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Hiding in plain sight behind a relatively common name, Trout Lake in Wisconsin's Vilas County offers nearly 4,000 acres of clear, cool water. Even in a county with the most lakes in the state, this spectacular water body in the Lake Superior Northwoods Region stands out for beauty, superb fishing and memorable recreational opportunities. Located a few miles from the Michigan border, Trout Lake consists of two lake basins connected by a narrow strip of water. For clarity, they are often called North Trout Lake and South Trout Lake. Boats can easily travel to both basins from one of the four public boat launch sites on the lake. Nearly 17 miles of shoreline, much of it under the control of the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, offers myriad opportunities to observe wildlife and paddle in quiet waters along the shore.
One of Trout Lake's major attractions is the chance to catch a record lake trout. Fishing is the main attraction to this lake, as it is to many of the lakes in the area. Walleye, muskie and northern pike are usually the angler's targets as lake trout aren't nearly as common in these lakes as in the historic past. Trout Lake also holds largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, bluegill and rock bass; walleye, muskie and lake trout are stocked as needed by the Department of Natural Resources. With the University of Wisconsin-Madison Trout Lake Research Station located near shore, and a special research buoy in the water, Trout Lake's water quality and aquatic life are extensively monitored in real time so no problems are allowed to develop. The lake is deep as area lakes go-reaching 117 feet at some points. In winter, ice fishing is a popular pastime, with every angler having his own favorite spots to drop a line.
Several resort properties and a small number of private homes and cottages are hidden beneath the tree canopy ringing Trout Lake. Two campgrounds, managed by State Forest staff, offer a spot to erect a tent or park an RV. The campsites are somewhat rustic as campsites go, with picnic facilities, boat launches, drinking water and pit toilets provided. Designated swimming beaches are not provided as the bottom here is somewhat stony. The campground on the North Trout basin has an RV dumpsite. Several canoe-in campsites are offered along the west shoreline on a first-come basis. The lake holds several islands, three of which are publicly owned and open for exploration. Another is a refuge and supports eagle nesting sites. Fees are charged by the State Forest for driving the area roads, parking and camping. Paddling near shore and around the islands is a pleasant activity; however, sudden winds can churn up rather large waves on the larger expanses of water. Therefore, life jackets are not only a legal requirement for boating but may be a true life-saver. Many visitors use the campground boat ramps to launch their canoes and kayaks.
Some of the resorts rent fishing boats and motors by the full or half-day. Canoes and peddleboats are also available for rent. With 80% of the shoreline owned by the state, wildlife is plentiful, as are waterfowl and songbirds. Loons are common on the lake, but water visitors should be sure to avoid them to protect their well-known need for solitude while raising their chicks. Watersports are allowed such as waterskiing, but public boat facilities for ski boats are scarce and there is no marina or place to purchase boat gas on the lake. Most larger boats belong to property owners who provide their own facilities. The resort town of Boulder Junction is only a few miles away, and most visitors avail themselves of services there for their boating needs, including gas, repairs and pontoon rentals (with delivery). The area also has a number of bait and tackle shops, fishing guide services and outfitters to make any outdoor adventure become a reality.
The quiet roads around Trout Lake are perfect for leisurely strolls and wildlife watching. Boulder Junction prides itself as being a bicycle-friendly town, with miles of bike trails for both easy pedaling and more strenuous mountain biking. Starting in 2015, a Triathlon will be held here that substitutes paddling for swimming and is expected to become an annual event. Snowmobile trails cross the area near Trout Lake, and there are plenty of trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Because area lakes are known for walleye fishing, there is usually a fishing festival going on somewhere in the area during the season. The nearby towns of Manitowish Waters, Minocqua and Eagle River all have outdoor-themed museums and activities of particular interest to children (the adults will like them also). And the Trout Lake Golf Club is nearby for golfers who just can't bear to pass up their weekly game.
Several locations nearby are interesting for nature lovers to explore. The Trout River State Natural Area is just downstream along the Trout River after it exits Trout Lake. This area is a quiet waterway, home to several endangered species of fish and plants and most easily accessed by water. Also immediately south of the lake, the Trout Lake Conifer Swamp holds stands of black spruce, white cedar, balsam fir and tamarack, referred to as a northern wet-mesic forest. Wetter areas hold orchids, sphagnum moss, Canada mayflower and other bog plants, while the drier areas are nesting havens for a wide variety of birds among the black ash, alders, white birch and large-toothed aspen. Black bears are seen here frequently. During summer and early fall, free tours of a cranberry bog are offered within 15 miles. And year round, this tourism-geared area has festivals and celebration going on to delight young and old alike.
Trout Lake is the perfect spot to make family vacation memories. Several private rentals on the lake offer modern cottages and lakefront living by the week. Most include a fishing boat and a sandy shoreline swimming hole. Families come back year after year, dreaming of the day when they can purchase their own little piece of paradise. Building lots are few and likely won't increase since much of the lakefront is public land. Even in a land of many lakes, Trout Lake is a desirable place to own property. A variety of lodgings are available in Boulder Junction and at the many lakes near Trout Lake. The area holds several small restaurants and cafes good for either a quick snack or a hearty meal. And several small shops offer goods that are unique to the area. So make a reservation today, and come experience all the natural beauty that is Trout Lake.
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