Relaxing on the water is as much a Wisconsin tradition as beer and brats, and water-based activities are a huge part of enjoying the outdoors.
Summer is the perfect time for the guys to get together and spend a day (or a weekend) on some of Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers, kicking back and catching up.
Reeling in fierce fighters like muskellunge and northern pike can be the thrill of a lifetime. One of the best locations for this kind of action is the Willow Flowage in Oneida County. This 6,000-acre-plus lake is known for its trophy-size muskie, pike, walleye, and largemouth bass.
A good place to set up operations is the Willow Wood Lodge in Hazelhurst — this rustic resort dates back to the 1880s and has a bar and grill, bait shop, and boats for rent.
To the west is the Mississippi River and the fishing "barges" that lie offshore from some of Wisconsin’s river towns. These floating platforms — like Clement’s Fishing Barge in Genoa — are anchored over some of the hottest fishing spots in the river.
One of the most exciting things about barge fishing is you never know what’s going to grab the bait — it could be a four-inch bluegill or a 50-pound channel cat. Most barges provide rentals, bait, food service and restrooms.
Rafting, canoeing and tubing on Wisconsin's rivers can be fast or slow, depending on your preference. The Wolf River and the Peshtigo River provide some of the best whitewater rafting in the Midwest — the Peshtigo, for example, has five continuous miles of Class II, III, and IV white-water rapids, including its famous "Roaring Rapids."
Outfitters along the rivers include Herbs Wolf River Raft Rides in White Lake and Kosirs Rapid Rafts in Athelstane.
For a more leisurely pace, try the Kickapoo River, Sugar River or Wisconsin River. Their gentle currents make it easier to start and stop — for example, to spend an hour or two on a sandbar for some swimming and lunch.
The Kickapoo River and Sugar River are typically less than three feet deep — canoes can be rented at Drifty’s in Ontario and S&B Tubing in Albany. The Wisconsin River winds through some gorgeous countryside, complete with rocky cliffs, woodlands, secluded beaches, and wildlife — a good launch point is Sandy Shores Tubing in Mauston.
There is no place quite like Madeline Island, where you’ll want to spend more than a day. On-the-water activities include boat tours, fishing charters and kayaking the sea caves along the Apostle Islands. Three public beaches are available for swimming and exploring. Canoes, rowboats, and stand-up paddleboards can be rented at Big Bay Town Park.
Accommodations vary from upscale vacation rentals to rustic cabins and cottages to campgrounds, including remote, tent-only campsites.
Good dining and entertainment can be found in the only town on the island — La Pointe, with a population of 302. And, if you get tired of all the male bonding, take a class or two at Yoga on the Rock, starting June 24 — an inspiring way to "surrender to the beauty and simplicity of nature's abundance on Madeline Island."
Check out more options for water getaways with the guys, or let us know about your favorite in a comment below.