The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Caution urged on thin ice for Wisconsin free fishing weekend


While Wisconsin’s ice fishing season is off to a slower than usual start this year because of a mild winter, a recent blast of arctic air arrived just in time for free fishing weekend.

Residents and non-residents can fish for free Saturday and Sunday across the state.

Ben Heussner, a fisheries biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said those who decide to give ice fishing a try this weekend will be in for the experience of a lifetime if they find themselves with a northern pike on the other end of the line.

“Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice, feeling a northern pike strip the line away under the ice can be an exhilarating experience,” Heussner said. “My favorite nicknames for northern pike include ‘water wolf’ and ‘gator’ because they truly describe the demeanor of this aggressive predator.”

As a cool-water species, pike remain active throughout the winter and reports from anglers and fisheries biologists statewide indicate northerns are producing more action than walleyes or panfish in many areas.

Heussner recommends using 20-pound monofilament when fishing for northern pike because of their sharp teeth. It’s also helpful to keep a jaw spreader and set of needle-nose pliers handy to remove the hook.

In the north, many lakes carry no minimum length limit for pike and offer a daily bag limit of five.

While pike are known for their fight, they also produce flavorful fillets. Heussner said one helpful technique to avoid the “y” bones that run along the spine involves breaking the fish down into five separate fillets: One above the top of the spine, two flank fillets on either side of the rib bones and two fillets from either side of the fish from the dorsal fin back to the tail.

DNR fisheries biologist John Kubisiak urges anglers to exercise great care in picking their spots. Many of the larger, deeper lakes only recently iced over and will not support foot traffic, much less a vehicle.


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