Fear (of ice) and Loathing (of whitefish) in Green Bay

This past weekend Avidfly, Bubbajoe, Mjohnson, and I took off for Green Bay. The goal was to capitalize on the decent Lake Whitefish bite going on out there. Avidfly had been there before and caught Whitefish. Bubbajoe had spent many trips over a couple years to Chequamegon Bay to try (unsuccessfully). I've spent pretty much my whole winter this year trying to find Whitefish on Chequamegon Bay (unsuccessfully). Mjohnson, I'm pretty sure this was his first Whitefish attempt - so you know how that is going to play out...


The plan was to arrive late Saturday and fish a bit, trying to find Burbot on Volk’s Reef. Then the next day we'd fish for Whitefish until late afternoon and then head home. Volk’s Reef was... interesting. Might be the worst ice I've ever watched people drive on. Most of the area was wonky pack ice, the part we fished was 12" of white slush ice with 5" of good ice under that.  Pretty much everyone we talked to said they have not caught Burbot with any regularity in the last 15 years in southern Green Bay.  We tried anyway – 8 smelt rigged tipups and 4 jigs rods and not a single hit.  We did mark some fish on the flashers but no takers.


The next day we had no desire to drive on that ice, nor did we have an ATV or snowmachine.  So we rented a shack and ride out to the obvious shanty town near Dyckesville, WI.  In the end we probably could have walked it since we could find the Whitefish as shallow as 5 FOW - we were more concerned about the walk to 40 FOW.  It was a brisk morning so we started out in the shack before it warmed up enough to be comfortable hole hopping outside.


TonyS with the first Whitefish, always a bad omen


We dropped a camera down an extra hole watched the fish, which was pretty informative.  Some would buzz in and make a straight run for one particular jig, fly, or spoon and hit it without hesitation.  Others would dink around up and down bouncing from one person’s rig to another and never commit and then just leave.  You could tell the fish’s attitude as soon as it came on the camera.  It didn’t take long for Mjohnson and I to hook up with our lifer Lake Whitefish.


One of Avidfly's fish with a cool custom ice rod he had just built


The early flurry died quickly leaving two fishless.  Then it was hole hopping time – I might have gotten carried away in my love for hand augering holes.  Not sure how many holes I drilled but I started running out of room to drill more in the immediate area…  It is possible not all of them ended up getting fished but I think most did.  In the hole hopping Avid started picking up fish and I ceased to be able to draw any serious customers.


Mjohnson with one of approximately 5 million Whitefish he caught that day


Mjohnson continued to crush.  By mid-afternoon Mjohnson had gone about hole hopping quietly beating us all like a rented mule.  Bubbajoe had finally worked two Whities back-to-back on the pimple. 


Bubbajoe with a very hard earned lifer - much surpressed frustration towards this challenging fish


Finally Mjohnson revealed what he had figured out.  We had all been teasing the fish with the spoon – his strategy was the opposite.  Once a fish arrived on the flasher he set the spoon on bottom and jiggled the fly, this worked far better on the less aggressive fish.  In the final 20 minutes I told him to pick a spot for my final stand, in an attempt to pick up some more.  Mjohnson pointed, I drilled, I fished, I caught two more and lost two more in the final stretch.


The standard Green Bay rig is to slide a hook on your line, then a swivel, then 8” of line, and then swedish pimple.  On the sliding hook and each hook of the pimple you tip a wax worm.  We experimented.  For the bottom lure Swedish pimples took fish, so did Halis, and untipped small Jigging Rapalas.  For the slider multiple things worked – shrimpos, #16 brass ass flies, #8 beadhead wire worms, and especially a beadhead hair’s ear (probably a #8).  Some of the fly/jigs were tipped, others not.  Both methods worked.


The coveted Whitefish Whistle


One of our more interesting discoveries was the success of the “whitefish whistle” -  red-green-cowbell rig on bobbing hoop with a 6oz sinker.  Bouncing it on bottom for a minute or so called fish into the hole more often than not.


Frustraiting as Whitefish are we all said that we'd love to comeback and target them again here.  Really a cool fish and interesting fishery. We found some interesting stuff in checking their stomachs too, I’ll put that up in another post.

Species List: 
Whitefish, Lake


TonyS's picture

Round and Lake Whitefish.  I always think that small Lakes look a lot like Rounds in pics:

In hand they are totally different:

-Lakes have massive mouths (compaired to Rounds)

-Lakes are much more compressed in cross section (Rounds are, well round-ish)

-Lakes have a much narrower tail compaired to the rest of their body (Rounds are more straight bodied)


Interestingly some Lakes spawn in the Menomonee River and are called "menomonee strain" Lake Whitefish locally.  Round Whitefish are called "Menomonees" in some locations.  A commerical fisherman we once talked to mentioned that there were "menomonee river Menomonees" and "real Menomonees" - I had no idea what the heck he was talking about.  Now I think I know...

andy's picture

Super big congrats to the three of you who caught your first lake whitefish!  Man, I would love to get back out to that area some time again...If it's not the top whitefish fishery in the Midwest, it's darn close.  Thanks for posting the interesting observations you guys made about catching them too. 

Deftik's picture

Awesome report always fun to see posts about white fish! Keep em' coming.

Your momma fishes for lifers with Eagle Claws.
TonyS's picture

Edited above to add the the Whitefish Whistle


Thanks guys!  I wouldn't doubt that Green Bay is best place to catch Lake Whitefish in the lower 48 - has to be close (numbers wise) if anything surpasses it.  Canada has Simcoe as another fanastic fishery in the Great Lakes area.  I know some lakes in the BWCA and Lake Superior surpass Green Bay for average size but you have to work much harder to find one.

Bubbajoe's picture

The number of fish we saw on the camera and flashers was a surprise.

And Mjhonson is a whitefishing force of nature.

D.T.'s picture

Looks like that was a fun trip. Great info Tony.

Hengelaar's picture

Thanks for that.

Sounds like a very fun and educational trip..

Fishn sure is neat

MJohnson's picture

I just want to let it be known that if not for the countless hours of research into locations, techniques, materials, and many other things by TonyS and Avidfly, the trip would have been a bust. A very big thanks to them! I basicly just defrayed gas and lodging costs. I caught a couple fish too.

perkinsdonald's picture

Very educational! thanks for shareing guys!



The gods do not subtract the alotted span in men's lives the hours spent in fishing.

Eli's picture

Nicely done, gentlemen! Hoping to lifelist my whitie this weekend also.




Jason E.'s picture

Nice work. Somehardcore icefishing there.