Monona Bait and Ice Cream is a hidden gem, located in a quiet residential neighborhood at 4516 Winnequah Road in Monona. It’s a small, red and white building connected to owner Dean Schroeder’s home. (Don’t be taken aback if when you walk into the shop, you can see through an open door into Schroeder’s kitchen.)
Even if you can’t see into his kitchen, you’ll most likely see Schroeder himself. The shop’s owner gets only occasional help from a couple of part-time staff members and spends most of his time helping customers at both counters–the one where he sells food for people to eat and the other one where he sells food for fish to eat (the people who buy it hope).
Yes, as the name implies, Monona Bait and Ice Cream sells both bait and ice cream, along with lunch fare like sandwiches, pizza, and hot dogs, cold drinks, and quarter candy. The ice cream is from Babcock Dairy, and there are plenty of flavors to choose from. (But choose carefully, because there are no sample sizes available at Monona Bait and Ice Cream. If you’re thinking of trying something new, you’re going to have to take the plunge and go all in for a full scoop.)
The bait portion of the shop is tucked into the back along with the fishing gear that’s also for sale. If you squirm at the sight of a worm or a night crawler, don’t worry–the bait is contained in a refrigerator rather than out on tempting display for all to see, like the ice cream.
Right across the street from the shop is Schluter Beach, a small park on Lake Monona and the perfect spot to eat your ice cream before hooking your bait and sitting down to fish. If fishing isn’t your thing, then take a bike ride along the Monona Lake Loop path and stop for a snack on the way. If you’re spending the day at the much larger Winnequah Park just a few blocks away, it’s worth dragging the kids the extra mile for a treat (not that any kid needs convincing to go get ice cream).
Monona Bait and Ice Cream opened ten years ago, but it looks like it’s been there longer—since maybe the 1950s. The walls are covered with pegboard and lots of old fashioned tchotchkes, like glass Coke bottles and cookie tins. There are actual bottles of Coke for sale, too, and much of the quarter candy is old fashioned. (Smartie Pops and Lemon Heads, anyone?)
As you might imagine, a shop that sells fishing supplies and ice cream probably wouldn’t do so well in the Wisconsin winter. Because of that, Monona Bait and Ice Cream is a seasonal shop, open only from late April to early October. So if you haven’t made it out to Monona yet this summer, don’t wait too much longer!
Now that we’ve gotten this far without making a joke about mixing up your bait and ice cream orders, it’s time to treat ourselves with a scoop or two of Babcock ice cream (and possibly a night crawler or two).