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I'm new to near Madison and wondering when the (non-ice diving) season begins and where people dive within an hour or two of here (I'm actually 45 mins west of Madison, so Lake Michigan is not right around the corner).
Any suggestions on local dive groups? Anyone from around here?
I used to live in Wisconsin (Fond du Lac) before joining the Air Force, and people generally dive Devil's Lake (right in your backyard), Lake Wazee and Redgranite Quarry along with lots of other lakes and rivers. Checkout www.wiscuba.com for a more local message board.
Welcome to the area. My buddy and I both work in Dodgeville.
Devils Lake in Devils Lake state park (near Baraboo) has a number of good dive spots and is about a one hour drive north. There is a shop just outside the park for airfills and rentals.
The Madison lakes are OK until about the end of June when the water gets green and thick. There is a dive shop in Madison that runs a program called "adventure dives". Once a week a divemaster takes a group of divers to a different dive spot on one of the four lakes. They usually start in early May, and it's a very nice introduction to local diving.
Wazee Lake near Black River Falls is about a 2.5 hour drive North. It's an old quarry; good visibility, and it's deep (max depth is over 400 feet as I recall).
There are a number of charter services operating out of Milwaukee that offer trips out to some of the Lake Michigan wrecks.
There are a couple of lakes in Govenor Dodge state park that my buddy and I have considered diving in, but I don't know anyone who has been diving there. They're man-made, but they might be interesting.
Thanks for the info. No, no buddies in the area yet. Have been calling around to various dive shops and asking them about diving in the area. Have heard similar spots to those you mention. Didn't realize that Wazee was so far away. That's about as far as Lake Michigan... for that kind of drive, which is better? Lake Michigan or Wazee? Are there shallow-ish (rec diving limits) sites within Wazee? (It's not just a square profile site with the bottom at 300-400 feet, right?) How is Devil's Lake on the scale of things? ...compared to the lakes in Madison? I'm also contemplating diving the lakes at Governor Dodge (didn't realize that they were man-made)... just worried about those attack muskie!!! ;-)
Do you dive wet or dry? I dive wet, but sounds as if I should try to get in soonish, even if for short dives, just to take advantage of the better visibility before it warms up.
I'm sorry that you haven't found a buddy yet but we would love to have you join us. We can at least take you to the places that we know. A visit to the Red Room is probably in order to make introductions .
It's not so much that Wazee is far away, but all of the roads between here and there seem to be always under construction. I've been there five times and I've never taken the same path twice. The question of Lake Michigan vs Wazee Lake depends on what you like. Wazee is all shore diving; Lake Michigan is best known for wrecks that are best done from a boat. Wazee has plenty of shallowish spots and some interesting walls. I'm embarassed to admit that I've never done a charter out of Milwaukee, but everyone that I know who has gone on one has loved it. I don't know whether or not there is any good shore diving there. Can anyone from the greater Milwaukee area help us out with that one?
Devil's Lake is probably my favorite destination. There are lots of fish and plenty of crevices for them to hide in. Everything worth seeing is close to the shore and in less than 25 feet of water so we get long bottom times. Devil's Lake is, IMO, much more interesting than the Madison lakes, although going under Monona Terrace on Lake Monona is interesting (at least it is the first time that you do it). The lakes at Governor Dodge are too close for us not to at least try them. You have a point about the attack muskie. Some big fish have been pulled out of there.
My buddy and I both dive dry for most of the year although I generally go to a 3mm wet suit in July and August. My buddy is always cold so she always goes dry. The visibility in the Madison lakes definitely gets bad starting in about mid-summer, but even on the best of days there is very little to see (schools of carp; the odd junked car). Devil's Lake is very good (relatively speaking, of course) throughout the summer, so there isn't any real hurry -- although sooner is always better, of course. When I was diving wet a 6.5mm full suit always kept me warm. I mostly went dry because stripping-down after a dive in a parking lot when the temperature was still in the 40's and the wind was blowing was a thrill that I found I could do without.
There was a Madison based shop at Ghost-Ships that advertised Lake MI charters. They seemed like good people, decent outfit and if I remember right had a pretty kicking vessel...Course the name escapes me now, I'll see if I can dig out the book.
EDIT -- Diversions Scuba was the name of the place. My impression at the show was a good one, someone with real experience there may be able to speak to any cons before you take my word for it. If I was closer I'd at least check them out.
I know Diversions -- it's a nice shop that does a lot of technical classes (TDI) in addition to the basic OW/AOW/PADI specialities. The owner is one of the most accomplished divers that I've ever met. In the past they've run charters on -- I think -- the Len-Der out of Milwaukee. I haven't been there since the middle of last year. Do they have another charter affiliation now? That's the shop that runs the adventure dives that I mentioned above.