Ice fishing offers chance to escape pandemic lockdown

More people are fishing than in recent past because of the pandemic leaving them less things to do. Ice fishing, in particular, is seeing a big bump in participants because people can get into the sport without the need of a boat – a few hundred bucks, or less, is enough to get them started.

Now all we need is good ice in southeastern Wisconsin.

Based on interviewing a local bait shops, as well as scanning some websites, it appears there is some fishable ice in southeastern Wisconsin, but to be safe on the ice is never a theory a person want to take for granted.

Mike Smith, an owner of Dick’s Smith’s Bait and Tackle in Delafield, said that are a few people getting out, but caution should be used not just for early season, ice but for the entire year.

“Most of our area small lakes and bays have 2 to 6 inches of  walkable ice,” he said. “There is slush and snow on our ice, which is slowing the ice-making process. We highly recommend using a spud bar to check the ice as you walk out. Wear a life jacket or floating suit, safety picks, and bring a throw cushion.  Avoid areas near springs, current, and ice heaves.”

Smith said that the layer of snow is acting as a thermal blanket that is insulating the ice, so it makes ice production difficult.

“This happened a couple years ago,” he said.  “We had ice form, then it melted, and then we got snow. Despite having a few days of single-digit weather, not much ice formed. We might be better off having a warm-up to melt this snow and then a deep freeze to create some new ice.”

Still, there are area lakes that can be fished with EXTREME caution. Those include: the east end of Pewaukee, Pretty Lake, Forest Lake, Ashippun, Lower Phantom, Ottawa, Big Muskego, Spring Lake, Moose Lake (bays), Keesus (bays), Lower Nemahbin (avoid deep water areas).

Smith said they have weathered the storm nicely through the pandemic and that all of the new anglers buying  licenses has led to some new business for them.

“We actually had a good year last year and this year is starting out great,” he said. “There can be some issues with supply, but so far we have done well.”

Smith said that people are getting some decent action on tip-ups.

“That seems to be the best bet right now for action,” he said. “Most of these lakes around here have good populations of northern pike and bass. If you’re looking for action with the family that is the best thing going right now.”

There are some panfish to be had, but Smith said that they are not seeing a lot of size just yet.

“People can go out and get bluegills, crappies and perch, for sure, but we’re not seeing a lot of keepers right now. It could be that they are just out deeper right now, but there really isn’t safe ice on the deep water yet. I’ve been driving around and checking spots and one that worried me was off the island on Pewaukee. That was wide open and then we had the freeze and then the snow cover. The problem is that a person can’t see below the snow so you can’t tell if there is good ice or bad ice.”

If possible, try to fish with a friend right now and don’t head out onto ice where you don’t see any footprints. Just because a person sees prints and old holes doesn’t mean that the ice is safe, but it is at least is a clue.

Categories: Ice Fishing, Wisconsin – Dan Durbin

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