Sit On A Bucket Over Ice? Nice.

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Lake Superior produces some beauties in the winter. - WDNR PhotoMADISON – It’s not everybody’s idea of fun, but it fits the bill perfectly for nearly half a million Wisconsin adults every winter.

In a new video available on the Department of Natural Resources Web site “Ice Fishing: My Kind of Fun,” an angler fishing one of the popular Madison area lakes explains his enjoyment of the sport.

In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, anglers spent 11 million hours sitting on an overturned bucket or shacked up in an ice shanty, waiting for a red flag to fly.

They caught 14 million fish and kept just under half of them, according to a statewide mail survey of anglers the DNR conducted in 2006.

In winter, as in summer, panfish rule, says Brian Weigel, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries research scientist who analyzed the survey responses. “A quick check of the numbers shows panfish, panfish, panfish by far.”

The weather's cold but the pan fishing is hot in winter.  - Scott Hulse PhotoAnglers caught about 11.7 million panfish during the ice fishing season and kept a higher proportion of them, nearly half, than in the open water season. The same pattern held true for walleye, northern pike and bass, Weigel says.

More information on ice fishing and fishing conditions to help the veteran angler as well as the novice can be found on DNR’s ice fishing pages.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE FISH SURVEY CONTACT: Brian Weigel – (608) 221-6326

10 tips for staying safe while ice fishing
First or early ice may promise the most fishing success, but it can also pose the greatest risk if anglers aren’t careful, recreation safety officials say.

“Ice is always unpredictable, and that’s particularly true early in the ice fishing season,” says Gary Eddy, the Department of Natural Resources conservation warden who administers the snowmobile and ATV safety programs.

State conservation wardens caution that ice is never viewed as safe, but general guidelines suggest at least 4 inches of clear ice is necessary before someone walks on a frozen waterbody; at least 6 inches before driving a snowmobile across ice, and 8 to 10 inches before traveling in cars or light duty trucks. “Those guidelines are only if the ice is real solid and clear,” Eddy says.

He offers these other tips for staying safe:

  • Contact local sport shops to ask about ice conditions on the lake or river you want to fish.
  • Do not go out alone, carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you’ll return home.
  • Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a float coat to help you stay afloat and to help slow body heat loss; take extra mittens or gloves so you always have a dry pair.
  • Wear creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice.
  • Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
  • Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself – or others – out of the ice.
  • Do not travel in unfamiliar areas or at night.
  • Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have current that can thin the ice.
  • Look for clear ice. Clear ice is generally stronger than ice with air bubbles in it or with snow on it.
  • Watch out for pressure ridges or ice heaves. These can be dangerous due to thin ice or may be an obstruction you may hit with a car, truck or snowmobile.