With better than 15,000 lakes on hand, the Badger State boasts absolutely world-class fishing opportunities, and wintertime is no exception. By January, ice fishers usually have a splendid array of frozen-over basins to prowl, from kettle ponds to big oxbows and reservoirs.
Herein we’ll round up some of the top spots for wintry casting. Far from exhaustive, of course, this list should serve as an invitation to sample the caliber of Wisconsin’s waterways–and to track down your own hidden paradises.
The Madison chain of lakes–Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Waubesa, and Kegonsa, linked by the Yahara River–offer some of the best ice fishing in southern Wisconsin, all within shouting distance of the state capitol. Perch, walleye, northern pike, bluegills, and crappies are among the popular gamefish.
Lake Koshkonong, meanwhile, offers nearly 11,000 acres of golden opportunity for ice fishers, including some of the best walleye waters in the region.
At 237 feet deep, Green Lake is Wisconsin’s deepest inland lake. Its volume and its bathymetric variety make it a prime choice for winter anglers seeking everything from panfish to lake trout and pike. Over on the Wisconsin River, Lake Wisconsin provides another extensive and varied waterway for casting after northern pike, bass, and panfish.
The biggest inland lake in Wisconsin, 132,000-acre Lake Winnebago is a legendary ice-fishing locale, not least given its hefty lake sturgeon. Other quarry includes walleye, perch, large- and smallmouth bass, and white bass.
Castle Rock Lake, one of Wisconsin’s largest, offers gorgeous scenery–shoreline pine-oak woods typical of the Central Forest–alongside its productive fisheries. Walleye and panfish are particularly abundant, but muskies, northerns, large- and smallmouth bass, and sturgeon are also present. And the backwaters and oxbows along the Upper Mississippi harbor lots of perch, walleyes, crappies, and other beauties.
The heavily timbered north is crammed with top-shelf lakes and flowages, hemlock- and pine-edged waterways that hold their own with any in the country. For instance, Nelson Lake along the Totagatic River is famed as a panfish hotspot, and Long Lake is coveted as the “Walleye Capital of Wisconsin.” Lac Vieux Desert on the U.P. line, the headwaters of the Wisconsin River, is excellent for muskie, walleye, and perch. The Chequamagon Waters (or Miller Dam) Flowage supports a celebrated pike population. The Turtle-Flambeau Flowage, a year-round recreational hub of national acclaim, tempts ice fishers with plentiful walleye, bass, perch, and panfish.
Shawano Lake is another talked-about ice-fishing destination, especially known for panfish and northern pike. And with American Marine & Motorsports near at hand, the town of Shawano’s also an unbeatable spot to find great boats for sale in Wisconsin: Spend a day ice fishing, then shop for the perfect vessel for upcoming summertime angling!
Ice fishing is elevated to high art in Wisconsin; heck, it’s virtually its own religion here. And the camaraderie of the shanties tends to be just as rewarding as the walleyes or bluegills you’re hauling out of the frigid depths.