Increasing numbers of people getting hooked on the hard-water season

Free Fishing WeekendMADISON – Ice fishing opportunities are going to come early and often this season, good news for the growing number of ice anglers drilling down into this favorite winter sport, state fisheries officials say.  “The colder weather in recent weeks has frozen smaller lakes much earlier than last year, so we’re looking forward to a nice, long season,” says Mike Staggs, Wisconsin’s fisheries director. “There are an abundance of great places to fish across the state and even more time for anglers to hit their favorite hot spots and try some new locations.”  Staggs reported people fishing on a back bay of Delavan Lake in Walworth County on Thanksgiving, and conservation wardens and fish biologists are reporting seeing anglers ice fishing on smaller lakes, bays and backwaters in many parts of Wisconsin.

“The ice season is already underway up here, as I’ve seen anglers on the ice for almost a week now,” says Skip Sommerfeldt, a DNR fisheries biologist based in Park Falls in Price County and an avid ice angler. “I haven’t made it out yet – as I stayed busy with deer season and then a short vacation with the family. But that will change this afternoon (Dec. 2) – as my tip-ups and minnows are ready for the late afternoon bite.”

An estimated 590,700 Wisconsinites 16 and over report they ice fish, up from 479,900 in 2000, according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, a federally funded survey.

Staggs thinks the growth reflects in part that ice fishing is a low-cost way to try fishing or for veteran open water anglers to extend the fishing season. “It’s as easy as drilling a hole — or finding a hole someone else left behind — and using some basic equipment to catch some fish for dinner,” he says.

Add to that simple appeal the fact that better technology — lighter, warmer ice houses and better, safer heaters and outerwear – is making it more comfortable to be out on the ice longer.

Free Fishing Weekend – January 18-19, 2014

For more information, visit the DNR’s Free Fishing Weekend Web page.

Jennifer Erdman is a Freelance Graphic Designer and Photographer. She works with the Jefferson County Tourism Council on their annual Official Guide.