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Wisconsin Fishing Report – December 17, 2020

Report from the Dock

It’s taken a while, but the state finally received a quick shot of cold air recently – down to single-digits for overnight lows in the north country. While it was short-lived, the couple days of cold temperatures improved ice conditions in most areas and anglers are now finding enough ice to walk on or in some areas, ATVs are starting to be used. With that stated, most big, deep lakes or areas within them are still open or have a very thin layer of ice. Avoid these bodies of water and focus on those that have been ice-covered longest and continue building ice. Generally, 4 to 7 inches of ice is common on most small lakes across the northern part of the state, with a bit more in some areas. There’s walkable ice south of that, but you have to be more diligent when approaching lakes in the central and southern parts of Wisconsin. You can fish these regions, but continue to check ice depths as you venture out. Overall, fishing reports have not been outstanding, but some walleyes and panfish are being caught. The best action is taking place early and late each day and expect everything to improve as ice conditions do.


Chequamegon Bay had no ice as of last week, though a little skim ice was showing up on a few mornings. Water temperatures are still in the high 30s and everyone had their fingers crossed for cold – and how often does anyone say that? Anglers were still trolling in and amongst the Apostle Islands and were doing great. Shore-casting for brown trout has also been productive. Inland anglers report 4 inches or so of ice on Ashland County and Bayfield County lakes.

Angler’s All, (715) 682-5754.

River Rock, (715) 682-3232.


The small lakes and bays have 4 to 6 inches of ice, but the wind has kept spots open on some big lakes so be careful and do not just go anywhere. Panfish and crappies are being caught on Big Round Lake, Staples Lake, and Upper Turtle Lake in 8 to 10 feet. Hit the back bay on Beaver Dam Lake with tip-ups and suckers for pike and the south bay on Shell Lake is producing a few small walleyes.

Indianhead Sport Shop, (715) 822-2164


The weather is really starting to cool now and within days of this report most launches will have some kind of ice forming on them, which will make it nearly impossible to launch. But, up until last week, fishermen who did get out did very well and if they can still get out and are willing to freeze their butts off they will have some really good fishing. Perch fishing has been unbelievable the past two months and will continue to be good via open water if possible and for sure once the ice forms. Little Sturgeon, Riley’s Bay and Sawyer Harbor are the hot spots right now and will be the go-to spots during early ice. Fathead minnows are the best live bait to have in the boat. Pike fishing has been equally fantastic from boats and will continue when the ice forms. Right now, the pike will eat anything. Try large crankbaits, jerkbaits, plastics, spinnerbaits and suckers. Walleye fishing is also very good when you can get out there, no matter night or day on a variety of baits.

Howie’s Tackle, (920) 746-9916.


Ice is getting way better! There are numerous reports of 4 to 8 inches of good, solid ice on a lot of lakes now. But you should still spud your way around on bigger lakes. Walleye fishing has been excellent. People are catching walleyes around rocks, deeper weed edges and the edges of holes on shiners or suckers. Others are having success while jigging. Northern pike action has also been excellent. Shiners and suckers have been working best. People were getting northerns all over – from shallow to deep. Just spread out those tip-ups. Crappie/panfish has also been really good. People are finding crappie suspended over the holes and mud flats on the Eagle River chain, along with some bluegills and perch.

Eagle Sports Center, (715) 479-8804.


The Fox River is still producing some nice walleyes by the De Pere dam for jigging and on the Hwy. 172 flats for trolling. At the metro launch there is still a very good night bite for trophy walleyes and big muskies by throwing P-10s and smaller muskie lures like the Tyrant Czars. There are reports of some nice muskies being caught in front of Fort Howard’s warm-water discharge while trolling or casting crankbaits.

Smokey’s on the Bay Bait, Tackle and Guide Service, (920) 436-0600.


The big, deep lakes, such as Round and Lac Courte Oreilles, have marginal ice with many spots that just recently capped over. Most small lakes or bays of larger lakes now have up to 4 inches of ice. Most of the small lakes, those without public accesses and considered walk-in lakes, are seeing the most activity and they are kicking out panfish. Look for panfish in 7 to 10 feet on Nelson Lake and crappies in 15 to 20 feet on Smith Lake. Walleyes are hitting shiners on the 4- to 8-foot rocks of Nelson and the deep weedlines on Grindstone Lake. On other lakes, walleye anglers report fish in 2 to 6 feet on some lakes, but in about 30 feet of water on some of the bigger lakes. Northern pike are hitting large suckers under tip-ups. The fish are shallow, with most reports saying 2 to 6 feet, but 8 to 10 feet is also good. 

Hayward Bait, (715) 634-2921.

Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, (800) 724-2992.


Some lakes have 4 or 5 inches of ice while some lakes were still open as of Dec. 18, so be very careful on any ice right now. We have reports of some walleyes being caught on the Gile Flowage south of Hurley in shallow water. A small muskie and a few small walleyes were caught on shiners in 6 foot of water on a lake near Mercer. Temperatures hit 10 degrees the night of Dec. 14 and 2 degrees for a low on Dec. 15; that should help the ice conditions a little. Walleyes should be moving up shallow early and late in the day.

Flambeau Flowage Sports, Mercer, (715) 476-2526.


Lake Onalaska had about 4 inches of ice in most areas of the lake on Dec. 17. They can’t go everywhere, but anglers are fishing a large area of perch and have caught a number longer than 13 inches. They’re also catching crappies and bluegills. Pike fishing should kick in any time.

Schafer’s Boats, (608) 781-3100.

Bob’s Bait and Tackle, (608) 782-5552.


Some solid ice would be nice. While most of the smaller lakes have been sheeting over, finding consistent and “fishable” ice depths can be a bit of a trick. With the warmer forecast late last week, it could be a bit before some good ice sets up for the winter. Use caution.

DNR hotline, (414) 382-7920.

Smokey’s Bait Shop, (262) 691-0360.

Dick Smith’s Bait, (262) 646 2218.


Things are just starting to set up in the Oshkosh/Winneconne areas. There was 3 to 4 inches on the channel in the Winneconne area last week, where anglers were finding perch and bluegills. The only “fishable” ice on Dec. 17 was on Lake Poygan, but that was only about 2 inches. Still fishermen were walking out on that sheet for walleyes on the main lake and northern pike in the bay. Most of lakes Butte des Morts and Winneconne were sheeted over, but the ice was thin enough where any wind could break it up.

Critter’s, (920) 582-0471.

Fox River Bait, (920) 233-7409.

Dutch’s, (920) 922-0311.


The area has some ice, with ice anglers focusing mostly on Cherokee Marsh. There is not a whole lot going on over open water, but there have been some muskie guys fishing lakes Monona and Waubesa during the day and mostly with suckers. There have been some shoreline guys fishing walleyes after dark in a number of spots. Others have been ice fishing Lake Wisconsin near “the fingers” and Whalen’s Grade. Others have been catching some walleyes below the Prairie du Sac dam in open water.

D&S Bait and Tackle, (608) 244-3474.

Dorn Hardware, (608) 274-2511.


Anglers are finding some ice finally! A lot of fisherman are heading northwest and west toward the Crandon and Lakewood area. The Hattie Street dam has been quiet, but has been producing walleyes and browns. There are reports of a few inches of ice behind Jack’s Grocery in Menominee, Mich. County Park 2 is beginning to see some ice starting to make, but with boats coming in and out that ice keeps breaking up. The Sixth Street slip is starting to freeze, but be careful as always. There have been reports of the Bagley Flowage area showing signs of ice, as well.

Hook, Line and Sinker, (715) 854-2073.


The Northwoods may finally get the ice fishing conditions anglers have been waiting for. Good ice-making temperatures and little to no precipitation have combined to produce some great early ice fishing. Walleye action has been excellent. The new moon period is helping, but accessibility and great conditions have put lots of anglers and walleyes on the ice. Shallow (2 to 8 feet) water with green weeds is seeing good action on shiners and suckers, with some anglers reporting bites starting at 2 p.m. Others out past midnight are still scoring. Aggressive walleyes also being caught on Jiggin Raps, Rippin Raps and Shiver Minnows. Crappies action is also very good, with lots of good reports from anglers using minnows on tip-downs. Depending on weather, crappies up to 14 inches are being caught tight to bottom all the way up to 2 feet under ice in 7 to 12 feet. Ice skaters are loving this clear ice; they’re zipping all over the lakes.

Island Sport Shop, (715) 356-4797.

J and J Sports, (715) 277-2616.


The Phillips area ice fishermen witnessed the first truck on the ice in their area on Wednesday, Dec. 17. On that day, most lakes with no current were showing 5 to 7.5 inches of ice, but current areas on flowages aren’t freezing like they should. No one is recommending truck travel at this point, but guys have started to run some ATVs out in the Phillips and Park Falls areas. Crappie action has been OK. Walleye action has been pretty good, but with no snow on the ice action has been coming been at dawn and dusk, with even better catches coming after dark. Everyone is really in a bad mood about deer hunting. Bowhunters are hanging it up. No one is seeing deer during daylight hours; all movement has been after dark based on trail camera photos. There are still a ton of grouse hunters in the woods, with the grouse activity probably matching October levels. There are also a lot of rabbit hunters out and about right now.

Ross’s Sport Shop, Phillips, (715) 339-3625.

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