Although Wisconsin is often referred to as “America’s Dairyland,” the winter fishing opportunities found in this Midwestern state shouldn’t be overshadowed by the amount of cheese curds it produces. According to the University of Wisconsin’s Water Library, Wisconsin has more than 15,000 lakes and 13,500 miles of navigable streams and rivers. That means plenty of places to go fishing… even in the middle of January.
Ice fishing may not be for everyone since it can mean braving sub zero wind chill factors in exchange for a softer bite. However, if you dress appropriately given the conditions, the pay off can be well worth it. What’s not to like about spending quality time with the family while sipping on a cup of hot cocoa and waiting for the crappie or bluegill to bite? If you’re not sure which lakes to try, here are a few Wisconsin “where to go” suggestions:
- Lake Redstone, La Valle, Wisconsin. Known for being a prime winter panfish spot, Lake Redstone is about an hour and a half drive northwest from the state capital of Madison. Public access is provided through Lake Redstone County Park off of Douglas Road, near the south end of the lake. Try using an ultralight spinning rod and jigs tipped with waxworms when targeting crappie or bluegill in the afternoon or early evening hours.
- Fox Lake, Fox Lake, Wisconsin. Often cited as being one of the top ten fishing lakes in the state of Wisconsin, Fox Lake is located 74 miles northwest of Milwaukee in Dodge County. Anglers can gain access to this 2,625-acre lake through Riverside Park on the south end. Try fishing at dusk near rocky drop offs using tip-ups and live minnows for walleye.
- Lake Onalaska, Onalaska, Wisconsin. Since Lake Onalaska is actually a reservoir located on the Black River and Mississippi River in La Crosse County, there are plenty of islands and channels within this body of water that make for good fish habitats. If you want to try to catch a largemouth or pike through the ice, Lake Onalaska is a good place to start. Try using a tip-up rigged with a live minnow during daylight hours (pike have poor night vision). Public access to this 7,700-acre lake is provided at Louis Nelson County Park.
- Lake Chippewa Flowage, Hayward, Wisconsin. As Wisconsin’s third largest lake, located 15 miles east of Hayward, Lake Chippewa Flowage is another great spot for winter panfish and bass. Try fishing with jigs and waxworms or soft plastic lures near weedbeds. Pike can also be caught on the Lake Chippewa Flowage using tip-ups. CC South landing and Winter Dam landing both offer parking and access to the lake.
Regardless of where you are ice fishing, always be sure to check the ice thickness for safety, bring a valid fishing license and check the fishing regulations for the area before you go.