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Myron Gilbert of Team USA fishes Saturday during the 2013 World Ice Fishing Championship on the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir near Mosinee. / Dan Young/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
A competitor's catch is handled Saturday before the 2013 World Ice Fishing Championship weigh-in at the Plaza Hotel in Wausau. / Dan Young/Daily Herald Media

Saturday standings

1. Russia
2. Finland
3. Lithuania
4. Poland
5. Kazakhstan
6. Ukraine
7. USA
8. Mongolia
9. Sweden
10. Estonia
11. Japan

A competitor holds a custom-made rod Saturday as he fishes at the 2013 World Ice Fishing Championship on the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir near Mosinee. / Dan Young/Daily Herald Media
A competitor from the Mongolian team concentrates Saturday as he fishes during the 2013 World Ice Fishing Championship on the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir near Mosinee. / Dan Young/Daily Herald Media

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For most ice anglers in central Wisconsin, fishing is a chance to hang with friends, enjoy a couple of beers, listen to the Packers on the radio and maybe catch a few fish.

But for about 100 anglers from around the world gathered on the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir near Mosinee this weekend, ice fishing is serious business.

First, there are the rules: No power augers or sonar fish-finders allowed; no getting within 5 meters of another angler’s hole; coaches — yes, fishing coaches — must stay in a neutral zone and can’t assist the anglers.

More on ice fishing: Ice fishing news from around the state | Your ice fishing photos | Build a map | Read ice fishing reports | We're blogging about ice fishing

Second, there’s the competitiveness. Fishermen sprint across the frozen water and furiously cut holes in the ice so they can keep their lures in the water for as long as possible, all because the winning team will take home a trophy and the title of world’s best ice fishermen.

“It’s all-out war,” said Zibi Wojcik, Team Poland’s coach. “Everyone on the ice tries to hide when they got a fish, but you can tell when they do because of us coaches. Everyone just watches everyone else to gauge their performance.”

Anglers from 11 countries spent Saturday reeling in crappies and carp on the Big Eau Pleine in the first day of the two-day World Ice Fishing Championship.

They came from across the globe — including Japan, Mongolia, Poland and Lithuania — to compete, and a team from the Czech Republic came to observe the competition.

During the event, the ice is split into five sections with one member of each team in each of the sections. At the end of a three-hour round, the angler with the heaviest total weight of fish receives one point, and the angler with the smallest catch receives 11. Totals from Saturday and today will be added up and, as in golf, the lowest score wins.

Team USA coach Brian Gaber said the competition on the ice is serious. Anglers must rely solely on experience, intuition and strength — and the research they did last week while practicing on the Big Eau Pleine.

“We’ve put in countless hours on this ice to determine the best spots,” Gaber said. “It’s all about the tactics and the competition inside that grid.”

Gaber said the first few days of practice were tense as the teams surveyed the lake and tried to claim their spots on the ice, but as the week progressed, tensions eased and the anglers rekindled friendships from past tournaments.

“Through cultural barriers — language, food, fishing styles — we all come together with this shared love of ice fishing, and that’s cool to be a part of,” he said.

Batbayar Magsarjav, of team Mongolia, enjoyed the first day of competition. He caught two perch and one crappie.

“I’ll sit outside in the cold all day; this is a powerful hobby for me,” he said. “It takes me all over the world, and I love it.”

The final round of competition begins at 9 a.m. today and ends with an awards banquet at 6 p.m. at the Plaza Hotel & Suites in Wausau.

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