Wisconsin winter whitefish popularity prompts meeting for ice fishing guides, stakeholders
GREEN BAY — Before ice angling for whitefish begins, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will host a public informational meeting Dec. 19 at the Green Bay Public Library for Green Bay ice fishing guides and stakeholders on implementation of new harvest reporting requirements for guides and other management topics.
Scott Hansen, a DNR fisheries biologist based in Sturgeon Bay, said the pursuit of winter whitefish has grown significantly in recent years thanks to rebounding populations of the flaky, flavorful fish in Green Bay. Whitefish are difficult to catch with hook and line during the warmer months because of their preference for deeper, colder water and their “light bite,” which makes it difficult to successfully land them.
During the winter months, whitefish move into shallower waters and can be more easily reeled in with light ice fishing jigging gear. What’s not known, Hansen said, is the extent to which heavy fishing pressure on Green Bay may be affecting overall population levels at a time when a large percentage of the population is schooling and easily accessible under the ice.
“The popularity of winter whitefish angling has grown incredibly over the past 10 years and when conditions are good we see thousands of people out on the ice — both serious anglers and those who are interested in the novelty or just giving it a try,” Hansen said. “We know that there are many successful guide businesses with clients from throughout the Upper Midwest. To keep this vibrant fishery and its associated economic benefits going strong, we are seeking more information about harvest levels and fishing effort.”
To improve the flow of information needed to sustainably manage the fishery, DNR will host an informational meeting to discuss implementation of guide reporting requirements provided for under Chapter NR 20.65 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code regarding reporting by licensed ice fishing guides on the waters of Green Bay. The code requires licensed guides to provide information about the quantity and variety of fish being taken.
“We will be introducing new reporting forms requiring guided trip information for the Wisconsin waters of Green Bay during the ice fishing season,” Hansen said. “This information is very important to our management of several species of fish in Green Bay and will greatly supplement information gathered through our standard creel survey program.”
The meeting is scheduled Monday, Dec. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Brown County Library, 515 Pine St., Green Bay 54301. Following the meeting, a copy of the presentation will be posted to DNR’s Green Bay Guide Information page.