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Best Ice Fishing Lakes in Wisconsin

Written by: Pete D
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Wisconsin is home to some of America’s most enthusiastic ice anglers, and it’s easy to see why. Excellent opportunities for hard-water fishing are plentiful nearly anywhere you turn, and winter in Wisconsin promises plenty of excitement.

Seven locations really stand out as premier ice fishing spots, and if you’re looking for hard-water action, you won’t be disappointed by any of them.

Keep reading to find out the best ice fishing lakes in Wisconsin!

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Green Bay

ice fishing green bay wisconsin

For many ice anglers in Wisconsin, Green Bay is synonymous with winter fishing and trophy walleye. But don’t forget about whitefish, perch, pike, and smallmouth bass!

A massive population of gobie feed every predator in the bay, supporting healthy populations of common sportfishing species.

Green Bay is simply enormous, and tackling water this size requires a plan. Get a good bathymetric map, look for places where the water will be 20 to 30 feet deep, and find steep drop-offs adjacent to this.

The south end of Green Bay is shallow, though the channel offers depths that walleye will be looking for in the winter. Just north of Vincent Point, the bay deepens to about 20 feet, and this is a great area to search for walleye.

Near the Pensaukee Shoal, you’ll find vast stretches of deeper water, too, and just a touch north of that, around the Oconto Harbor Lighted Bell Buoy, similar topography promises great ice fishing.

And, of course, Sturgeon Bay’s canal and northeastern side offer ideal depths for wallies and unbeatable opportunities to catch smallmouth bass.

When the wind is howling, the east coast is friendlier to fishermen than the west, with sheltered locations like Sturgeon’s Bay, Egg Harbor, and Eagle Harbor offering ideal places to fish in foul weather.

Lake Winnebago

lake winnebago ice fishing wisconsin

Stretching across a massive 137,700 acres, Lake Winnebago is perhaps the most popular ice-fishing destination in Wisconsin. If you plan to fish the hard water here, be sure to come early to claim a prime spot.

Sauger and walleye are common on Lake Winnebago, and for anglers ready for the challenge, this may be the best place in the state to catch a trophy. 

Along the western side of the lake, you’ll find plenty of islands and points offering steep drop-offs to 20 feet or so. Panfish will congregate here during early ice, and of course, where you find food the predators will follow.

Longpoint, Black Wolf Point, Point Comfort, Oshkosh Reefs, Horseshoe Reef, Doemel Point, Asylum Point, Blackbird Island, Haystack Reef, and Stevens Reef all offer excellent places to start your hunt for a monster.

Later in the winter, the main basin provides huge space for icemen, so there’s no need to cluster.

Lake Alice

ice fishing lake alice wisconsin

Located in Lincoln County in North Central Wisconsin, Lake Alice’s 1438 acres provide plenty of space for anglers to spread out. Just 32 feet deep at its maximum, Lake Alice provides ideal habitat for panfish.

Crappie, bluegill, and perch are abundant, but large- and smallmouth bass, pike, walleye, and musky are also present. Expect a predominantly sandy bottom featuring plenty of stumps.

Green Lake

green lake wisconsin ice fishing

Green Lake’s 7,920 acres are the deepest natural inland waters in the state, reaching 237 feet. Also known as Big Green Lake to distinguish it from Small Green Lake, its average depth is just 30 feet, creating plenty of habitat for panfish and other species that demand vegetation.

Crappie, perch, and bluegill are abundant in Green Lake, but the real superstar is the white bass, whose numbers are simply legendary. Healthy populations of channel catfish,crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, pike, walleye, and several species of trout provide plenty of species variation. And lake trout are routinely stocked here, creating a great opportunity for ice anglers interested in real monsters.

This large, deep lake can be a challenge to fish without plenty of pre-season preparation. You’ll want to locate likely fish-holding areas, map them carefully, and come to the lake with a plan in mind.

The reward is world-class ice fishing!

One of the first spots I’d look for is the submerged hump in Malcolm Bay, where the water drops from 18 feet to 150 feet very quickly. The Sandstone Bay side also features steep topography with shallow weed beds immediately adjacent to deeper water.

Boom Lake

boom lake wisconsin ice fishing

Located in Oneida County, Boom Lake is relatively shallow - just 30 feet deep at its maximum - providing plenty of sunlight to support a healthy aquaculture. And its sprawling shape provides plenty of structure, creating ideal conditions for bluegill, crappie, and perch.

Several excellent ice fishing areas are easily accessed from the boat launch in winter. At the north end of the main lake, you’ll find relatively shallow water punctuated by submerged humps. Two deep holes are also present: one at about 17 feet and another at roughly 21 feet. 

Both are excellent places to look for bluegill and crappie.

The sandy, mucky bottom is also excellent habitat for perch.

Anglers looking for an exciting trip out onto the hard water will be hard-pressed to find better panfishing anywhere, and largemouth bass, pike, and musky are also present in numbers that lead to likely catches.

Dairyland Reservoir

dairyland

Rusk County is home to Dairyland Reservoir’s 1,870 acres. Not always known for great fishing, habitat-improvement efforts initiated in 2007 have met with marked success, and catch rates have doubled since then.

As deep as 70 feet in the central channel that winds its way along the lake, you'll find abundant submerged humps, especially in the southwestern end of the lake.

Gravel and rock are the predominant bottom composition, with newly created habitat providing plenty of shelter for prey species that feed a very healthy walleye population.

Shallow areas immediately adjacent to steep drop-offs hold abundant prey items in Dairyland Reservoir, and anywhere you find food, expect excellent walleye fishing, as well as good chances for musky and smallmouth bass.

The Madison Chain

wisconsin ice fishing madison chain

The Madison Chain of Lakes - Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa, Lake Kegonsa, and Lake Wingra - offer plenty of excitement for icemen who live in the state’s capital. 

Diverse bodies of water, these five lakes offer different opportunities, depending on what you’re looking for.

Lake Mendota is the largest of the Madison Chain of Lakes at 9,781 acres, reaching depths of 83 feet. Known for its abundant perch, crappie, bluegill, bass, pike, walleye, and catfish are also present in large, stable numbers.

Just off Governor’s Island, you’ll find a deep hole that’s sure to attract fish looking to escape the cold, as well as a submerged hump that offers steep topography. The Commodore Bar, the Brearly Street Bar, Second Point, and Picnic Point are excellent areas to look for trophy perch and walleye, with the Brearly Street bar being the real stand-out.

The perch in Lake Mendota are known to scatter and suspend at varying depths across the lake. Excellent electronics are a must if you plan to find them.

Lake Monona sports several 70-foot-deep holes in the center of the lake, with average depths of about half that. Plenty of sand and gravel on the bottom, as well as relatively shallow water in several large areas, create abundant populations of bluegill, perch, and crappie, as well as opportunities for walleye, pike, and largemouth bass through the ice.

Lake Waubesa’s 2074 acres are relatively shallow, with the deepest hole hitting just 36 feet. That creates ideal habitat for bluegill and crappie as well as largemouth bass, and this lake is quick to freeze in winter.

Small submerged humps along the western side of the lake are ideal areas to start your hunt through the ice.

Lake Kegonsa is similar to Lake Waubesa in that it freezes fast and offers plenty of shallow water, supporting thriving populations of panfish, pike, largemouth bass, and walleye. The west side of the lake near Calladay point features a submerged hump that almost touches the ice. Steep topography and deeper water immediately adjacent to it make this an excellent place to look for walleye.

At just 336 acres, Lake Wingra is by far the smallest of the Madison Chain of Lakes. And just 14 feet deep, it’s also the shallowest. This allows it to freeze rapidly, and early-season ice fishing is great, once the ice is safe. 

Thriving populations of panfish, musky, and largemouth bass call this lake home, and the 12-foot deep holes on the western and southern ends of the lake are the places I’d be looking for all of them.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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