Ice fishing in Door County was once a necessity, but now it’s a favorite winter pastime in a place considered one of the top ice fishing destinations in the country. Angler flock here hunting for whitefish, trophy walleye, northern, and trout.
When the deep freeze comes to the Door, many locals get excited for the ice that will soon form, counting the days till it will be thick enough to move their shanties out to the fishing hole. With the ice comes the sudden addition of dozens of tiny shanty towns that pop up on iced over bays and inland lakes.
For visitors it’s now easier than ever before to get a taste of this tradition. Fishing charter companies now offer ice fishing tours with guides who show you the tricks of the trade to catch trophy walleye or whitefish.
These guides set you up with bait, gear, the latest fishing technology, shanties, and best of all, their years of expertise earned over the fishing hole.
Door County Ice Fishing Guides
Tips for Safety on the Ice
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds us that there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. You cannot judge the strength of ice by one factor like its appearance, age, thickness, temperature or whether the ice is covered with snow. Ice strength is based on a combination of several factors, and they can vary from water body to water body. Ice strength can also vary in different areas of the same body of water.
If you get out to enjoy the ice this winter, be smart and stay safe. Here are 13 ice safety tips for this season.
- Always remember that ice is never completely safe under any conditions.
- Fish or walk with a friend. It’s safer and more fun.
- Contact local sport shops to ask about ice conditions on the lake or river you want to fish.
- Carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you’ll return home.
- Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket or a float coat to help you stay afloat and to help slow body heat loss.
- Wear creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice.
- Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
- Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself – or others – out of the ice.
- Do not travel in unfamiliar areas — or at night.
- Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have currents that can thin the ice.
- Look for clear ice. Clear ice is generally stronger than ice with air bubbles in it or with snow on it.
- Watch out for pressure ridges or ice heaves. These can be dangerous due to thin ice and open water.
- Take extra mittens or gloves so you always have a dry pair.
- Driving on ice is always a risk. Use good judgment and consider alternatives.
Ice Thickness Guide
- 2 inches or less: Stay off the ice, it’s not safe for any activity.
- 4 inches: Safe for fishing and walking.
- 5 inches: Safe for ATVs or snowmobiles.
- 8-12 inches: Safe for small pickup trucks or cars.
- 12-15 inches: Safe for medium-sized pickup trucks.
Wind speed and direction affects ice safety on big bodies of water like Lake Michigan and Green Bay, much more than small inland lakes that typically freeze over. Wind can cause the open water to move, warm up ice and crack that ice into pieces, leaving people stranded on floating ice chunks.