12 Best Ice Fishing Lakes in Wisconsin

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If it’s getting cold out, it’s time for ice fishing in Wisconsin! The best ice-fishing waters in Wisconsin range from massive bodies of water to small-town lakes.

There’s something to be said about waking up before dawn and heading out to spend the day on a frozen lake, waiting for the fish to bite. Sitting in a shelter with friends and family makes the ice-fishing season something millions of anglers look forward to each year.

Wisconsin has plenty of hard-deck fishing to check out. So winter is the perfect time to get out and see what the lakes of Wisconsin have hidden beneath the surface. Spoiler alert: epic fishing.

Ice-fishing veterans know Wisconsin has some of the best locations in the world. So whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, read on and see if you agree with this list of the best ice-fishing in Wisconsin.

To ensure you’re ready, here’s a quick look at the tools of the trade for those just starting.

Gear for Ice Fishing in Wisconsin

Safety is the most critical part of ice-fishing. Therefore, safety ice picks are essential equipment. Be sure to buy and use them.

Next up, you need a way to get through the ice. An ice auger will do the trick, whether your own or borrowed from a friend. If you go more than once, buying one is worth the investment.

Get a sled to haul your gear and pack the auger, bait, tackle, ice rods, extra line, tip-ups, pliers, a 5-gallon bucket, and maybe an ice shelter. If you don’t have access to a shelter, dress even warmer. Oh, and definitely bring backup socks. I learned that the hard way and nearly froze my foot off.

A fish finder is also handy, particularly one with a flasher. And remember the portable heater!

Some of the best baits are waxworms, mealworms, red shiners, and nightcrawlers. Waxworms and mealworms are the perfect sizes for tipping your jigs.

Find the ice, look for holes from previous expeditions, check the area with your flasher, and get set up.

Once set, it’s time to chill until the fish come to play.

We have lots more ice fishing tips and techniques in our simple guide. We’ll link to that at the bottom of this article.

The Best Ice Fishing in Wisconsin

With so many options, it’s difficult to narrow down the best. If the lake has fish in it, drill a hole and give it a try. Check the thickness of the ice beforehand to be safe.

The following lakes stand above the neighborhood ponds, so give them a shot.

Green Bay

Green Bay is more than a football team. It’s a huge, 2-million-acre ice-fishing oasis filled with massive walleye and whitefish the size of linebackers.

Green Bay, as in the city at the tip of the bay, has everything you’ll need to prepare for your ice-fishing adventure.

The actual bay, a giant thumb sticking off Lake Michigan, takes some special preparation before heading out.

Bring along your snowmobile or rent one. This place is enormous. Be prepared for high winds and frequent whiteout conditions. A compass is a good idea, just in case your phone dies.

The area can also be dangerous. Pressure cracks cause ice to shift and buckle; the bay is well known for this.

Once you’ve taken all the safety precautions, it’s time to have some serious fun catching big fish.

Red shiners on tip-ups will bring in the bigger fish. Jigging with Rat-L-Traps and Swedish Pimples should produce some walleye and whitefish.

Green Bay has several offshore reefs that walleye stack up on. Once the ice is safe, the fishing heats up and sizzles through the depths of winter.

Try the Fox River in Depere, Sturgeon Bay, and Oconto to find the biggest walleye and pike.

Largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, brown trout, splake, muskie, yellow perch, king and coho salmon, and rainbow trout are all possible catches through the ice.

An angler caught a muskie weighing over 69 pounds on Lake Michigan, so that size of fish could swim under the Green Bay ice on the day you’re on top of it.

Lake Winnebago

Lake Winnebago, or the Bago, is the largest lake located solely in Wisconsin. That means there’s plenty of space for anglers to spread out.

There are access points around the lake and plenty of accommodations and bait shops. Spend time researching the resorts if you’re interested in a fishing cabin or guided trip.

Anglers have a chance to catch walleye, lake sturgeon, channel catfish, panfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, muskelunge, and northern pike throughout the lake.

Walleye, muskie, and pike are the most popular targets.

For walleye fishing, jig at about 10 feet. They chase Swedish Pimples and Jigging Rapalas. Try silver, blue, and red in sizes 3, 4, or 5. Tip the hook with a waxworm or piece of a shiner.

You can expect fast action early in the season. Once the bays freeze and are safe, target the areas near the weed lines for panfish. They go after waxworms like crazy.

The bluegill slowly move from the weed lines into the deeper sections of bays as the water cools.

Use caution if fishing outside Oshkosh along the Fox River inlet. There’s always a chance the ice can be unsafe near inlets.

There is a dense population of lake sturgeon here, though current regulations don’t allow harvest. So be sure to check for rule changes before heading out.

Lake Alice

Northern Wisconsin is home to Lake Alice. The ice is often fishable by early to mid-December.

Alice Lake is known for its giant crappie, bluegill, and perch. Walleye, northern pike, muskie, and bass are also on the docket.

Crappie jigs with cut bait or waxworms fished near structure will catch a bucket of slabs in no time. Bring along the kids to introduce them to the sport. The catch rate will keep their interest for a few minutes at least.

The Lake Alice Association in Tomahawk hosts the annual Alice in Winterland ice fishing tournament fund-raiser. It’s very popular and typically sees good catches of walleye, crappie, and bluegill.

The walleye are everywhere in the lake, though they aren’t the biggest. It can be hard to keep the smaller fish off the tip-ups.

Watch out for shifting ice near the river channel. Some of the lake has strong currents from the Wisconsin River that can make the ice somewhat unsafe. Be aware of these areas.

Dairyland Reservoir

Dairyland Reservoir is on the Flambeau River in northwestern Wisconsin, a little more than an hour north of Eau Claire. It’s one of Wisconsin’s best spots for ice fishing.

The lake is filled with walleye, crappie, bluegill, pike, and bass. Catch-and-release requirements may be in effect for the bass here. Check the current regulations for more information.

Walleye and pike will smash a shiner. Set your tip-ups in the 10- to 15-foot range, and then jig for crappie and walleye while you wait.

The area attracts a lot of anglers looking to catch a trophy pike, so be prepared for small ice-tent cities to spring up on weekends.

Far less pressure fishing is available throughout the week.

Green Lake

Commonly called Big Green Lake or the Big Green, this is Wisconsin’s deepest lake at over 235 feet. There’s plenty of shoreline and wide-open space for you and your family to spend the day here.

Common catches here include walleye, pike, muskie, crappie, and bluegill.
Walleye follow the same script as other lakes on our list. Therefore, the usual techniques will work for these beasts.

Tip-ups are perfect for the muskie and pike.

Even when it’s time to get off the ice, there are plenty of other activities for the entire family at Big Green Lake. You might plan on making a trip out of it.

This lake isn’t the earliest spot to fish in Wisconsin. Expect the ice to be ready in late January.

Big Green Lake is centrally located between an hour and an hour and a half’s drive from Milwaukee, Madison or Green Bay.

Nelson Lake

Nelson Lake freezes early and is a prime location for panfish. This lake is the place for those looking for earlier access to ice.

The average depth is 7 feet, and the bottom is strewn with fishable structures like stumps, logs, and branches.

Walleye and bluegill are the primary targets, though anglers bring the occasional pike out on the ice. Fishing for walleye can be fast, though not as epic as the bluegill.

Bluegill have a way of getting unusually big here. That’s great news for anyone looking for some slabs to fill a bucket.

Because this lake is in northern Wisconsin, winter is a brutal experience. Plan accordingly and bring enough clothing to stay warm. A heater is also a good idea, if not mandatory.

Black Oak Lake

Black Oak Lake is worth the trip to the northern edge of Wisconsin. It’s crystal clear, deep, and perfect for ice fishing.

Anglers regularly hook trophy muskie, northern pike, and bass through the ice here.

A small ice-fishing village springs up yearly as anglers target the big muskies cruising around the lake.

Tip-ups with shiners, waxworms, and redworms are all effective.

One big draw here is the road to the lake is absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of the best scenic drives in the state.

Boom Lake

Boom Lake is another of the top walleye fisheries in the state. This smaller lake, just over 30 feet deep and 365 acres, gets pretty crowded on weekends.

Spend the day here targeting giant walleye and pike. It’s known throughout Wisconsin as a top walleye water and holds popular tournaments throughout the season.

Plenty of lodges around the lake offer sleeper cabins and other shelters in the Rhinelander area. Check in with them to get current information on the best spots and what the walleye are biting on.

Northern Wisconsin winter will take your breath away, so prepare for that.

Keep your ice hole clear with a scoop, or it’ll freeze over quickly. The worst thing to happen is to have a fish on under a hole that’s frozen closed.

Honorable Mentions

These lakes are great and can provide fast fishing. They don’t quite have the consistency to make the main list, but they are still worth giving a shot and at times can rival the best.

Geneva Lake

Geneva Lake is an excellent spot with massive northern pike and walleye. The reason it’s an honorable mention is because it doesn’t freeze until mid-to-late January and is one of the fastest lakes to thaw.

The season here might only last for a month or two. But it’s worth taking advantage of when available to get out and try for some giants.

Geneva Lake is located in southeastern Wisconsin, just north of the Illinois border.

Madison Chain

The Madison Chain is a lengthy series of rivers and lakes that connect in a chain. It gets a lot of pressure but is big enough to find a spot.

The area freezes around the end of December or the beginning of January and is typically fishable through March.

Walleye, muskie, perch, and bluegill are found throughout the chain, though the main target is trophy northern pike. They tend to run larger here than in most lakes throughout the area.

Madison Chain is well-known for being bitterly cold, so plan and bring a shelter, heater, and extra warm clothes.

Lake Koshkonong

Lake Koshkonong is one of the first large lakes to freeze in Wisconsin. It’s shallow, wide, and easy to get out on the ice. And its location makes it easy to reach from Madison and Milwaukee.

Ice anglers try for walleye, northern pike, bass, crappie, and bluegill. Consistency is less reliable than in some lakes higher on our list, but the action can sometimes get hot.

Tip-ups with shiners are the go-to here. Pike roam the entire lake, so find a spot that marks some fish and try your luck. If you aren’t catching fish, move after 45 minutes or so.

Mississippi River Pools 8 & 9

The Mississippi River Pools are another fantastic spot to target trophy walleye and pike.

Some ice issues can cause a short season, but these pools can be epic if it remains cold through January.

Bluegill can be hard to keep off your jig here. Use live minnows on tip-ups for the walleye and pike while jigging for ‘gills and crappie.

The season generally ends in February on the pools, though some years see it stretch well into March.

More Ice Fishing

Check out our complete guide to ice fishing techniques, including lure and bait tips, how to find a great fishing spot, and what you need to stay safe out there.