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Two happy young anglers. / Submitted by Gary Engberg
Having fun at the Yahara Ice Fishing Day. / Submitted by Gary Engberg


D and S Bait and Tackle in Madison. (608)-241-4225.
Wilderness Fish and Game in Sauk City. (608)-643-2433.


Now that southern Wisconsin has enough ice on itís lakes to be safe, itís time to take the children out fishing. One of my doníts for early ice fishing is to not to take children out fishing on ďfirst iceĒ because of the safety factor. I have always believed that you, besides being a fisherman, are also a father who should always have your childrenís safety at the forefront. Wait until you are sure that the ice is safe and to me, safe is at least 5- or 6-inches. Besides having solid and thick ice, you should keep your children away from pressure cracks, feeder creeks and streams, warm water discharges, and any moving water. Keep the children close to you when fishing and try to make their time on the ice as enjoyable as possible.

Thereís a certain amount of responsibility when taking young children on the ice. Donít just set up your ice shelter and start fishing. Take the time to show the children how youíre fishing and show them the correct and proper use of the equipment and gear that theyíll be using and a little talk about fishing technique and ice safety. Catching fish is one of the important things when trying to introduce kids to fishing and the outdoors. This is why the first few outings with children should be to lakes and ponds where there are abundant fish that the youngsters can regularly catch. One can see the joy and excitement in your childís face after they catch a few fish on their own.

One good location to take the kids in southern Wisconsin is to Brittingham Park in downtown Madisonís Triangle area. The local fishing club, the Yahara Fishing Club, has a ice fishing jamboree every winter for hundreds of young and beginning anglers, The Club gives away fishing rods, bait buckets, and other fishing gear to all the kids who show up to learn and improve their ice fishing skills. Itís been proven time and time again that you have to start children when theyíre young or theyíll be lost to the sport of fishing forever. Brittingham Park and nearby Monona Bay are locations where panfish, mainly bluegills and crappies, can be caught regularly by children. The fish are on the small side, but there are also some ďgoodĒ keepers that would keep anyone satisfied and make a great fish fry. Most of the bluegills are in the 5 to 7 inch range with a few in excess of 8 inches, which I consider to be a decent or ďkeeperĒ bluegill. The crappies average 8 to 9 inches with the biggest fish around 10 inches. Thereís also are the odd largemouth bass or northern pike that are also very catchable. But, panfish are the most abundant species and bite most of the time, if you stay mobile and keep moving from hole to hole. In many of these ďspotsĒ you can get fishing without an auger, just by fishing holes drilled by other anglers.

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The nice thing about fishing Brittingham Park and Lake Monona Bay is that:

1. There is a parking lot close to the ice and the walk is not too far for even young children.

2. Thereís plenty of fish for the kids to catch and they usually bite consistently.

3. You donít need any fancy equipment to catch fish. A light and sensitive rod and reel with a spring bobber on the tip to detect light bites, an assortment of ice jigs for pan fish, wax worms or spikes for bait, and a 5 gallon pail to sit on is all that is needed for childrenís success.

4. You will catch some keeper fish, so the kids can eat some of what they catch and also learn something about cleaning fish plus the important practice of catching and releasing fish.

No Matter where you live, there are places like this where you can take the kids to catch some fish and learn the sport of ice fishing. Take the children to a place where they will have some success and hopefully get hooked on fishing for their lives. Madisonís Lake Monona and the Triangle around Brittingham Park are the spots to take that child of yours on a nice sunny day. There are others fishing locations where you can take a child and not have as many people and have success fishing are; Fish and Crystal Lake near Sauk City, Indian Lake off Highway 12 and Highway 19, and I almost forgot little Lake Wingra near the zoo in Madison which is full of small bluegills for the catching. Make your ice fishing day with your child or children a fun and enjoyable day. Hopefully, youíll have a fishing partner for life! Have fun.

This year, the Yahara Fishing Club Kidís Ice Fishing Day is Saturday, January 12, 2013 at the Brittingham Park Shelter from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon with free rods and reels to the first 300 children, more free gear, and a hot lunch. Come with your children and learn to fish with a free rod and reel from the Yahara Fishing Club and its sponsors.

Gary Engberg is a professional tournament angler, fishing guide, and writer. He began fishing tournaments in the early 1990ís and has fished the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT), North American Walleye Association (NAWA), Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC), World Walleye Association (WWA), FLW, and Mercury Nationals in the years since. Gary has hosted the Outdoor Horizons radio show weekly for 14 years in Madison on WTDY 1670 AM and WTDY 106.7 FM Saturdays at 8:05 am. and is also a correspondent for the Wisconsin State Journal for the last 12 years. Visit for more from Gary Engberg.

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