With the upcoming sturgeon season only a few days away, many people will be traveling the ice on the Winnebago system in route to their shanty in hopes of spearing the big one.
This year, anglers need to take extra cautionary measures and remember some basic ice travel tips while enjoying the season. The water clarity is not great, so my guess is that the season will go the full sixteen days and youíre going to be traveling on and off the ice more than a few times. The east shore has fairly decent ice but you need to pay close attention to your surroundings
If youíre new to the ice, please travel in groups and DO NOT blaze your own trail. Iíve talked to a few fisherman already this year that needed help getting out of the water. Keep all safety equipment handy as it could save a life.
2. Drive slowly
When you drive on the ice there is no need to drive 50-plus miles per hour. You are actually sending a shock wave under the water and it ruins the shoreline and is hard on the expansion cracks. Remember you need to get back to shore so itís important you take care of the ice while youíre on it.
3. Christmas trees
At the Pipe Fishing Club on the east Shore trees are placed as follows:
When the trees are first set, the holes are drilled at an angle so that the trees lean toward shore and can aid in directing anglers to the landing.
The trees marking the road are set at 1/10th of a mile apart. At the 1/2 mile marker or 5 trees, the tree is turned upside down. This is to indicate 1/2 mile of travel.
Mile markers are as follows:
2 Trees = 1 Mile
3 Trees = 2 Miles
4 Trees = 3 Miles
5 Trees = 4 Miles
6 Trees = 5 Miles
During years with good ice conditions, we will try to work with Wendtís fishing club to hook up with their North road. Trees lying down mean poor ice conditions or danger and please steer clear of these areas. Never move any trees on the lake as they all serve a purpose.
Trees marking the road at the Pipe landing do not mean that ice conditions are suitable for cars and trucks to travel. Many people view trees as a green light to drive anywhere. This is NOT the case. The trees are put out to assist anglers that wish to walk, snowmobile or use their ATV to get to their favorite fishing spot. If you want to take your vehicle, thatís up to you Ö
4. Ice bridges
When you encounter a bridge on the lake approach it slowly, get up on it and maintain a SLOW speed across the bridge. DO NOT RACE across the bridge or think itís some kind of a ramp. The bridge might flex and move and groan a little bit but this is normal. Remember the guy behind you has to use it too.
Many people will be so engrossed in the spearing that they will totally forget about whatís going on outside. Spear fisherman need to be mindful of the weather conditions and keep an eye and ear to the sky. This year especially, sheets of ice can move when it gets windy. If the ice does shift it might alter your route back to shore. Always have the contact number for your club in case of an emergency and they will come and move bridges. Do NOT try to hop an expansion crack on your own.
Hopefully these tips will keep you safe this year. Remember to throw a few bucks in the jug of your local fishing clubs. These clubs plow roads, maintain bridges and help keep you safe on the ice. It is a huge cost to maintain an ice road and without your help the clubs or roads would not exist. You can find updated ice depth reports at http://www.fdloutdoors.com under 'Pipe fishing club.' I will update the information as it comes to me.
Good luck and be safe.
John McArdle is a life-long resident of Fond Du Lac and blogs about fishing adventures in the great state of Wisconsin. Anything from trout fishing the Driftless Area to sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago, John will provide stories ,tips and photos of his FINtastic adventures in Wisconsin!