Ice fishing season begins as northern lakes start to freeze up MADISON – Flag up! Ice fishing season has started for many northern Wisconsin anglers and is spurring their southern counterparts to ensure their tip-ups are in tip-top condition. Ice fishing forecasts and weekly reports, ice fishing tips, and information on how ice anglers can prevent spreading a fish disease to new waters can be found on a Ice Fishing in Wisconsin featured page on the DNR Web site. Hard water fishing is a tradition for some and an obsession for others in a state with 1.4 million licensed anglers. About 11.4 percent of Wisconsinites 16 and older -- an estimated 474,000 people -- gladly trade their comfortable recliners for an overturned bucket or the relative luxury of an ice shanty, eagerly awaiting that ever-so-slight bob of the rod tip or the thrill of seeing a red tip-up flag fly. “There's something really special about watching a tip-up flag go up and the anticipation of what's on the line as you walk up to tend the flag -- especially when you see the spindle of the tip-up doing a slow, steady turn, which is a sure sign of a BIG walleye,” says Skip Sommerfeldt, a DNR fisheries biologist who fished 79 out of a possible 91 days last winter. “And then there's the sight of an 8-pound walleye being slid out of a 8-inch ice hole -- you wonder how it made it through and it becomes an image that's burned into your mind for the rest of your life.” Sommerfeldt fished only Butternut Lake last year, mainly for walleye, and always with tip-ups, in part, because it’s more entertaining for his three daughters, frequent fishing companions. “The winter of 2006-07 was my best ice fishing season on Butternut Lake in ten years,” he says. “I had good consistent action throughout the winter, caught good numbers of walleye, and the average size was up about 2 inches from the previous bunch of years.” Sommerfeldt’s detailed diary from last winter are available on the featured Web page. Statewide, fewer fish are caught during the winter than other times, but more of those fish are kept, according to results from a 2000-2001 mail survey of Wisconsin license holders, the latest figures available. Across the entire year, anglers caught 69,445,957 fish and kept 31,303,049 of them. While only 18 percent of the total catch came during winter months, those months accounted for 23 percent of the total harvest. Northern pike, bluegills and yellow perch are the best bets for winter fishing, based on the proportion of the total annual catch hauled in during the winter, according to the survey. Scot Stewart, DNR’s regional fisheries supervisor for south central Wisconsin and an avid ice angler himself, says there are many good reasons to ice fish beyond it being a good way to enjoy the outdoors in winter and the social aspects of fishing with friends and family. “Panfish taste better because there is less algae in the winter,” he says. “And I know I can really target large pike. Winter pike are a lot prettier and heavier.” Jeff Roth, a fisheries biologist in Mercer who’s already been out ice fishing, enjoys the solitude the pasttime offers. “You can always find a place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the quietness of winter. A few fresh walleyes are the icing-on-the-cake.” FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Staggs (608) 267-0796; or your local fish biologist.