Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A tale of one County

We all know what it’s like in Wisconsin. Sometime shortly after Thanksgiving we get a healthy dose of cold weather and a blanket of the fluffy white stuff. But for some people in the state, that cold snap and even a little bit of the snow is a welcome sign. These people wait all summer in anticipation of something that only happens in 1/3 of the United States.

ICE FISHING!

Now I am not going to go into a big long speech about how great ice fishing really is, but what I do want to talk about is some safety and the great opportunities there are in Sheboygan County to get out on the ice.

So many of us ice fisherman plan big expensive trips to Little Bay De Noc or we travel over to Viking country to experience the thrill of a lifetime. So many of us don’t take full advantage of the abundant possibilities that our own county hold, such as Big Elkhart Lake or the Sheboygan Marina.

I know personally that the biggest fish one could ever catch can be caught right here in the Sheboygan Marina. With the amount of work and effort to preserve the fishery in Lake Michigan our Marina should be one of the hottest destinations on your list. Brown Trout, big Lake Michigan Northern Pike and even the occasional Walleye present you with a challenge unlike most other bodies of water. Be careful though at early ice, the Marina has been known to break up a bit which makes travel a bit tougher.

A bucket full of palm filling bluegills and a wall hanging Northern Pike, it’s not a dream, and it’s possible on beautiful Big Elkhart Lake. A gem in the northwestern part of the county Big Elkhart lives up to its name being almost 300 acres and 120ft deep. Walleyes and Largemouth Bass are common in the winter as well, but don’t kid yourself, you must do some research to find where the fish are. But give it a chance; once you find them you won’t be disappointed.

Jetzers Lake on Hwy A near Howards Grove is a fun lake to bring the kids and share the joys of ice fishing. A small lake with lots of Panfish to catch al you need to do is pick up a container of wax worms, tie on a jig and fish away. You may have to sort through some of the smaller Bluegills and Sunfish, but the big ones are waiting for you in the deeper water.

You can have a pretty Crappie day on Crooked Lake, nestled in the Kettle Moraine State Forest near the western edge of Sheboygan County. There is a mix of everything in Crooked Lake but if you set yourself up right you could have a great fish fry when you get home. Put your time in here near the weed lines and go ahead set up a tip-up or two and see what happens with the Northern Pike.

Safety is always an issue when it come to ice fish, but it’s not to difficult to be safe on the ice. The first thing you must remember is: There is no such thing as safe ice. I know that seems odd to say but it is true. Ice does not always form evenly, if there is any current under the water, wind and even the amount of snow on the ice can change the thickness dramatically. It’s a good practice to always have some simple items with you when venturing onto the ice.

Life Jacket- It seems goofy to wear a life jacket while standing in the ice, but you will be thankful you had it one should you fall in.

75ft of 1/2” Rope- It may not be you that falls in, always have rope with you just in case there comes a time you may need to help someone else. The rope I carry has a small boat buoy tied to the end to make it easier to throw out to someone should I ever have to use it.

Spud Bar- In the “Old Days” this tool was used to cut holes in the ice to fish, with the invention of the ice auger there really is no need to use a spud bar to make a hole. But what it is great for is testing ice in front of you. Every couple of feet that you walk take a couple of chops with the spud, a good spud bar will break through 2 inches of ice in one swing.

Everyone talks about people that drive on the ice with their cars and trucks. Personally I don’t do that. I have an ATV I will travel with. If you do wish to drive on the ice here is just a couple of things to keep in mind.

Always, always keep your windows open and seatbelts OFF when driving on ice. If you vehicle should break through the ice the pressure that builds around the vehicle will be too great to open a door or window. You should always wear a seatbelt on the road, but when it comes to driving on ice forget it. That is the last thing you want to worry about if you need to exit quickly.

Ice fishing can be just as much fun and just as comfortable as fishing in the spring summer and fall. Portable ice shanties, heaters, fish finders, and even clothing designed for ice fishing have turned this sport from something to pass the time to something more and more people look forward to every year.

Get out in Sheboygan County and enjoy what it has to offer, explore the lakes, ask around at bait shops where the fish are biting, do some research on the internet on baits and other tips that may help. I do not know everything about ice fishing, I am always learning, but if you would like to contact me with questions please feel free to do so hardwaterjeff@gmail.com is my email address. You will find that most people that ice fish are willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

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