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Fishing for whitefish on Lake Michigan.
Fishing for whitefish on Lake Michigan. / Ben Michlig/For
Pickled whitefish in Ben Michlig's refrigerator. / Ben Michlig/For


Letís face it, those who have the privilege of enjoying their favorite hobbies on a daily or weekly timeframe have got it made. It doesnít really matter what that hobby is, but for everyone, itís surely an activity that makes you happier.

But what happens when that hobby has lost its flavor. There always comes a time when you need to expand that activity to keep your interests, um, well, interesting.

As with most Wisconsin outdoorsmen during these ever-lasting winter months, my hobby is fishing, and this of course means drilling holes in pursuit of walleyes and panfish. But as with any hobby, things eventually get repetitive and eventually become boring. So, you need to spice it up and experience new things associated with your activity of choice.

For me, I spice things up by pursuing whitefish on Lake Michigan.

The ONE fortunate thing that arises from these bitterly frigid winters is that good ice
cover forms on the Great Lakes, allowing it possible to fish through the ice on the biggest water the region has to offer. To shake the winter blues this time of year, my
destination is Green Bay, and my bounty is the hundreds of delicious whitefish that lurk under the ice in the surrounding big water. Pounding whitefish is my way to keep icefishing adventurous, interesting, and fun.

Armed with a portable ice-shack, auger, medium action jig rod, flasher, and a couple of Swedish pimples; I venture out onto the seemingly overwhelming sheet of ice. To the contrary of what most think, the actual pursuit of whitefish is actually quite simple and easy, and surprisingly not overwhelming.

If you are an ice fisherman looking to switch it up, and have second guessed the
possibility or your ability to try for whitefish on Lake Michigan, I promise you that it is
easy. You have the option of choosing from multiple boat landings along the coast, and every one of them is an adequate option. There will be several vehicles parked at each landing, with scores of ice shacks two to four hundred yards off shore for you to have a good starting point. I usually start in about 25 feet of water and move as far out as 35 feet. There is no real rhyme or reason for a potential starting point, just start fishing.

Whitefish feed directly off the bottom on larval stages of aquatic insects. It often is key in the jigging technique to interrupt the sediment with the swedish pimple, as whitefish will become attracted to this disturbance. Typically, an inch long pimple tipped with wax worms will do the trick. Most anglers will tie a small stinger hook tipped with a waxie roughly 14 inches above the pimple; this is an excellent technique and will double your catch-rate.

What to do with all the your whitefish? I prefer to pickle them. Whitefish are a little
tricky to fillet with an extra band of Y-bones, and the meat is quite flaky, so pickling the meat is ideal and allows me to dip into Ball jars whenever Iím craving a fishy snack months in the future. A nice change of culinary pace to go along with the different angling experience, a double whammy. Email me if you want more tips, or for a good pickling recipe.

More on fishing: Fishing news from around the state | Your fishing photos | Build a map | Read fishing reports

Ben Michlig has a Bachelor of Science degree in fisheries from the University of Minnesota. He currently works for the DNR in Minocqua and is an accomplished professional fisherman and fishing guide. Ben writes informative outdoor articles weekly. If you would like to hire Ben to guide your next hunting or fishing trip, he can be reached at 715-432-9440 or at For more information, visit his website at

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