Over the last several years, Wisconsin high schools have been adding ice fishing teams to their school’s extra-curricular program list. Many of us old timers could only dream of going fishing while at school.
Surprisingly, 45 Wisconsin high schools offer an Ice Fishing Club, including several in the area: Appleton, Chilton, North Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac, Ripon, Menasha, New Holstein, Oshkosh and Oakfield. The schools do not limit the clubs to ice fishing, as several of the high schools offer open water fishing teams in addition to their ice teams. From a participation standpoint, ice fishing is a much easier sport to support, as no boats are needed to accommodate all the students and coaches.
The schools have a set schedule, which starts on Jan 4, 2014 at Hemlock Lake in Barron County (near Rice Lake). There are potentially eight competitions in which schools can opt to participate. The season concludes on Lake Winnebago, with the state championship being held on Feb. 22. This is the same weekend when Battle on Bago occurs, which is one of the largest ice fishing competitions in the Midwest.
The State Championship format consists of teams of 10 students. Each team weighs the ten heaviest fish they catch. Eligible species include pan fish, walleye, white bass and burbot. Catching a burbot is a fairly rare on Lake Winnebago, but could yield some serious weight.
Some schools have multiple teams. North Fond du Lac has a club size of approximately 50 students according to coach Pat Kolbe. Three years ago this club had 15 members.
High school teams are typically funded through donations from the community or through user fees. In some rare case, corporate sponsor have helped supply equipment for a few of the teams. Coaches and community volunteers help instruct the students on basic techniques and help with finding hot fishing locations.
On Jan. 20, Troy Peterson, aka Mr. Bluegill, presented an ice seminar for the North Fond du Lac ice fishing team. These learning opportunities are vital to the success of the teams, and provide the students the access to top notched professionals. These presentations also allow the interaction of novice and experienced sportsmen, giving everyone a learning opportunity.
If you are interested in assisting a local team, a list of teams and coaches can be found at http://www.studentfishing.com. I plan to be on the ice with the North Fond du Lac team as a coach later in 2014. Your time or gently used/new equipment donations to your local high school can make a huge impact on a future sportsmen.
Read more posts from Mark Schram.
Mark Schram is an avid tournament fisherman, focusing most of his efforts on the Winnebago System in East Central Wisconsin. Mark's blog will focus on the current fishing conditions and selected topics related to the Lake Winnebago region, outdoor sports and life in general. As an angler, he ultimately strives to educate new and established fishermen on the joys of nature. Mark is the founder of www.myfishingpartner.com, a published outdoor writer and an active member of many fishing organizations including the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA #182).