Wisconsin DNR Offers Winter Free Fishing Weekend Jan. 17-18
Category: press release
Jan 6th, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jan 6th, 2015 at 12:00 AM
MADISON — Whether you prefer a high-tech, low-tech or no-tech approach, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources can help you hook into some fun this ice fishing season.
If you haven’t visited the aisles of your favorite sporting goods retailer lately, you’ll be amazed by the array of underwater cameras, sonar fish finders, portable ice shelters and high-torque augers available for ice fishing enthusiasts. With participation in the sport growing – some 590,700 state residents now take part, up from 479,900 in 2000 according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment – it’s no wonder the gear options continue to expand.
“There’s a lot of innovative equipment out there that makes ice fishing more comfortable, particularly in extreme winter conditions,” says Justine Hasz, DNR section chief for fisheries services. “But all you really need for fun during the hard water fishing season is a pole, a bucket and some bait. And a fishing license, of course. I actually go for the low-tech approach myself because it means you don’t have to haul as much out on the sled. “
In addition, Hasz notes, anyone who would like to give ice fishing a try can pursue a completely no-tech option by borrowing equipment through DNR’s tackle loan program during the third annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend on January 17 and 18. Ice fishing gear is available at 19 loaner site, eight of which are at state parks with fishing access. Augers are in short supply, however, so you may have to make friends with someone who can drill you a hole once you get out there. Call ahead to verify equipment is available, with numbers listed on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov by searching “fishing equipment for loan.”
While you can fish without a license or Great Lakes salmon stamp on all Wisconsin waters during the Free Fishing Weekend event, state park entrance stickers are required and other fishing rules still apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish anglers can keep. Theresa Stabo, Wisconsin’s angler education director, said the event offers a great opportunity for families to get outside and enjoy Wisconsin’s waters without a boat.
“Free Fishing Weekend provides a great introduction to ice fishing and we hope to lure in families as well as young adults who enjoy the outdoors and would like to give it a try,” Stabo says. “Whether you are after consistent action with panfish or something bigger like walleye or northern pike, it’s quite a thrill to see what’s on the end of your line when you haul it up through the ice.”
At the moment, DNR fisheries experts are reporting strong activity in the northern part of the state including Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior as well as lakes in Burnett, Iron, Marathon, Portage Sawyer, Shawano and Washburn counties. Max Wolter, DNR fisheries biologist in Sawyer County, reports walleye and northern pike have been biting consistently in 5 to 15 feet of water.
Al Niebur, fisheries biologist in Shawano and Waupaca Counties, reports good action on some of the shallower lakes or impoundments where anglers are catching bluegill, crappie, perch, bass and northern pike.
“You don’t need a lot of fancy gear to fish these waters – simple jig poles for panfish and a few tip ups for pike or bass,” Niebur says.
In the southern part of the state, Hasz notes, lack of consistent ice means anglers are eager to get out and enjoy a sport that is part of Wisconsin’s fishing heritage. “We also hope to see lots of new faces giving it a try during the Winter Free Fishing Weekend,” she says.
Groups encouraged to host Free Fishing Weekend events
Stabo encourages fishing groups, local chambers of commerce, youth group leaders and others to consider hosting a Free Fishing Weekend event.
“We really hope that event organizers will pitch their events to adults who have never had the opportunity to ice fish and to families who want to learn together. Every weekend is Free Fishing Weekend for kids – they just need someone to take them,” she says.
Several events are already scheduled on Saturday, January 17 at:
Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit, 1034 N1765 County Road G, Campbellsport, 10 a.m. to noon;
Richard Bong State Recreation Area, 26313 Burlington Road, Kansasville, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.;
Willow River State Park, 1034 County Highway A, Hudson, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.;
Devil’s Lake State Park, North Shore