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. Anglers flock here to hunt 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 until it will be thick enough to move their shanties out to the fishing hole.
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 can help you 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
Ice Safety Tips
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.
Do your best to take extra caution by checking with local fishing shops for ice conditions at the river or lake where you want to fish. Ice that is at least four inches thick should be safe to fish and walk on. Make a plan and be sure others know (a) where you are going and (b) when you will return home. Be prepared in case of a potential plunge by wearing a life jacket to help you stay afloat and proper clothing to prevent the loss of body heat if you do fall through the ice. Carry a couple of spikes and a light rope that are easily accessible in case you need to pull yourself or others out
Here are 13 additional ice-safety tips:
- 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
Wind speed and direction can affect the stability and safety of ice on big bodies of water. High wind can cause the water to move, warm up, and crack the ice, potentially leaving people stranded on floating ice chunks. Always check the weather and have a backup plan in the case of high winds. Refrain from going on ice that has melted away from the shore as this increases the chances that ice will move if the wind direction changes.
- 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.