Jan 10, 2016

Green Bay Is Hot For Icing Trophy Fish!

By: Captain Lee Haasch

Whether the water is hard or soft, it’s hard to keep a salty old angler off the fishing grounds.  Winter is the time for me to spend a little time angling for myself instead of guiding, since my off-season schedule doesn’t leave very much free time.  

On this particular day, I joined my good friend Kurt Walbeck, host of Outdoor Bound TV.  Kurt and I have become pretty good friends over the years and I am a pro-staff member of Outdoor Bound TV.  Kurt had called me and invited me to come along on their Outdoor Bound TV Whitefish Weekend, hosted by another good friend, fellow captain and guide Dale Stroschein of Wacky Walleye Guide Service. Dale runs a full time guide service on Green Bay out of Sand Bay Resort in Door County.  Walleyes and whitefish are his wintertime specialties.   I met up with Kurt that morning at 5 am at Dale’s resort, which is only about 15 minutes from my house. 

Dale had a full house at his resort for this whitefish event and it looked like a pretty nice day for fishing.  Kurt, myself and a couple others were going to get an early start and see if we couldn’t test out a couple of new jigging rods by Beaver Dam on some of Green Bay’s famous walleyes.  We hitched up a sled with our gear behind the Kubota ATV and we headed out on Larson’s reef in the dark in search of a couple walleyes. 

After drilling several holes for everyone, we settled in to do some jigging.  Today I was using the new Titanium tip Stick by Beaver Dam.  This rod has a built in spring bobber for finesse fishing.   It retracts into the rod and is held in place by a magnet to let you jig for larger fish.  It wasn’t long before I bounced my jig off the bottom and felt a heavy tug, I reared back, felt a couple headshakes and it was gone.  My disappointment in the strike and gone was short lived as I heard Kurt exclaim, “Fish On!” I made my way over toward Kurt as the sky was already brightening up, but the sun had not yet peaked over the tree line.    Kurt masterfully guided the ‘eye to the hole and I reached and scooped her to the ice.  A beauty and after a few quick photos, Kurt slid her back down the hole.  One down, a great morning already and I made my way back to my hole and half-dozen pumps later…”Fish On.”  This time I drove the jig home and the battle was on.  The Titanium Tip Stick preformed as expected.  Just enough back bone for the walleye and yet I could feel every head shake and tail kick from this powerful walleye.  Kurt reached down into the hole as I guided her head into the opening and just like that, a twin to Kurt’s.  Another 7+ pound Door County walleye stretching 28”!  A couple of pics and I slid her back into the hole to grow a little more and better yet, produce a whole bunch more walleye in spring.

It was a typical morning bite, icing three nice walleyes, battling and losing several more among our group of anglers.  The sun was getting high and it was time to head back to the resort for a quick breakfast before heading out to deeper water to join Dale and the rest of the anglers for some whitefish action.   

Icing Green Bay whitefish is almost similar to the walleye jigging, only in much deeper water.  The whitefish will swim in schools, and when you start getting them, they can come in good numbers.  Whitefish are kind of a curious fish and they feed on larvae. They tend to collect around clumps of zebra mussels.  Some anglers use a heavy weight or jigging spoon on the bottom and run a couple slider hooks about 4-6” up tipped with waxies.  By jigging right off bottom and then bumping the bottom a couple times, this will let the jigging spoon or weight pound the sand and send a cloud off the bottom.  The whitefish see this, swim over, and look for the meal that is kicked off the bottom (your waxies).  They have soft gentle mouths that will suck in the waxie.  When you feel the slightest resistance gently set the hook.  You don’t want to rip it out, but because you are so deep, sometimes 60 feet or more, you may need to heft your rod quite high to set the hook.

Dale had given all the participants a little “on ice seminar” and instructed them on the finer point of catching whitefish.  Paying attention to your guide is key to catching on quickly and taking advantage of the bite when it happens.  Another method is to use a jigging rap instead of live bait.  Some tip the hanging treble with waxies, but Dale does not and if done correctly, you can catch as many if not more.  I chose this method and in a short time, the whitefish started hitting the ice.  Kurt was using a Marcum flasher/video combo unit and could watch the whitefish approach and hit his lure.  This is a great method to see how the fish react to your jig and presentation.  The tricky part here is to keep the same jigging motion when you see the fish coming.  Some anglers will get excited by seeing the fish and they will change to a stronger jigging motion and spook the fish away.   I also like to feel the fish before setting instead of watching and setting too quickly.  Today, I was using Beaver Dam’s new Carbon Fiber combo with 4# test fluorocarbon line and a blue/silver jigging rap.

The whitefish we caught ranged from 1 to 4 pounds.  And these went straight to the bucket to be cleaned.  Some will be smoked, but my favorite is pan fried with light breading!  Yum - yum. 

This deep water fishing for the whitefish can be on a bucket sitting outside, but many prefer the nice heated shacks with stoves and comfy seats.  The whitefish population in Green Bay is pretty abundant and especially with a guide, like Dale, they will put you on fish and the rest is up to you.  For more information on ice fishing Green Bay you can contact Dale Stroshiem’s Wacky Walleye Guide Service, (920)743-0000 or www.wackywalleye.com.

TIP OF THE MONTH.  When setting up for walleye jigging in the pre-dawn or late afternoon, drill sets of holes across the contours right away.  I like to drill sets of two and that way if you want to use a camera or a flasher you can use the second hole and keep your transducer out of the way and also if a hole gets hot, your partner can join you and jig the same area without making all the noise drilling a hole.  Especially with walleyes, it is important to be quiet when they move in and the bite starts.  If you are not familiar with Green Bay hire a guide the first couple times.  They will put you on fish and show you the best methods and make your trip more fun. Once you are comfortable with the conditions, and know a few areas, you will have more confidence when you venture out on the ice on your own.

For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing check out my report page at www.FishAlgoma.com.  From Captain Lee and the crew aboard the GRAND ILLUSION 2 - good luck and good fishing!

Captain Lee Haasch is a charter captain out of Algoma, WI.  Captain Lee has over 40 years of great lakes angling experience and has been instructing anglers for over 25 years with education seminars and timely freelance articles in outdoor publications.