Want to be adventurous this winter? How about trying ice fishing? Both Wisconsin and Michigan have added free fishing weekends in the winter season to allow and encourage trying the sport of ice fishing. The free fishing dates for this winter in Wisconsin are January 21 & 22, 2017; and in Michigan the dates are February 18 & 19, 2017 for the free fishing weekend. This means that you don’t need a fishing license to try this sport.
To try fishing in a whole different way, bundle up in layers, get outside and try ice fishing. Make sure, in addition to dressing in layers and having warm boots and gloves, you check the ice conditions before heading out and as you move along. General rule of thumb is that the ice should be a minimum of 4” before walking out on it. You’ll need thicker ice for a snowmobile, ATV or vehicle.
You’ll need to have an ice auger to drill your holes. These vary in diameter and method. You’ll want your hole diameter to be wide enough to retrieve your fish but not so wide that it’s unsafe by perhaps stepping into the hole. Usually anywhere from 4” to 10” is common. There are manual, gas, propane and battery operated augers. In the early season, you can also use an ice chisel “spud” to chop holes in thinner ice. The spud is also very useful in determining the safety and depth of the ice along your pathway.
Other tools you’ll want are a skimmer or scoop to remove the slush or ice chips from your fishing hole. Something to sit on such as a 5-gallon bucket and your bait, both live and artificial. A hole cover comes in handy to prevent freeze up and it will also block light for some species. A flasher/locator is helpful too.
Ice fishing jigging rods are much smaller than open water rods. A tip up is a type of set up that is placed over the hole and signals with a flag when a fish strikes. Tip ups also can be outfitted with a light indicator that lets the angler know there is a fish strike at night. You can use up to 3 lines at a time. This is for both jigging and tip up type of fishing. So, you’ll want to have multiple set ups to maximize your fishing.
Just like any other sport, there are many options to choose from for your rods, reels, line, bait/lures, augers, and optional enclosed shelters. Once you’ve given it a try and decided that this is better than sitting inside wishing it was summer so you could be out fishing, you can start adding to your supply of rods, reels, line, lures, flashers/locators, under water cameras and ice shacks. And just think there aren’t any of those pesky flies or mosquitoes…so get out there but stay warm and safe.