The coldest, snowiest, most miserable time of year means one thing for many of the hardiest folk in Wisconsin – time to drag your ice auger and a bucket of shiners out onto the nearest lake.
On the latest episode of Under Rocks – WNIJ’s exploration of the hidden treasures of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin – our intrepid explorer Dan Libman hits the ice with fishing mentor Chris Fink, along with our multimedia crew, Spencer Tritt and Jared Ortega. Bundle up because it ain’t a fit (day) out for man or beast!
Ice fishing is a revered winter sport in the Midwest – as soon as the ice is thick enough, tiny huts start popping up on lakes across the region. But the sight of ice shanties is less common in Illinois than it is in some neighboring states, where ice may freeze thicker and lakes are more plentiful.
Rule #1 of ice fishing: Don’t reveal the site of your favorite fishing spot. Under penalty of being laughed at, don’t even ask.
Dan confesses the extent of his ice fishing knowledge begins and ends with A Prairie Home Companion. He had much to learn from Chris and the others who were out fishing that day at the lake-that-shall-remain-nameless in southern Wisconsin.
First, dress for it. Imagine standing for hours on a block of ice.
Get the right equipment. An ice auger, a special short fishing pole, a shanty or something to sit on, and a fishing license. Optional: beer, dog, friends.
There are special ice fishing terms you need to know.
Pan fish: fish big enough to eat, small enough for your pan. Throw the big ones back.
Tip-up: a mini flag pole attached to a spring that signals when a fish has taken the bait.
Jigging: small up-and-down motion made with the fishing pole to get your bait moving.
Shiner: tiny silvery fish used as bait. You don’t want to be a shiner.
And then there's safety. It's best to go with an experienced icefisher. Make sure you've got at least four inches of ice between you and those icy waters. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has more tips, if you're thinking about jigging a shiner or two this winter.
Ready to give up the location of your favorite fishing hole? Or better yet, have an idea for an episode of Under Rocks? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for our next exciting adventure!
Thanks to Dan Libman, Chris Fink, Spencer Tritt, Jared Ortega, and all the fellow fisherpeople who made this episode possible.
Under Rocks is produced by WNIJ at Northern Illinois University.