Winter Free Fishing Weekend Is Here


The state is urging people to grab ice-fishing augers, other gear and head out to rivers and lakes this weekend. It’s Wisconsin’s first attempt at a wintertime Free Fishing Weekend.

State lawmakers last year decided to add to the Free Fishing Weekend held every June and create a cold weather version in mid-January. A survey says ice fishing is growing in popularity, but the sport is going up against a relatively warm winter and possibly a warming climate, so the ice may be iffy on some waters. The DNR’s Theresa Stabo says there are some general rules of thumb about safe ice:

“Clear and blue, tried and true. If it’s crispy, way too risky, that sort of thing. But for the most part, it’s up to the individual to check.”

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Stabo says ice safety will vary depending on any local freezing and thawing, and the amount of weight you’re taking onto the ice. She says some fishing clubs and lake associations are having events this weekend, and information about those gatherings is on the DNR website. Also on the site is advice on state parks and properties where you can borrow ice fishing equipment.

“People who are new to ice fishing probably won’t have things like that on their own. If they do fishing at other times of year, they might have some of the equipment that can be modified, I suppose, but they’re not likely to have an ice auger.”

Stabo says if you don’t want to ice-fish, you can cast for free from shore or a boat into open water. The DNR is trying to hook first-time anglers into buying a five dollar fishing license for the rest of this year, and then various other types of fishing licenses next year… once you decide to leave your old life behind.

(DNR information on the Free Fishing Weekend can be found here.)