Wisconsin’s second annual winter Free Fishing Weekend is set for Jan. 18-19, 2014. No fishing license or Great Lakes salmon stamp is needed to fish any Wisconsin water. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin’s side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River and other boundary waters. Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish anglers can keep and any seasons when anglers must release certain fish species.
“Ice fishing is a great way to get outside during the winter and to fish anywhere without a boat,” says Theresa Stabo, Wisconsin’s angler education director. “Free Fishing Weekend is a great time to discover what it’s all about – fun with friends and family and, of course, the fish.”
Stabo encourages fishing groups, local chambers of commerce, youth group leaders and others to consider hosting their own Free Fishing Weekend events and to fill out an electronic form with their event details so DNR can help publicize those events that are open to the public. DNR tackle loaner sites have ice fishing gear for loan that groups and individuals can use, and the agency can supply limited quantities of age appropriate materials about ice fishing, fish populations, and fishing in general.
Posters are also available to download, print off and post to help promote Free Fishing Weekend.
All materials are available on DNR’s Free Fishing Weekend web page. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search “Free Fishing Weekend.”
Advice to maximize health benefits, limit contaminants from eating fish
Ice anglers eat a greater proportion of their catch than open water anglers, so it’s important to be aware of and follow fish consumption advice, says Candy Schrank, an environmental toxicologist who coordinates the fish consumption advice DNR issues with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
An online search tool allows anglers to use a drop down menu to select the county and lake or river reach they are fishing to bring up consumption advice for fish species on that water. The advice booklet, videos, and other materials are also available on the “Eat Your Catch pages of the DNR website.
Follow rules to prevent spreading invasive species like Asian carp and fish diseases
Ice anglers eager to start the hard water season are reminded to take steps to prevent accidentally spreading fish diseases and aquatic invasive species like Asian carp, the young of which look similar to common baitfish such as gizzard shad, emerald shiner, spottail shiner or golden shiner. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, is a virus that can infect several dozen fish species and cause them to bleed to death.
Here is what anglers need to know to help prevent fish diseases and other invasive species from spreading:
Follow bait rules. Buy bait from Wisconsin bait dealers. If you take minnows home after a day of fishing and you’ve added lake water or fish to the container, you can return with them only to that same water body the next day.
Familiarize yourself with what the different Asian carp species look like as juveniles and as adults, and learn how to tell the difference between them and common baitfish. Inspect bait you buy to assure you do not have any Asian carp in the bucket. Put on ice any fish suspected of being Asian carp and contact your local DNR.
Preserve bait correctly if you catch your own. If you use smelt or other dead bait, preserve it in a way that does not require freezing or refrigeration.
Don’t move live fish away from the water. Keep the fish you catch and want to take home on the ice until you leave at the end of the day, or carry them away in a dry bucket.
Drain all water from your equipment. That includes all buckets and containers of fish. When you’re leaving the ice, you may carry up to 2 gallons of water in which to keep your minnows.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ICE FISHING IN GENERAL CONTACT: Mike Staggs, 608-267-0796; Steve Hewett 608-267-7501; or your local fish biologist; Theresa Stabo, 608- 266-2272, for information on Free Fishing Weekend; Candy Schrank, 608-267-7614, for information on fish consumption advice.