake experiences tremendous boating activity.
Some other fishing spots in the area include Whitewater and Rice Lakes, which are located in close proximity to each other. The best time to fish these areas is in the spring because they become “exceptionally weedy” later in the season. Pleasant Lake, located across Highway 12 from Lauderdale Lakes, is a great place to go in order to avoid boat traffic. Pleasant Lake has a no-wake zone in place all of the time. “The fish are not as big but they are plentiful,” says Duwe. “It’s a great place to visit for panfishing in the spring.” He also likes visiting Lake Como, located just north of Lake Geneva, during the springtime. “Como is an awesome lake in the early springtime to catch largemouth bass and northern pike.” He notes that a unique species to Lake Como that is not commonly found in other area lakes is catfish. “You can find 10 or 15-pound catfish in Como.” Much like Whitewater Lake, though, the weed growth at Lake Como tends to hinder the fishing experience after the month of May.
Fishing is widely associated with boating, for obvious reasons, but the two don’t have to go together. Walworth County offers several areas where non-boaters can enjoy the sport, including municipal piers, lake shorelines, and public parks. Duwe points out that these spots are ideal for children and beginners looking to get involved with fishing, and that many of these locations are accessible to individuals with disabilities that may use mobility devices. Some examples include the Geneva Lake municipal piers in Fontana and Williams Bay, the public boat launching piers in Lake Geneva and Linn, and Delavan Lake, when accessed via the Community Park next to the Town of Delavan boat launch. There are also several parks and ponds in the area, considered urban fisheries, which are regularly stocked, and can provide access to shore fishing as well. Such areas include the Ceylon Lagoon at Big Foot Beach State Park in Lake Geneva, Congdon Park Pond in Delavan, Babe Mann Park in Elkhorn, and Millpond Park Pond in East Troy. Check with DNR regulations prior to fishing these areas because urban fisheries tend to have different limits than the lakes of the area. For example, many urban fisheries are stocked with trout, which requires individuals to purchase an additional stamp that is not included with an annual fishing license.
While fishing in Wisconsin traditionally begins on the first Saturday in May, season dates are often specific to the species of fish as well as the body of water, so people are encouraged to visit the current fishing regulations section of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s website for full guidelines (dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Fishing/seasons).
Fishing enthusiasts and first-timers alike can join Duwe on his boat for a four-hour guided trip across Geneva, Delavan, Como and Lauderdale. He supplies customers with everything they need for the occasion, including rods, reels, bait and tackle. Duwe will even clean and fillet fish for customers to take home and prepare for a meal. Those interested can contact (262) 728-8063 or visit fishdelavanlake.com to book a tour.
By Nathan Webb
Photography by Mike Killion