Jan 10, 2015

Washburn County

Northwoods in Every Direction

By: Michelle Voight, Washburn County Tourism

Home of both the Walleye Capital of Wisconsin (Long Lake) and the Bluegill Capital of Wisconsin (Birchwood), Washburn County is located in Northwest Wisconsin. The largest communities are Spooner, Shell Lake, Birchwood and Minong. Washburn County is a prime destination for fishing and outdoor enthusiasts with hundreds of miles of vast ATV and snowmobile trail systems, over 950 lakes and nearly 150,000 acres of public access forest land.


Sitting in your boat, watching the morning sun rise on a calm, crystal clear lake is a common occurrence when fishing one of the beautiful lakes scattered throughout Washburn County. As you sit and look around, you begin to realize how refreshing the calm of the Northwoods can be. Just as you start feeling as though you are part of the idyllic scene going on around you, you feel a tug at the end of your line. With anticipation you wait as you imagine yourself pulling in the largest walleye you’ve ever battled. And now is when you truly are experiencing the best of northern Wisconsin.

With hundreds of lakes to choose from, finding the right lake can be a challenge unless you have a knowledgeable guide to help you. Jim Stroede, local fishing guide, is one of the leading guides in Northwest Wisconsin and provides an excellent fishing experience. Stroede typically targets muskie, walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and northern pike.  

Winter brings a whole new fishing experience. Ice shanties start popping up as soon as the ice becomes thick enough and small villages start to decorate the once open water. Young and old alike can agree that ice fishing is a great way to spend a winter day. Ice fishing contests are abundant throughout the winter in Washburn County and are a great way to get the whole family involved in the excitement.

Whether you are an avid fisherman or just starting out, there are plenty of resources in the area to guide you on your fishing adventure. Bait shops are located in Birchwood, Long Lake, Minong, Shell Lake, Spooner and Stone Lake for your convenience. Washburn County also offers a variety of lakeside cabins, campgrounds and hotels for use as home base. The area offers over 70 restaurant options where you’ll experience true, northern hospitality and excellent home-cooked meals. If you’re in town on a Friday night, be sure to head to a Friday Night Fish Fry, a Wisconsin tradition.

ATV & Snowmobile Trails:

ATV enthusiasts are particularly drawn to Washburn County for the incredible trail system and amenities in the area. Washburn County is home to Wisconsin’s only ATV Scenic Tour. The tour explores over 35 points of interest on 100+ miles of trail system. The area trails run through dense county forests, over beautiful rolling hills, and along picturesque river ways. Both ATV’s and snowmobiles have direct access to a variety of lodging and dining options, as well as gas stations and shopping.

Snowmobiling is the sport of choice for many during the winter months. After spending the day out on one of the trails, it is easy to understand why visitors keep coming back to Washburn County for a great riding experience. Local club volunteers work hard throughout the year on the trails and their hard work results in an incredibly well maintained trail system. Trail reports are updated daily and are available by calling 1-800-367-3306 or visiting www.washburncountywi.com.


With Northwoods in every direction, it’s no wonder why hunting enthusiasts are drawn to Washburn County year after year. 148,000 acres of public land, roughly one-third of the county, make Washburn County a popular hunting destination. Changing seasons bring a variety of hunting opportunities. Grouse, deer, black bear, and turkey are all popular species. Whether you are an avid whitetail enthusiast or looking to pass the time hunting for small game, there are plenty of great hunting areas throughout the county. Information on public land and access information is available by visiting www.washburncountywi.com. Several sport shops are available throughout the county for all of your hunting needs.

Namekagon River:

One of the most scenic ways to explore Washburn County is by taking a nice float down one of the area's rivers. The Namekagon River is the northern tributary of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a federally protected wild and scenic waterway stretching 250 miles through Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Namekagon flows for some 50 miles through Washburn County. The National Park Service maintains primitive campsites accessible by water only.

Most of the Namekagon portion of the riverway is entirely undeveloped, offering kayakers/canoeists a genuine wilderness experience. The riverbanks are abundant with deer, muskrat, beaver, turtles and blue herons. Osprey and bald eagles are also frequently spotted.

The Namekagon River offers everything from rapids for the experienced kayaker/canoeist to wide, quiet flowages below the dams. Trout fishermen can meet their challenge, and anglers will fish to their heart's content. In most places, no development has been allowed within sight of the river, providing miles of unsurpassed beauty for canoeists and hikers. Tubing is also a popular way to enjoy the river. Canoe, kayak, tube rentals and shuttles are available in Trego, Earl, and Springbrook.  


Learn how Wisconsin’s Lakes are Stocked with Fish:

Some of the best memories are made when cell phones are set aside and you spend time in the great outdoors with your family. A fun place to explore on your visit to Washburn County is the Spooner Fish Hatchery, established over 100 years ago. The hatchery has the capacity to produce up to 2.5 million 1.5” to 2.0” walleye fingerling, 300,000 6” walleye fingerlings, and 20,000 to 50,000 11” muskellunge and/or northern pike fingerlings. In a typical year, more fingerling muskies are produced at the hatchery than at any other hatchery in the world. Hatchery workers collect, fertilize and transport over 30 million eggs to the hatchery during the spring. On a yearly basis the facility collects an average of:

  • 2 million muskellunge eggs
  • 6 million walleye eggs
  • 2 million northern pike eggs
  • 28 million sucker eggs

The fish are then hatched and reared at the hatchery. In the fall, the fish are removed from the rearing ponds and stocked in lakes throughout the state of Wisconsin. Tours of the hatchery are held May through Labor Day on Tuesdays & Fridays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tours may be scheduled for groups by calling the fish hatchery ahead of time. The visitor center and display area is open year round from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. 

For more information on planning your adventure in Washburn County, contact the Washburn County Tourism office at 1-800-367-3306 or visit www.washburncountywi.com.