What Is It About Wisconsinites & Ice Fishing?

Mar 21, 2019

Spring has officially begun, and sunlight will represent a majority of our soon to be warmer days for the next six months. While that’s welcome news, I'm a little conflicted about winter’s demise. That's because I'm a New Zealand transplant whose family picked up a new hobby over the winter: ice fishing. 

Census data shows that of the 1.4 million licensed anglers within Wisconsin, roughly one-third of those report to ice fish. Within Wisconsin, ice anglers catch 14 million fish each season.

A grandpa and his grandson ice fish.
Credit Debbi McCullough

Part of what attracts people to the sport includes the lower cost of entry — it costs only $20 for an annual fishing license, and equipment such as augers and fishing poles have gone down, too. Older ice anglers also enjoy sharing their knowledge with younger Wisconsinites, keeping the family tradition alive. 

But what Wisconsin's anglers say they love the most about this sport is embracing, not resisting, Wisconsin's winter. Through pup tents, heating systems, and homemade shanties, they can withstand even the bitterest cold for hours.

In this feature, we explore the joys of ice fishing, the intricacies of the sport, and why avid ice anglers insist on training young Wisconsinites, too: