Where to Go Ice Fishing in Wisconsin: Learn from Locals

October 21, 2021

The state of Wisconsin is famous for its fishing, and people from all over the country come to the state every year to fish the trophy class waters located within its borders. Fishing is taken very seriously in the state. Heck, it even has been used by politicians to bash other politicians.

There are tons of ice fishing opportunities in the state if you are an avid ice fisherman or live in the country’s southern reaches and want to experience ice fishing for the first time. In this post, we will list some of the best ice fishing destinations in Wisconsin.

Endless Choices

Wisconsin is home to more than 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers and streams, so there is obviously no shortage of places to fish. In fact, many anglers visiting the state are overwhelmed by the number of opportunities present.

The fishing industry in Wisconsin is massive, raking in about 1.5 billion dollars annually. Everywhere you look, you will find businesses catering to anglers, such as boat dealerships and a wide variety of tackle stores and mom and pop style bait shops. You may even find stores dedicated to one specific species of fish, like the famous Rollie and Helen’s musky shop in Minocqua.

The Northern half of the state is home to the majority of these lakes and is where most of the best fishing is found, but there are a few key places in the southern half that can hold their own when it comes to trophy class fisheries as well.

Lake Winnebago

Lake Winnebago

Lake Winnebago is the largest lake in the state, coming in at almost 132,000 acres in size with a maximum depth of 21 feet. The lake is part of the “Winnebago system,” which includes three other lakes, Lake Butte Des Mortes, Lake Winneconne, and Lake Poygan.

Author Note: There are also two rivers associated with the Winnebago system. The Wolf River travels south from the Northwoods and feeds into Lake Poygan.

The Fox River, Which is one of the very few rivers in the world that flows north, flows from Lake Winnebago and enters into the southern end of Green Bay which is part of Lake Michigan.

Lake Winnebago is known for its trophy walleye fishing, and it boasts a dense population of them, with a respectable average size with a good chance at a true trophy-class fish.

Along with the excellent walleye fishing, other great species that are abundant and incredibly popular on Lake Winnebago are white bass and perch, with high densities of both species being present.

Lake Winnebago is unique in that it boasts a large population of lake sturgeon, and during the winter, there is a short spearing season for these fish, which ends either by a quota or the end of the season, whichever comes first. The lake sturgeon grow big, and there are years where fish are harvested that weigh nearly 200 pounds.

Green Bay

Another great place to go ice fishing in Wisconsin is Green Bay. The bay of Green Bay is huge, consisting of 1625 square miles, but don’t let the size scare you, as most of the fishing is localized, and it is not hard to find where to fish depending on the species.

Green Bay has some of the best walleye fishing found anywhere, and with a body of water, this large can produce fish of epic proportions.

Perch is also an incredibly popular species targeted by anglers on Green Bay. Several decades ago, the perch populations in Green Bay suffered greatly from commercial fishing, but today with the absence of the commercial fisheries of the past, the yellow perch has come back in full force.

On the Door Peninsula side of the bay, you can find all-day action fishing for whitefish. Whitefish are found in huge schools, and when they swim into your area, you can catch them in large numbers.

Whitefish put up a serious fight, and at times you will find yourself fishing for them in very deep water of up to 100 feet.

Lake Michigan

lake michigan ice fishing

Want to try your hand at some world-class trophy trout fishing on the ice? The harbors on the lake Michigan coast can provide some of the best trout ice fishing in the world.

Author Note: There are some great harbors to choose like those in the cities of Sheboygan, Port Washington, Kenosha, even right in the middle of Milwaukee at the Milwaukee harbor.

While you most likely will have company fishing these spots, they hold a high number of fish, and fish come and go from the harbors and back from Lake Michigan as they please, and when the fishing is hot, everyone is catching fish.

North and South Twin Lakes

The Twin Lakes in Vilas county (the most famous county for fishing in the state), with the county alone hosting 1,300 glacial lakes, has some excellent ice fishing opportunities for a wide variety of species.

The walleye ice fishing on the Twin lakes is some of the best in northern Wisconsin, and trophy fish are produced regularly.

If panfish is more your style, go fish the weed lines and weed beds for Bluegill, Perch, and Crappie. Panfish are abundant here, and it will give up some trophy panfish as well.

You can also wrangle with some huge smallmouth bass out here as well, and every once in a while, a trophy pike will get caught.

Lac Courte Oreilles Lake

LCO is a deep clear lake way up in the northwestern region of the state. It is surrounded by multiple other great fishing lakes as well, all in a small area, allowing you to fish multiple bodies of water in a single day.

The lake hosts numerous bars that are great spots to fish for walleye in the early mornings, evenings, and after dark.

In the early and late ice seasons, the large bays are great for various species like panfish and pike, and with 5000 acres of deep water, there is plenty of trophy fish swimming around.

Lake Namekagon

If chasing trophy-sized crappie is your thing, lake Namekagon has you covered. In the winter months, you can find the crappies in the numerous shallow bays, and Namekagon has a ton of them.

There is also a decent walleye fishery on Namekagon as well, and if you like to set tip-ups, you can try your hand at the exceptional bass population.

Lake Koshkonong

Lake Koshkonong isn’t very deep, with a maximum depth of only 7 feet, and the majority of the bottom is silt or much with very little vegetation. But this makes a great place to go ice fishing in Wisconsin. By all standards, it is the exact opposite of what you think of when you think of a trophy walleye lake, but it is.

Lake Koshkonong is one of the top 10 walleye fisheries in the state. Despite being a lake that most wouldn’t take a second glance at, this is thanks to a robust stocking program that is in place with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Lake Koshkonong also has a large population of channel catfish as well. Catfish aren’t a typical fish to seek out on the ice, but in recent years they are becoming more popular to fish through the ice for the same reasons anglers fish them in the warm water months.

Get the Most out of Your Time Fishing in Wisconsin

If you are visiting from out of state or aren’t familiar with the body of water that you want to fish, consider hiring a local fishing guide.

Wisconsin has no shortage of fishing guides, and there are many professional guides who have made a living from fishing their entire lives.

Author Note: Guides will not only put you on the fish so you can catch them, but a good guide will also be your teacher, showing you the details of why you are fishing a certain area, what lures or bait to use, and everything else you might want to know.

Guides provide a valuable service to anglers, so if you are not familiar with the lakes or in the state with a limited amount of time and want success on the water, be sure to take advantage of what a guide offers.

Fishing Regulations

ice fishing perch

Be sure to look up the fishing regulations for the body of water you are fishing. In Wisconsin, many bodies of water have specific regulations on harvest quantity and legal sizes, and one lake may have a regulation that doesn’t apply to the lake directly across the road.

When purchasing your fishing license, you will typically find a free regulations book for the current year on the counter in most retail stores or bait shops.

Conclusion

The lakes listed in this post are not even a scratch on the surface of all the lakes that could potentially have amazing fishing opportunities, and there are many commonly known lakes in the state that we haven’t listed, as we would have to write a whole book on the topic.

We hope you enjoyed this guide on where to go ice fishing in Wisconsin.

Happy Hunting!

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