Early Start to Open Water Fishing

Look to hook up in Green Bay, Lake Michigan or tributaries

If weeks of warnings weren’t enough to deter anglers hungry to hunt offshore whitefish,
three separate rescues carried out on lower Green Bay’s east shore Thursday should get
the word out to stay off the ice.
Brown County and Coast Guard airboats were used to get nine people back to shore
Thursday: three near Point Comfort, four near Bay Shore Park and two near Red River
Park. All were unable to walk back after strong south winds separated and moved ice
Even with colder nights in the forecast, the past two-plus weeks of unseasonably mild air
has caused rapid deterioration of ice. Some anglers were still finding enough to walk out
on in bays and harbors, but it’s day-to-day at best.
This weekend’s sturgeon opener is likely going to be a bust for most of the thousands of
spearers with tags. Winds Thursday opened up large areas of Lake Winnebago, and
midweek highs near 50 honeycombed ice on the upriver lakes, and opened some
shorelines. Some guides were offering airboat services to access any ice that may be thick enough to
offer spearing.
Speaking of airboats, there’s been a firestorm of online fishing message board criticism
against guides and private anglers using them on the bay. Most of the complaints center
around breaking up ice near landings or even offshore, while some mention the noise.
I don’t have a skin in the game, but bet that most of the areas where ice was broken up
probably wasn’t very safe for walking in the first place.
Still, some believe there should be more regulations on them, such as a minimum ice
thickness before being used by non-rescue personnel. What do you think? Shoot me your
thoughts to [email protected].
Meanwhile, boat launches are open at the Algoma and Kewaunee marinas, offering early
season trout trolling on Lake Michigan when the winds allow. Ice was still blocking many of the bay launches, but some anglers have been able to cast in open water near shore in spots. Some northern Door launch sites may also be accessible, though docks aren’t likely in yet.
Tributaries are open. Larger systems like the Ahnapee offer trout and pike, while the Fox
at DePere have shore and boat possibilities for walleye, perch and other species.
Concerned about two years in a row of earlier than normal open water and potential
overharvest of pre-spawn fish, some anglers are pushing for the 28-inch minimum, one-
fish rule for the Fox to begin a month earlier.

Deer Harvest Down
Wisconsin’s preliminary 2023-2024 season deer harvest of 294,024 was the fourth lowest
reported in the past 40 years. Hunters registered a similar number of antlered bucks
(147,221) and antlerless deer (146,788).
Totals from area counties included Door, 3,728 (1,722); Kewaunee, 2,889 (1,315); Brown,
2,793 (1,399); Manitowoc, 4,089 (1,967); Marinette, 7,870 (4,655 bucks); and Oconto,
7,211 (3,818).
Marinette County hunters reported taking 2,437 deer (1,782 bucks) in the Northern Forest
Zone portion of the county, and 5,433 (2,873 bucks) in the Central Farmland Zone
portion. Oconto County hunters registered 944 whitetails (735 bucks) in the Northern
Forest Zone portion of the county, and 6,267 (3,083 bucks) in the Central Farmland Zone
The numbers may change a bit due to minor errors, late-reported harvests and crop
damage deer added in.

Perch and Pike
Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff are hosting an informational meeting on
yellow perch and northern pike Monday, Feb. 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the Peshtigo DNR Field
Office. There’s a Zoom option online.
Fisheries biologist Tammy Paoli will be leading the meeting. More information and a
phone or computer link can be found on the DNR’s meetings and hearings calendar at

Walleye Tournament
Registration is open for the Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s National Walleye Tour, including
the only Wisconsin event in 2024 — the Bay of Green Bay June 20-21, headquartered at
Entry fees are $1,750 for the pros, and $500 for co-anglers. The payouts, based on a
125-boat field, exceed $200,000. Learn more at

Water Levels Stable
Lake Michigan water levels are about an inch higher than where they were in mid-
February, 2023, and are four inches above the 100-year average. Though levels are
down 32 inches from the record February high set in 2020, they’re still about 33 inches
above the record low set in 1964.