Milwaukee’s Hidden Gem: Trout Through the Ice

When you think of ice fishing for big trout, the last place you probably expect to head is Milwaukee. If you haven’t experienced fishing with the Milwaukee skyline as a backdrop, you are missing out.

 

Getting the call from Pat Kalmerton, owner of Wolf Pack Adventures, stating he had a cancellation for a couple days was all I needed to hear. I dropped what I was doing and pointed the truck north from my home in southern Illinois. My wife Lotte was quick to start packing, and my nephew Jordan Blair quickly jumped on board, too.

 

Arriving in Wisconsin, the cold temperatures and snow on the ground screamed ice fishing. It was a restless night as we anticipated what the following day would bring.

 

Winding our way through the streets of Milwaukee, we could only hope our GPS was taking us to where we were supposed to be. After a few stoplights, we spotted waves bashing against a rock wall. Then, there it was; the marina had ice, and ice shanties were visible in the distance.

 

Parking the truck, we made the short walk to the Wolf Pack crew that already had their Frabill shacks in place. Their heaters were putting out enough heat to remain comfortable from the brutal elements outside. Tip-ups belonging to numerous anglers dotted the ice, all with the hopes of a flag waving proudly in the near future.

 

With an explanation from Tyler Chisholm, Jordan Bradley and Jerrad Kalmerton on what to expect throughout the morning, we went to face Mother Nature to get our rigs baited. Our bait was going to be one of two things: shrimp or eggs that were milked from previously caught-and-released trout. It was an educational experience, watching our guides “milk” the eggs from the big females before releasing them back to the water. The fish were handled with the upmost respect to ensure they were not harmed.

 

Having our bait lowered to the proper depth, it was just a matter of waiting. If you like to toss a football, there is no better time to do it than when you are waiting for a tip-up to spring to life. Or, maybe grilling a burger on a portable grill better suits your taste. Within 30 minutes, shouts of “fish on” came from our guides.

 

As they ran to the flag, we southerners gingerly made our way to the hole. Not wanting to lose the fish, they set the hook on the big trout as they patiently waited for our safe arrival. I’m sure a few jokes were made on our behalf, but at least we didn’t fall.

 

My nephew Jordan was first up to bat. Having never ice-fished before, he was anxious to pull a fish through the ice. Jerrad and Tyler did a great job coaching him as he worked the fish to the surface. When they realized he was being a little too forceful with the fish, they got him calmed down. After a few minutes of reeling and lifting, a glimmer of silver showed below the ice.

 

It was easy to realize that we were about to get our hands on a nice trout. Within seconds, a nice brown trout emerged through the hole. The fish was quickly taken to a live well that had been chiseled into the ice inside the warm heating shack. This would allow us to get the fish in the water and prevent the fins from freezing. Then, it was a simple task to get some photos of the fish as time allowed before releasing it back into the cold depths of the big lake.

 

The action continued for the next couple of hours as we caught trout, both browns and steelhead. By noon, we were ready to pull our lines and to get someplace that was a little warmer. The shack was heated, but with all the action we were having throughout the morning, a seemingly permanent chill invaded our bodies. Our hands received the brunt of the punishment from holding fish and wanting to get firsthand instruction on baiting the hooks.

 

It was an experience none of us will soon forget. Unfortunately, not enough people are taking advantage of this great fishing opportunity with the city of Milwaukee. We even had locals pull up to us as we were packing our trucks and ask what we were doing out there on the ice with our tents. I suppose it is a good thing I live a few hours south, because I don’t suppose I would get much done if I had exceptional trout fishing through the winter out my back door. Then again, I don’t know how well I would be able to live in a big city. I will just make the drive north as time allows, and enjoy it when I can.

 

Wolf Pack Adventures, based out of Sheboygan, Wisconsin offers ice fishing for other species including whitefish, walleyes, panfish and more. Fishing out of one of their many boats from spring through fall is another option for anglers looking to land walleyes, trout, salmon, muskies and more. And, if turkey hunting suits your fancy, they do that, too.