Tagged in ice fishing

January 14, 2014

Wisconsin’s Winter Walleye Waters

Ice Fishing

Photo Credit: RJ & Linda Miller

Winter is a great time to target what might be Wisconsin’s tastiest gamefish. Walleye bite throughout the winter, and ice fishing is the ideal way to target this elusive predator. Best of all, Wisconsin is home to some of the top walleye fisheries on the planet.

Ice fishing allows walleye anglers to pinpoint active fish and carefully present lures and baits—the same careful approach would be difficult from a rocking boat. When an ice angler finds a group of active fish, he can quickly catch his limit. And, there’s nothing like the sight of a big, fat walleye coming up through the ice.

This winter, experience the thrill of catching walleye through the ice. Here are eight of the very best Wisconsin winter walleye waters.

Oshkosh – Lake Winnebago

At 138,000 acres, Lake Winnebago is the king of all Wisconsin walleye destinations. The Lake Winnebago System, which includes the Wolf and Fox rivers, has unmatched natural reproduction. The result is a fishery with numerous walleye and good numbers of big fish. During the winter, the area around Oshkosh offers some of the giant lake’s best walleye fishing.

Rusk County – Lake Holcombe

Few Wisconsin lakes offer such a diverse, high-quality fishery as Lake Holcombe. This 4,000-acre lake is a flowage on the Chippewa River. Lake Holcombe boasts more than 120 miles of shoreline. Walleye anglers will find good fishing throughout the winter.

Stevens Point – Lake Du Bay

The sprawling Lake Du Bay is a nearly 7,000-acre flowage on the Wisconsin River. The lake is known for its musky, pike, smallmouth bass, panfish and walleye. Anglers should look for sunken trees and other structure along the old river channel. Some of the deeper backwaters can also hold fish.

Oneida County – Lake Tomahawk

This classic Northwoods lake provides great walleye fishing during the winter. It is one of the biggest lakes in northern Wisconsin, weighing in at 3,392 acres. The lake is famous for its fishery, which includes a healthy population of walleye.

Boulder Junction – Trout Lake

Deep and cold, Trout Lake is stands out as one of Wisconsin’s best fishing lakes. The crystal-clear waters hold not only the usual selection of warm-water gamefish, but also lake trout and whitefish. The walleye on Trout Lake grow big and fat on the healthy forage base. Be ready to tie into a hefty fish.

Rhinelander Area – Boom Lake

This flowage on the Wisconsin River is one of the most popular fishing destinations in Wisconsin—and for good reason. Walleye anglers will find good action here throughout the winter.

Onalaska – Lake Onalaska

The Mississippi River is one of the best walleye fisheries in the country. Lake Onalaska, a 7,700-acre pool on the Mississippi River, is an outstanding walleye destination. In addition to walleye, Lake Onalaska offers great fishing for northern pike and panfish.

Black River Falls – Lake Arbutus

Lake Arbutus is a multifaceted destination. In addition to northern pike, musky, bass and crappie, you’ll find good numbers of walleye. It’s a great place to set out some tip-ups. You never know what you’re going to catch here.


January 25, 2012

Where Are the Walleye?

Catching walleye through the ice means knowing how fish move during the day

Have you ever wondered how two people can fish the same lake and only one catches any fish? What’s the difference between those two people? In some cases, it’s luck. But, in most cases, it’s knowledge.

Knowing where walleye want to be at different times of the day is crucial to catching fish during the winter.

Walleye like to spend time in particular types of places. One such place is a point—a finger of land that juts out into the water. Walleye will often hang just off the point or to the sides of the point where the water breaks sharply. Another place walleyes like to spend time is near underwater structures such as large rock piles and bars. The edges of flat areas of the lake, particularly where there are steep drop-offs, often attract fish.

But, by mid-winter, walleye get harder to find. Walleye tend to scatter throughout a lake or flowage. This is when an angler has to think like a fish.

Kid Ice FishingThroughout the year, during both the open water season as well as the ice fishing season, walleye have a daily movement from deeper water to shallow water and back again. At night, walleye tend to spend time feeding in shallow water. During the daylight hours, walleye tend to stay in deep water. During the “in-between” periods of dawn and dusk, walleye are on the move between shallow and deep water. This cyclical movement happens on nearly every body of water—winter, spring, summer and fall.

The walleye angler can use this knowledge to his advantage. Midday fishing should be focused on finding schools of walleye near deepwater structures. As shadows lengthen, anglers should set tip-ups in areas that fish are likely to pass through as they head toward shallow water—narrows, steep drop-offs and lines of underwater structure are good bets. By the time the sun has set, you should be fishing in the shallows. If you start fishing before the sun comes up, the process is reversed, with fish moving from the shallows to deeper water.

If you really want to maximize your chances of catching walleye, be sure to be ice fishing in the hours before and after dawn and the hours before and after sunset. This is when fish are on the move and feeding most heavily. Fish still bite at other times of the day, but less frequently.

So, start thinking like a walleye, and you’ll enjoy some good mid-winter walleye fishing.


December 19, 2011

See Wisconsin Pike on Ice!

Ten tips for catching more northern pike this winter

Winter is probably the best time of the year for catching northern pike in Wisconsin. Not only are pike hungry throughout the winter, they’re plentiful on the majority of Wisconsin’s ice fishing waters.

If you’ve never tangled with a pike while ice fishing, you’re in for a real treat. Staring at the hole in the ice with the fishing line dancing about, your imagination runs wild thinking about what monster might be hooked. And, unlike other fish species, northern pike put up quite a fight during the winter. A hooked pike doesn’t surrender easily.

So, how do you experience this ice fishing thrill for yourself? Here are ten tips for catching more pike this winter in Wisconsin.

  1. Cut yourself a big hole in the ice – Pike can grow big. On some Wisconsin waters, pike can reach lengths of more than 40 inches. A fish that large is also thick. You need to cut a hole in the ice that lets you land a fish of that size. One way to do this is using an eight-inch auger. However, if you only have a small auger, you can easily use an ice spud to open the hole up to a larger size.
  2. Invest in a quality tip-up – A tip-up is a device that allows you to place a bait under the ice. It will alert you of a strike by raising a small flag. Tip-ups are probably the most popular way to ice fish for pike in Wisconsin. Buy a high-quality tip up and it will last you a lifetime of fishing.
  3. Use heavy Dacron line in your tip-ups – Because you’ll be pulling the line in by hand, you’ll want the thickest line possible. Plus, pike have some serious teeth and can shred fishing line. Use 30-pount test line or stronger.
  4. Don’t skimp on the leader – To protect your fishing line from the teeth that make pike famous, use a leader made of braided steel or heavy monofilament. And don’t skimp! You should have at least 18 inches of leader, minimum. Some anglers go so far as to put two feet and even three feet of leader on their lines.
  5. Use live bait – There are two schools of thought on what type of bait to use for northern pike: live and dead. Some people swear that a dead minnow, such as a smelt, is the way to go, particularly for targeting large pike. However, if you want to catch more pike, both large and small, fresh, active live bait can’t be beat.
  6. Don’ use giant baits – It is true that big pike will hit big baits. However, big pike have no trouble hitting smaller baits as well. Don’t listen to the folks who insist that you must use a 12-inch sucker to catch a big pike. If you want a chance at pike, both big and small, use a six- or seven-inch chub or sucker. The smaller baits are much cheaper and will give you a shot at smaller pike as well as walleye.
  7. Don’t forget jigging – Tip-ups are an outstanding way to catch pike. But, jigging is also an effective method. Using a heavy-duty ice fishing rod and reel spooled with ten- to twenty-pound line, jig with special ice fishing plugs or spoons. You might hook a big pike, but you might also attract a fish to your area to get them to bite one of the tip-up baits. Plus, jigging is fun!
  8. Find the right depth – Pike patrol at different depths. Finding the depth at which pike are prowling is key to your fishing success. If you’re setting out three tip-ups, set one near the bottom, one just a few feet under the ice and the other in between. When you get a bite on one of the tip-ups, re-set the others to match that tip-up’s depth.
  9. Think like a fish – When picking places to jig or place your tip-ups, you need to think like a fish. Northern pike like to cruise along drop offs and around points. Anywhere shallow water meets deep water is a good bet. If you know that there are walleye, crappie, bluegill and other fish in an area, it’s a good bet there are northern pike in the vicinity too.
  10. Don’t lose that fish – After you’ve set the hook, don’t manhandle the fish to the hole. Retrieve the line steadily and gently. When you get the fish to the hole, don’t force its head up by yanking on the line. Instead, wait until the fish comes to the right position and then grab the fish behind the head and lift. Take a picture and quickly return the pike to the water to fight another day.

Family Ice FishingSo, where are some of the best places to catch a lunker northern pike? In Wisconsin, there are a number of options. One is the Boulder Junction[link to boulderjct.org  ]. Although the community is famous for its musky fishing, many of the 194 area lakes also harbor monstrous pike. And, because most local anglers focus their attention on musky, the pike in Boulder Junction have had a chance to grow big – real big.

Oneida County is home to hundreds of lakes. During winter, the county’s largest lakes and flowages are your best bet for northern pike. The massive Willow Flowage in western Oneida County is an excellent place to start your search for hungry pike.

Located along the Mississippi River, Onalaska should be on every pike hunter’s radar. The 7,700-acre Lake Onalaska hides some giants. The abundant baitfish make these pike grow fat and the river current makes them strong. Be ready for a fight!

Oshkosh on Lake Winnebago might be the best place in the state to catch a true trophy pike. At more than 137,000 acres, Lake Winnebago offers pike lots of room to grow. Along Oshkosh’s shoreline, you’ll find North Asylum Bay, South Asylum Bay and Millers Bay, all top pike-producing spots.

Good luck with your pike hunting this winter!