An OId Fashioned Fisheree
By: Tim & Todd Nehls
Many of us have a favorite sport or leisure activity. For some golf, others hunting, but for a select group it is fishing. Not summer fishing in a boat while you work on your tan, but ice fishing, a longstanding tradition of busting through thick ice, sitting on a five-gallon bucket “jigging” in hopes of catching the monster bluegill, crappie or perch. Jigging consists of equipping yourself with a short rod designed specifically for ice fishing with a small lure at the end weighing less than an ounce, waiting for the pan fish to bit. Half the battle or “lure” for the target fish is lure color, jigging presentation, and what bait you use to augment your lure. Whether it is a flat head minnow, wax worm, red or white spike, or even artificial rubber/plastic, there is more to the effort than standing on the ice with a fishing line traveling down a hole in the ice. It is not uncommon for a serious ice fisherman to have an assortment of 100+ small jigs, consisting of various styles and colors, as well as an equal number of plastic colors to supplement the lure.
For others it may be “tip-up” fishing, chiseling or auguring a hole of significantly larger circumference and setting your favorite tip-up in hopes of landing a large walleye or northern pike. Though there are a number of tip-up styles, the best was designed and produced right in Beaver Dam, the Beaver Dam Artic tip-up. To this day it is still the most popular item in an ice fisherman’s bucket.
Ice fishing is a tradition for many and it starts after first ice. Often you will see a fisherman standing just a stone’s throw from open water jigging for his favorite catch. Others wait for more solid ice and use ATV’s to traverse the ice-covered lake. As cold sets in and the ice thickens, small shacks appear, many suitable for year-round living, housing 2-8 fishermen, used as a base of operations. By the first of the year, the lake transforms into several small villages of shanties whose location is based upon where the fish are biting.
This is routine to northern folk who pray for cold weather and early ice in November; however, if you ever try to explain it to someone from the far south, you get a blank stare. “Yup, we drive our cars and trucks out onto the frozen lake, drill holes thru the ice with large gasoline or electric augers and catch fish. Some fishermen even pull ice shanties out onto the ice, shanties equipped with all the luxuries of home, stove for heat, microwave, TV satellite dishes, and of course, bunk beds for pulling the all-nighters fishing for the infamous “marble eyes” (walleyes).” A 2-3 day ice-fishing trip is not out of the norm. It helps if there is a pizza joint on the lake that delivers to your shack.
Ice fishing is not for the timid or impatient. Fishing at night and traversing the lake during hours of darkness can be a challenge. Mix in some fog and you must be well aware of your surroundings. Slow fishing days often yield nothing more than a red nose, brittle fingers and cold feet. Other days can provide a bucket of your favorite fish.
Then there is the ice fisheree or jamboree where businesses or non-profit groups host fishing contests and award a prize for the longest and heaviest fish in each species or category. These contests can last an entire weekend. Warming tents are set up, winning fish are on display, hot chili, cold beer and a polka band made the environment complete. Fishermen sat on bales of straw, which lined the warming tents, room temperature compliments of large torpedo heaters fueled by kerosene.
Historically, the two everyone waited for on Fox Lake in the early 80’s were the ones sponsored by the Fox Lake Property Owners and the Watertown area Izaak Walton League. These two events drew thousands to the lake for the competition and camaraderie. Competition was fierce as raffle prizes reached $1,000.00 and a winning fish could net you $15.00. Should you be fortunate to have fished in the right spot with the right lure you could easily supplement your wallet or tackle box with your winnings. In the past these events were for the most part populated by adult men, but as the years went by, there were opportunities for all anglers to participate, young and old, male and female; all can participate in this truly unique “up north” experience!
The First Annual Fish Tales Bait & Liquor Fisheree, complete with food, beer, raffles and entertainment under the “Big Top” off of Town Park, Blackhawk Trail, Fox Lake, begins Friday February 14, 2014 at 4 p.m. with fish caught on Fox Lake registered by 11 a.m. on Sunday February 16.