You’re Guide To The Big Chip by James Smith
15,300 surface acres of Class “A” Northern Wisconsin muskie waters, nine muskies over 50” boated last season. Currently, the Chippewa Flowage holds the world record muskie. A muskie caught October 20, 1949 by Louis Spray. His muskie weighed 69 lbs. 11 oz. and was 63 1/2” long with a 34 1/4” girth.
As recently as 1998 the lower jaw of a dead muskie was found on shore and had that fish lived to be caught by a fisherman it quite possible could have been the new world record.
Sound exciting? Well it is, “The Big Chip” is probably one of Northern Wisconsin’s most popular and most fished muskie waters.
The Chippewa Flowage was formed in 1923 by the Winter Dam on the Chippewa River. The original damming of the river flooded 10 individual lake basins and made them a part of the flowage. The deepest part is 92 feet. There are approximately 140 islands and a number of large floating bogs. The flowage is divided into two parts; the east and the west. Highway CC basically divides the two parts.
The main inlets are the East and West Forks of the Chippewa River, Hay Creek, Moss Creek, the North Fork of the Chief River, Pipestone Creek, Blueberry Creek and Yankee Joe Creek. The outlet to the Chippewa River is at the southeast end of the flowage. There are 233 miles of very irregular shoreline of which 93% is undeveloped. This makes the Big Chip one of the most beautiful and pristine lakes in Northern Wisconsin. It will make all your dreams of the north woods a reality.
There are nine (9) public boat launching facilities around the flowage. There are boat rentals, tackle shops, campgrounds, numerous resorts and plenty of guides to serve you. Because the chip is a Class ‘A’ muskie lake there is no motor trolling. The minimum size limit currently on the flowage for a legal muskie is 34”. The Chippewa Flowage is primarily a three species fishery; muskie, walleye and crappie.
For the purpose of this article I will stay with the muskie fishery. The main forage base is perch and minnows. The muskie growth rate is above average for Northern Wisconsin. The catch rate for muskie has been determined to be 1 fish per 500 man-hours of fishing effort.
Some statistics show that 20% of the muskies are over 40” in length and 4% exceed 45” in length. There currently is a study being conducted on the Chippewa Flowage (Chippewa Flowage Monel Tagging Program CFMTR) which has some extremely significant statistics. The key one, from my standpoint, is to fish deeper. This study has documented significant difference in the percent of large muskies caught in 13 feet and deeper water. For example, 60.6% of muskies in the 40”- 44.99” size and 71.5% of muskies over 45” were deeper that 13 feet. There are a number of radio-tagged muskies in this study program. The average locational depth for 45 radio-tagged study muskies was 13.53 feet. The average depth for study muskies 45”+ was 16.13 feet. I believe this study is going to be an important study and will have some exciting discoveries about our favorite fish.
Now, for a little story about my experiences on the Big Chip. In 1992 the Colorado Chapter of M.I. decided to make a pilgrimage back to fish our first Chapter Challenge. The previous year’s winners, the Fox River Valley Chapter were hosting the Challenge on the Chippewa Flowage at Treeland Resorts. Eight of us loaded up and headed back for a week of fun. The facilities at Treeland’s Resort were outstanding. We met a swell bunch of fellow Muskies, Inc. guys and just had the time of our lives, especially me. The first day of the tournament, my boat captain (who out of respect shall remain nameless) left the dock at Treelands and headed out to Musky Bay on the North Fork of the Chief River to see how his GPS would work.
Unfortunately for him, fortunately for me, he ran his nice new Stratos up on a little sand bar and still in sight of Treelands Resort. Of course, I was a lot of help. I quickly seized the moment and began casting into the cabbage along side of this sand bar. My Captain was finally able to jockey his boat off the bar. We drifted along the river channel for a while and I stuck a 30” muskie on a suick. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have scored my first muskie of the Challenge. We went back in the afternoon to this same cabbage bed and I stuck a 36” muskie. Now I was pumped!
Well to make a long story short…next day same weed bed, same Suick and two more muskies, a 36” and a 40”. Now the Colorado Chapter won the Challenge that year amid cries of jealous M.I. folks who just couldn’t understand how a bunch or rummies from Colorado could even spell muskie, let along know how to catch them.
Our secrete was simple. Most of us were originally from the Midwest and have fished muskie most of our lives. We just happen to enjoy the beauty and splendor of the Rocky Mountains and return every year to Wisconsin and Minnesota to haunt you guys……Yes!
I have fished the Chip other times and have not been so skilled or lucky. The Chip is a beautiful body of water. The skies are full of eagles and ospreys, the shore abounds with deer slipping in and out along the banks. The loons call to each other as the spray of water leaves your reel. It may be one of my wife’s favorite north woods secrets. I don’t care how much you fish muskies, or where in the world you have fished for them, if you haven’t fished the Big Chip you haven’t fished some of Northern Wisconsin’s best muskie waters. Just up the line on County Road B, you’ll come to Hayward, home of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. This too is a must place to see when you’re in the area.
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