Contact(s): Theresa Stabo, DNR fisheries outreach coordinator, 608-266-2272, Theresa.Stabo@wisconsin.gov; Joseph Gerbyshak, DNR fisheries biologist in Eau Claire, 715-839-2877, Joseph.Gerbyshak@Wisconsin.gov; John Kubisiak, DNR fisheries supervisor in Rhinelander, 715-365-8919, Johnf1.Kubisiak@wisconsin.gov; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084, Jennifer.Sereno@wisconsin.gov
MADISON - Wisconsin's winter Free Fishing Weekend is a great time to discover the fun of ice fishing or introduce family and friends to this hard water recreation.
During the weekend of Jan. 21-22, residents and visitors anywhere in the state can take advantage of opportunities to check out free loaner equipment or just head out to a local fishing spot. Several special events, listed below, are also scheduled. No fishing license or Great Lakes salmon and trout stamp is needed to fish most Wisconsin waters. This includes inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River and other boundary waters; spring trout ponds are not open, however.
Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons when you must release certain fish species. Given recent warm temperatures and rain in many parts of the state this week, anglers are urged to use caution and stay safe using tips found below.
"Ice fishing is a great way to get outside during the winter and fish anywhere without a boat," said Theresa Stabo, fisheries outreach coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "We want to encourage everyone to have fun this weekend while also using common sense before heading out on the ice. We also would suggest that people check the Free Fishing Weekend website for possible event or schedule changes due to changing conditions."
Anglers urged to use caution as ice conditions vary from location to location
Following several days of unseasonably warm temperatures and rain, DNR staff members are recommending caution on state waters. Ice conditions vary across the state and can also vary on the same water body.
Anglers should err on the side of caution and never assume consistent ice throughout the waterbody. The best sources for information on ice conditions in your area are local bait shops and fishing organizations.
So, what can people expect if they decide to head out? Thanks to careful management by DNR and cooperation from numerous partners, fish populations are healthy statewide with abundant opportunities to catch northern pike, walleye, yellow perch and other species.
In the west central part of the state, Lake Eau Claire is a 1,360 acre impoundment of the Eau Claire River that features yellow perch, crappie and walleye. Joseph Gerbyshak, a DNR fisheries biologist based in Eau Claire, said the perch fishery is the "bread and butter" of the lake. Most anglers target perch in the old river channel in 10 to 15 feet of water with small jigs tipped with plastics or wax worms. The lake also has a strong walleye population, which can be targeted with tip-ups and small suckers.
Gerbyshak noted Otter Lake in Chippewa County also has been providing good opportunities for ice anglers thanks to its healthy populations of bluegill and walleye. Meanwhile, Glen Loch in Chippewa Falls will host an official Free Fishing Weekend event Jan. 21 from noon to 4 p.m. with access from the Ojibwa Golf & Bowl, 8140 136th St. For more information contact Ron Bakken at 715-723-7770.
John Kubisiak, a DNR fisheries supervisor based in Rhinelander, said anglers in the north may want to check out an event sponsored by Oneida County 4H and DNR at Perch Lake Park for school-age youth and their families. Ice fishing equipment and bait will be provided.
Perch Lake is stocked annually by DNR with rainbow trout. It also contains bluegill, yellow perch and largemouth bass, Kubisiak said. Anglers have been catching bluegill and trout jigging with spikes or wax worms while trout may also be caught on small minnows. For this event, anglers are asked to pre-register if possible. The contact is Lynn Feldman, Lynn.Feldman@ces.uwex.edu, 715-365-2750.
Other Free Fishing Weekend events include:
DNR tackle loaner sites have ice fishing gear that groups and individuals can use, although ice augers to drill the holes are limited. To learn more, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "Free Fishing Weekend." Additional tips to keep anglers safe on the ice can be found by searching: ice safety.
Keep fishing with Go Wild!
For novices who would like to continue the thrill of "hard water" fishing after Free Fishing Weekend, "first-time buyer" resident licenses are available for just $5. Fishing licenses can be purchased online through GoWild.wi.gov.