Sep 10, 2016

There Is A Place. Presque Isle...

...Of Woods and Waters, Quality Fisheries, Abundant Natural Beauty, Prime Fall Hunting, and Snowbelt Winters. 

FallCastsFinal2.tif: Credit to Bruce Nelson Photography, Presque Isle WI.

Over the September 9th-11th weekend, nearly 1,000 hardcore musky fishermen from throughout the Midwest will converge on Vilas County’s Presque Isle for the 40th annual World Championship Musky Classic (WCMC). The WCMC rotates among four area towns with the 40th annual finding “Wisconsin’s Last Wilderness” as its 2016 host. Men, women and youth participate in the trophy-based tournament, which WCMC President Beth Kebl says is characterized by its “consideration of sportsmanship, friendship and community, with tourney proceeds in support of local youth scholarships.” Nineteen lakes throughout western Vilas County are represented with five of Presque Isle’s 184 lakes featured. In addition to the WCMC, a number of other formatted musky tournaments are hosted in Presque Isle including the Bob Ellis Row Trolling Classic in July, a memorial tournament in honor of Ellis, in recognition of his fishing prowess and unique method of row trolling for suspended muskies. His family estimates he caught more than 1,000 muskies in his lifetime! In mid-October, local fishing club, Team Retreat, hosts a musky tournament, with proceeds given back to the fishing community in a variety of manners, from boat landing improvements to fish crib plantings. All of the tournaments have two things in common: muskies and their charitable, friendly nature.

Woods and Water

PI from the air.jpg and : The historic walleye rearing ponds (pictured far right in this photo) sit alongside “downtown” Presque Isle, whose town name in French means “almost an island.”

Water draws people to Presque Isle, whose name in French means “almost an island.” The townsite commands a large hill on the Continental Divide, with waters flowing north to Lake Superior, and south to the Mississippi. The crystal clear Presque Isle River flows through town, across the Wisconsin-Michigan border, and into the Upper Peninsula’s one million-acre Ottawa National Forest and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Waters headed south wind through the northernmost reaches of the 230,000-acre Northern-Highland American Legion State Forest. 

When considering the large tracts of public land surrounding Presque Isle, it becomes difficult to envision a more ideal place to base your Wisconsin fall vacation, whether your interests center on fishing and hunting, hiking and paddling, or wildlife watching and fall color riding. In addition to National and State Forests, paper company land and managed forestlands provide outdoor enthusiasts with plenty of backwoods to explore -- from the serene to the more adventurous. 

Quality Fisheries

Adams Fish 003.jpg: Guide Adam Johnson (left) and TV Host/Guide Travis Richardson (right) reel in a mid-November musky from Presque Isle Lake.

iStock_000071561879_Large.jpg: Opening Walleye fishing on the first Saturday in May is an anxiously awaited day for day!

Presque Isle's slogan is “Wisconsin’s Last Wilderness,” and is relevant still today. Located on the outer reaches of Vilas County, Presque Isle prides itself on its tranquil and picturesque setting. Lake choices are endless, from small, undeveloped lakes to responsibly developed larger lakes like gin-clear, 1600-acre Presque Isle Lake. The fishery throughout the region remains strong due in part to its less trafficked, less fished waters. Guides often advise to fish where the pressure is light. Fortunately, in Presque Isle, the majority of our lakes receive little pressure, yet provide quality waters diverse in size and character. 

Smallmouth Bass. Many are familiar with the region’s walleye and musky reputations with Presque Isle and neighboring Boulder Junction, respectively coined the walleye and musky capitals of the world. A lesser-known fishery is that of the smallmouth bass, which has evolved and improved dramatically over the years. Presque Isle’s 900-acre Crab Lake is not only one of the most beautiful lakes in the Northwoods, it is also home to outstanding smallmouth bass and musky fishing. Exciting stories come from this lake, with more than a few hooking a smallmouth, which is then unknowingly turned into bait and attacked by a musky. The chances of the musky hanging onto the smallie all the way to the boat aren’t great, but this once-in-a-lifetime experience nonetheless makes for a fabulous fish tale. 

Musky. Numerous class A1 and A2 musky lakes are in Presque Isle, with the capacity for trophy fish oft-noted in Presque Isle’s 3-lake chain: Averill, Presque Isle and Van Vliet. Musky hunters begin their seasons the Saturday prior to Memorial Day and end it on November 30th. The changing seasons, water temps and weather make each its own challenge, with favored times varying amongst anglers. Those vying for the biggest fish, itch for October and November, as the muskies’ appetites grow and these “freshwater barracudas” go on month-long feeding binges to fatten themselves up for winter. Discussions abound on fish size, but you needn’t look far for the guide or local fisherman that stands firm in belief that Vilas County’s class A1 lakes have the honest potential for a 50-pound fish.

Walleye. Related to the musky is the fish of shore lunches and the famous Wisconsin Friday Fish Fry -- the walleye. Large walleyes can be found on many area lakes, with a multitude of high twenties brought in as well as the occasional 30”(+) fish. Nowadays, many practice catch-and-release with larger fish, and take the 13-18” fish to the dinner table. Spend some time in Presque Isle, and you’ll find you can’t get far without overhearing or participating in talk about the ever-changing walleye bite, which finds anglers with one eye on the weather, the other on the moon’s cycle, the other on the fly hatch, another on the weed growth, and yet another on the water’s stain and lure color.

In spring, the Chamber hosts an annual walleye tournament. 2017's event is May 19-21, and the number of lakes is increasing in order to allow more fishermen to participate. In fall, fishing guide Bob Bertch, of Bob’s Manitowish Guide Service, notes that after turnover (which typically occurs in early October in Vilas County) and when temperature and oxygen levels return to normal, “The fishing for walleye can be excellent... as they tend to be more schooled together in the deeper part of the lakes.” Whatever the season, walleye fishing remains a favorite of many, defined by its complex, fun and nuanced nature. 

Abundant Natural Beauty

Imgl9063.jpg: This past spring, amateur wildlife photographer and birder, Bev Engstrom beautifully captured a Ruffed Grouse’s drumming display.

187A9723.jpg: Local resident Lindsay Peterson enjoys a fall walk at the Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area, a Nature Conservancy site rich with wildlife.

Presque Isle is a designated Wisconsin Bird City and is home to nesting osprey, eagles and loons. The area boasts pristine hiking, birding, and paddling sites, found in the nature conservancy’s Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area and the state-protected Van Vliet Hemlocks, a 400-acre forested stand which represents a rare remnant of the northern hardwood–hemlock forest, once the largest and most characteristic of northern Wisconsin. Habitat restoration is regularly practiced in the community, with the most recent being a shoreline restoration and trail project around the town’s historic walleye rearing ponds, which for many years served as Wisconsin’s largest walleye rearing site.


Within a 30-mile radius are the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park and the Ottawa’s Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area, providing opportunities for day trips or primitive overnight camping. Within this same radius and dotting the path to Lake Superior are a series of waterfalls, with access ranging from two mile hike-ins to auto access via roadside stairs and handicap accessible pathways. More adventurous travelers may choose a kayak trip on Lake Superior or a chair lift to the top of Copper Peak, the only ski flying hill in the western hemisphere and boasting the world's largest artificial ski slide. It was recently announced that Copper Peak will reopen for the Grand Prix Summer Series finale event to be held in September 2017; and that the hill will host a Summer Continental Cup and a Nordic combined summer event in 2018. Just a few more reasons to keep the “Up North” region on your radar!

Prime Fall Hunting

iStock_10461730_LARGE 2.jpg: Wisconsin’s Last Wilderness provides ideal waters and wetlands for your annual fall duck hunting trip.

Adams Fish 001.jgp: Many youth enjoy their first hunting experience at the Presque Isle flowage and wetlands, located along the WI-MI border.

Autumn in the gentle glacial hills of Presque Isle is famous for the in-between time of warmth and fall crispness. The hues of crimson reds, smokey golds and rich browns with bluebird skies as backgrounds abound, beautifully mirrored on the water’s reflection. On misty autumn mornings, Canadian geese and flocks of migrating ducks grace the north country lakes. Along the Wisconsin-Michigan border are the Presque Isle Flowage wetlands and waters where many youth take their first shot, building memories to last a lifetime. Fall hunting begins in September with sportsmen walking the old tote roads for ruffed grouse and woodcock; and continues into October with waterfowl, turkey and bear. The culmination for many is November’s Wisconsin deer hunt, where families in Vilas County and Presque Isle have traditionally taken the week away from school to enjoy this rite of passage. To further your experience, consider tapping into the stable of licensed fishing and hunting guides, with specialties including musky and walleye as well as big game hunting for bear. 

A wild game and natural foods cook-off is hosted annually the last Sunday of September, with the opportunity to taste bear, venison and grouse, along with fall fruits and vegetables including apples, wild mushrooms and leeks. Visitors, residents and restaurants are invited to enter a dish; all are invited to enjoy the unique diversity of dishes not found on the menus of today.

Snowbelt Winters


The region offers an awesome snowmobiling experience, with hundreds of miles of trails meandering through vast stretches of pine and hardwood forests, and around numerous lakes. Presque Isle is blessed by the Lake Superior Snowbelt and sees more snow than most other Wisconsin locations. Riders can ride to a new Vilas County or Upper Peninsula destination every day of the week, experiencing fantastic scenery, hospitable restaurants and taverns, and cozy lodges. The local Sno-Bunnies Club does a superb job trail grooming, with frequent endorsements over the past years as “the best trails in the region.” For more information, visit 

Snowbelt winters also fare wonderfully for the silent sport enthusiasts -- whether your preferred mode of winter woods exploration is x-country skiing, snowshoeing or fat-biking. In addition, Presque Isle is perfectly poised for the downhill skiing day trip of your choice with six hills to choose from, each with a character and charm all its own.

Visiting Presque Isle

The tourism-centric, quaint Northwoods town is known for its quality waters, year-round wildlife, and snowbelt winters, alongside its laid-back and friendly way of life. A number of area resorts, lodges, and vacation cabins cater to visitors, from couples seeking a quiet wilderness experience to the hunter-angler seeking a trophy for their wall, from the cross-country skier to the snowmobiler, from the birdwatcher to the motorcyclist. And remember, being in Wisconsin’s last wilderness does not mean a lack of access to mouthwatering food! On the contrary, our area offers a variety of restaurants; from pubs and taverns to traditional supper clubs and award-winning fine dining. Whether you’re looking for a hearty meal, a quick snack, or a nightcap and a pool table, our fine establishments will keep you satisfied. Whatever your vacation or future home dreams, make them a reality by coming to the vistas of Presque Isle.

For information on setting up a visit, contact the Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce at, email, call (715) 686-2910, or find them on Facebook.