Question: What’s the No. 1 tourist attraction in Lake Geneva.
Answer: It’s a big body of water. Name of Geneva.
This is anything but a chicken-or-the-egg situation because when you get right down to it, Lake Geneva (the city) exists because of Geneva Lake (the water), and not the other way around. Early settlers were drawn to the area around the lake’s White River outflow in the 1830s by the lure of waterpower for grist and saw mills.
In more recent times, Geneva Lake’s clear, deep waters have evolved from a place of commerce into a recreational wonderland. The big lake is busy with boat traffic all season long, but particularly on summer weekends. Beaches surround the water, as do bike paths and hiking trails. Boat cruises are offered, and visitors can find all manner of watercraft to rent for their own water excursions.
While the number of visitors to the Lake Geneva area varies depending on the season, it is paltry compared to the population living under the lake’s surface, which numbers in the millions.
Geneva Lake is nine miles long, covers 5,500 acres and reaches a depth of 146 feet, so fish here have a massive neighborhood to explore, and so do the anglers who chase them.
There aren’t many bodies of water in Wisconsin like Geneva Lake. It supports warm water fish like bass, pike, crappie and bluegill, but, as the second-deepest lake in Wisconsin, it also offers a unique cold water fishery for species such as brown trout, lake trout and cisco. (In fact, the Wisconsin state record inland brown trout – 18 pounds, 6 ounces – was caught from Geneva Lake in 1984.)
Fishing guide John Trossen chases all the various species, depending what his clients want to catch on any particular day. Trossen said the early season, from about May to early July, is a great time to fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill and crappie. Geneva Lake produces a lot of big bluegills, which no doubt end up on dinner plates across the region.
July and August is a prime time for northern pike, as they settle into their summertime routine along the lake’s thermocline, which makes them easier to catch. And lake trout and bluegill fishing is productive after the Fourth of July because those species also congregate in deep water.
After Labor Day and through October, pike fishing is still good, with many anglers trolling for them, and bass, bluegill and crappie fishing is productive.
Trossen, known as the lake’s “walleye guru,” said June through August is a productive time for ‘ol marble eyes, because the warmer water puts them on the feed.
And there are many more targets for anglers on the way, as Geneva Lake is heavily stocked. Every other year, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stocks walleyes in the lake, and a local Walleyes For Tomorrow chapter made up entirely of volunteers rears their own baby walleyes each season.
The result has been more than 10 million walleyes stocked in Geneva Lake in just the last three years. There were also 150,000 trout and almost 5,000 muskies planted in the lake over that time. Muskies have been stocked in the lake for the last four years, and Trossen said some fat, healthy fish around the 40-inch mark are beginning to be caught.
Many species of fish can be caught from shore at various times of the year, and there are public access points galore around the lake.
Otherwise, anglers can make arrangements with a professional guide. Trossen owns The Pier in Lake Geneva (262-348-9400), and most of the other bait shops in the area are also affiliated with licensed guides.