Tips from the Captain for Hot Door County Ice Action

The frozen waters off of Door County Wisconsin offer the ice angler an endless variety of fishing opportunities. In many cases there are even true trophies to be taken, and that’s what draws so many to this area to drill holes through the sometimes 3-plus feet of hard water in search of a tasty meal or suitable wall-hangers.

The unique feature about Door County is that with the vast amount of structure along the shoreline, mobile anglers can fish the shallows early for trophy walleyes, move in even closer for trophy pike during mid-morning and by noon move to deeper waters and score tasty whitefish before moving back inside to catch the night-bite for more walleyes. All this can happen in a couple-square-mile area without leaving the ice.

Another unique opportunity is to take the time to learn the area with its vast structure, so that you can fish multi-species throughout the day without leaving that particular area. Some anglers that have permanent ice houses will find such a spot and set up shop and enjoy the multi-species benefits without even leaving the comfort of their heated shacks (the kind of “grumpy ‘ol men” style). Some of these spots can be pretty good at different times of the winter, and some do all right beginning to end. Having the ability to be somewhat mobile throughout the winter helps you stay on the fish during the long season. I really like these spots especially in the mid-January, when the cold north winds can make traveling all over and setting up, well, a bit uncomfortable.

On this cold January day, I joined a good friend and fellow captain and guide Richie Stephenson for a day on the ice. Like me, Richie grew up locally and has spent countless days on the ice way back to his pre-high school days. He knows these waters like the back of his hand, and like many of the other guides, had his fish house moved to one of the drop-off spots for a little multi-species action. I knew about where he was located, so I told him I’d meet him there about 5:30 a.m. to jig some walleyes.

I stopped at the gas station/bait shop near the landing to pick up some minnows and fresh coffee before venturing meeting Richie. It was still dark, so a quick call and a flash of his lights made him easier to find. Richie already had holes drilled in the shack and couple outside. He was almost as excited as I was, and eager to get to the jigging.

“It’s been pretty good here for walleyes the past couple days. About 6 to 7:30 is when they seem to move through,” he exclaimed.

I grabbed my 30-inch, medium-heavy Ugly Stik GX2 jigging rod and said excitedly, “Let’s get at it then!”

Capt. Lee Haasch iced a 26-inch Door County walleye with an Odd’ball Jig.
Capt. Lee Haasch iced a 26-inch Door County walleye with an Odd’ball Jig.

His shack was nice and warm with a wood fire in the stove. We wasted little time tipping our jigging raps with a minnow and sliding it into the hole. We were fishing in about 24 feet of water in the middle of a drop-off where the water goes from 38 feet to 14 feet in a short span. The walleyes like to slide up on the drop-off and feed on the minnows that are pushed against the rocks by the offshore current. They will actively feed for a few hours, and then as the sun rises, they will slide back out to deeper waters.

“There we go, fish on”! Richie shouted.

After a battle for a few minutes, he slid a dandy 28-inch walleye on the ice. After a couple photos, he slid it back down the hole. Little big for the table—we enjoy the battle of a trophy ‘eye, but were only looking to keep the eaters (15 to 18 inches). It didn’t take long before I hooked-up on a heavy fish, but after a few headshakes, this one came un-glued and was gone. My second bite came about 15 minutes later, and after a short battle I managed to ice a nice 26-inch walleye. The sun was peaking up now and a quick photo outside and back down the hole it went.

We then switched colors of jigs, hoping to keep the bite going, but my next bite turned out to be a real nice whitefish. Richie told me the walleye bite was probably over as they tend to move out when the whitefish move back in to feed. That sounded good to me; I was after a good meal of whitefish to bring home for the frying pan.

We switched up to a couple lighter rods already with typical whitefish setups: We had a heavier jigging spoon on the bottom and a small red slider single hook about 4 inches above. We tipped that and the spoon with waxies and proceeded to pound the bottom, then raise it and jig a bit, then pound the bottom some more. The whitefish see the flash of the spoon and come to investigate. When you pound the bottom, you get a little “puff” of silt off the floor and the whitefish see the waxie on the slider hook, and it looks like a grub coming off the bottom.

“Meal-time!” shouted Richie, as he hooked up on another nice Door County whitefish. It didn’t take long, and by noon we had laid out 10 nice whitefish apiece on the ice for a photo.


Capt. Lee Haasch is a charter captain out of Algoma, Wis. Capt. 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.

For current fishing reports or information on charter fishing check out Capt. Lee Haasch’s report page at

Richie Stephenson does some ice guiding in the winter months, and he likes to specialize in small groups of two or three anglers. If you are interested in one-on-one angling and having a great instructor, look up his Facebook page “Ice Fish’n Magician” or call Richie at 920-559-0122.

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. It is important, especially with walleyes, 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 to make your trip more fun. And once you are comfortable with the conditions and know a few areas you will have more confidence when you venture out on the ice.