Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Midwest Outdoors January 2010

January Ice Time
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

Although there may be a few places below dams where a guy can launch a boat and catch a few walleye, January is pretty much ice time if you are looking for a tug on the line. Sure, I’ve spent plenty of January days fishing the Wisconsin or Mississippi Rivers from a boat, but not as much in recent years. Age, cold snaps and large amounts of snow have dwindled the flame that drove me to fish open water walleye in extreme conditions. But I’ve also grown fonder of catching walleye through the ice. Wolf River ice. Friends who fish and portable shelters like those from Frabill and others, make being on the ice much more comfortable. Seats out preform buckets and reduces fatigue, plus I can wear less clothing. That keeps me from getting sweated up while setting up and drilling holes. A small heater makes even the coldest night I might fish a comfortable experience.

Tip ups are a popular way to fish. Anglers gather in groups and set out lines of tip ups in transition areas above deep water and along shallow flats. Walleye are often on the move this time of year, going from deep water zone to deep water zone in search of food. Rising and falling water levels caused by any melting snow, or rain will increase fish activity. Walleye will also use areas near tributaries and places where large back waters meet the river. Places such as the Big Eddie, Round Hole, near the mouth of the Rat River and at Lake Poygan all provide deep water where walleye may hold for long periods of time. But those are just the most well known. There are many other areas where depths of 25 to 30 feet can be found, from Fremont to New London and above. I’m sure anglers on snowmobiles and 4-wheelers fish many of these areas, although great care should be taken at all times when traveling the river. I like jigging whether fishing deep water or in a transition area. The feel of a walleye hitting the jig on a short stick makes fishing fun. I love fighting the fish and coaxing it through the hole, which should be drilled on a down stream angle.

I’m a novice angler on the ice, but I can see why it is becoming so popular. Better equipment makes taking advantage of the access ice provides an easier experience then the days of my youth. Lightweight portable augers are light years above the ones invented in the 50’s that were available when I started ice fishing. I couldn’t afford one so I was limited to hand powered options. I still went fishing and my first spoon auger provided plenty of holes on Pewaukee Lake, or Nagawicka. Drilling holes was hard work and I fell on my can more times then I caught fish, but I never fell in. The truck did once, but not me. Bluegills and some of the best perch fishing I was ever lucky enough to be a part of are my best memories. The Mottl brothers and small group of friends had some memorable Nagawicka moments for sure. But that’s the lure of ice fishing. The fishing is often secondary to the memories, sunsets and bull sessions that make up the activity. Well at least for a guy who has never caught a lot of fish doing it.

Wolf River Country backwaters, mill ponds and small area lakes also provide a great deal of action for panfish and pike. Bluegill are a favorite target but anglers will also be in search of crappie and perch. Location of the best schools varies year to year but the Boom Bay area and Pages Slough are popular destinations. Kiesow’s Landing on the Rat River is arguably the best access to this area. An ice road is plowed to the Wolf River and his bait shop has everything you need, including up to date information. The west end of Lake Poygan usually produces some quality fishing for northern pike and crappie can be found in area channels and out on Lake Poygan. Anglers are also expecting another good year for walleye fishing out on Poygan. There are times when it’s been fantastic whether using tip ups or jigging. Schools of fish use the bays, horseshoe hole and areas near the river current to feed. White bass can also be caught in good numbers at times.

Be sure to check out Waupaca County’s newest event, Shiver in the Shanty. The ice fishing tournament, a joint effort between Waupaca and Fremont Area Chambers of Commerce, is slated for Jan. 21-24, 2010. The fishing tournament will be family-friendly, welcoming participants of all ages to catch the biggest stringer and biggest fish in a variety of species. There will be a tent site in both communities for fish measurement, with the majority of activities occurring throughout both communities. Other activities will include things such as ice bowling, a chili-cook-off, live entertainment, ice-related theatrical events, raffles and a shanty decorating contest. There are activities every day Thursday through Sunday with poker runs, bands and fun activities planned for both Fremont, between the Bridge Bar and Channel Cats, and in front of the Wheelhouse in Waupaca. Contact or call 715-258-7343 for more information.

Joel “Doc” Kunz is a field editor for Midwest Outdoors and 2005 Readers Choice Award Winner. He is also a member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. To keep up with Doc’s fall fishing adventures please visit his new web site


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