River Currents

by Free Speech on January 22, 2010

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lodi, WI
by Gary Engberg
©2010 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Tips for the Novice Ice Anglers

Grandfather and grandson with their catch at the Yahara Fishing Club Kids Fishing Day.

This past weekend, the Yahara Fishing Club held their Annual Kids Ice Fishing Day at Brittingham Park in Madison, Wisconsin. The milder weather had many children out ice fishing with their parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters. A few of the past ice outings have had extreme cold weather and even poor ice, so this years weather brought out many who other wised might have stayed home.

The members of the Yahara Fishing Club do a wonderful job in giving so many local children and their guardians an introduction to ice fishing and experience the fun of catching fish through the ice. Saturday’s event started at 9:00 am at Lake Monona’s Brittingham Park and those that attended were provided with free gear, live bait, food, and club members to help beginning anglers learn a “little” about ice fishing basics. If you were brought up in Wisconsin or anywhere in the Upper Midwest then you probably were introduced to ice fishing at some time in your life or know people who ice fish.

The one thing that makes ice fishing more accessible to people is that you don’t need a boat to catch fish. Though many ice fishermen and women use ATV’s for greater mobility, many anglers still walk to their favorite fishing hole. Most of the gear that an angler needs can be put into a five gallon pail and pulled on a sled. The pail also can be used to sit on while you fish your holes in the ice. Everything that an ice fisherman needs can be put on a small plastic sled that costs under $10.00. Ice fishing rods and reels can be bought for $15.00 to $30.00 which is inexpensive when compared to what open water rod and reels cost. A beginning angler should get a sensitive rod with a spring bobber on the end to detect the lightest bite. Purchase a small spinning reel with 2 to 3 pound line spooled on it to your ice fishing jigs. Talk to local anglers and those in the know to find out what the best ice jigs are for the area that you’re fishing. Bait can be wax worms, spikes, plastics, or the new Berkley Gulp which is made from real fish and lasts longer than live bait and really catches fish. A new hand ice auger can be purchased for about $80.00 and power augers start at over $300.00, but a thrifty angler can usually find used hand augers for $25.00 at garage sales. You’d be surprised at the good deals you can find at “swap” and garage sales if you spend some time looking for good used gear. Ice skimmers for clearing your hole of ice are less than $10.00 when brand new. Then, about the only other thing that an angler needs is a good assortment of ice jigs and plastics which are inexpensive. It’s nice to have an ice shanty for the real cold weather and recently I’ve seen new ice shelters for under $200.00 for a 2-man tent. But, you can also spend over $400.00 for bigger and deluxe shelters. It’s also possible to find good used shelters for under $100.00, if you do some searching.

If you add all these numbers up, an ice fisherman can get started for under a $100.00 without a shelter or over $200.00 for all your equipment and gear including a used shelter. This is a small figure for the hours of enjoyment that you and your children can get while spending some quality time ice fishing.

But, the more an angler gets into ice fishing the more they can spend. As one gets to be a better ice fisherman and enjoys the sport more, they will buy a color electronic LCD flasher which shows you the fish and a video unit which allows you to see the fish that you’re fishing for. The electronic units and video can get pricey, but if you’re just fishing for panfish like bluegills and crappies then you’ll most likely be in shallow water and not need any expensive electronics to catch some fish. But, a color flasher and video unit make ice fishing easier and definitely will keep the children’s attention as they watch the fish that swim by your screen.

Father and daughter show of their keeper from  the Yahara Fishing Club Kids Fishing DayIf you go to most quality sporting goods and outdoor stores you can find everything that you need and also get some basic instruction. A few things to remember is to make sure that you are going out on good ice and never fish alone. Always follow the path where someone has gone before you. Most area lakes now have ice anywhere from 10 to 14 inches which should be safe. But remember there is no such thing as safe ice, just safer ice. Stay away from springs and creel inlets, large concentrations of people, and flowing water for safety reasons. It also is a good idea to tell someone where you’re fishing, bring along a cell phone, and wear a pair of ice picks around your neck in case the worst should happen.

Drill all your holes in the ice when you first get to your fishing location and spread out the holes that you drill over a large area at different depths. Drilling your holes first prevents you from constantly “spooking” fish by making noise. Try to be as quiet or stealth as possible when fishing because it’s easy to scare fish in shallow water. Go from hole to hole till you find active fish. Experiment with different colors and the amount of bait you put on your jig while you slowly jig your rod up and down. The panfish could be on the bottom or anywhere in the water column, so experiment different depths. Watch other anglers and ask questions if there is something that you don’t understand or know. Other anglers are usually willing to help, so don’t be afraid to ask another angler. The internet is a great source of information, read some ice fishing magazines, and talk to other anglers and you’ll be well on your way to finding the solitude and enjoyment that ice fishing brings.

Some good local waters that are good for fishing though the size fish may be small are; Crystal Lake, Lake Monona, Lake Wingra, Lake Waubesa, Whitemound Lake, Devils Lake, Fox Lake, Beaver Dam Lake, and Mirror Lake. The more time spent on the ice will make you a better ice angler. Remember to dress warm and be safe! www.garyengbergoutdoors.com

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