By Cara L. Dempski
The first few weeks of 2018 brought a cold start to this year’s ice fishing season, with temperatures down around zero most Saturdays.
But, the cold conditions did not dissuade a group of young local anglers intent on catching the big one from hitting a few Northern Wisconsin lakes for weekend tournaments held by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association.
Colfax Ice Vikes coach and advisor Mike Dombrowski indicated his teams enjoyed themselves at the January 13 contest held at Amacoy Lake in Bruce, even if a mix up over the rules meant the competitors could not register any of the fish.
“We released everything,” Dombrowski explained of the rules miscommunication. “We hammered the panfish, and caught a ton despite the frigid temperatures.”
Dombrowski said it was hard to even bait hooks because breathing fogged the air inside the fishing shacks. Despite that, the fishing was “hot,” since the panfish started biting immediately and did not let up except for a slight lull around lunchtime.
The only downside to the day was not finding a single northern to turn in for points.
The Colfax coach also said the team planned to attend the “Battle on the Bay” on Ashland’s Chequamegon Bay January 20. The team left school January 19 and spent the night before heading out to fish the following morning.
“We had excellent weather for the contest, and immediately the students were on fish,” Dombrowski said.
The Ice Vikes split into two teams to fish opposite sides of the bay, with one group staying on the Ashland side, while the other headed over to the Washburn side. Kali Risler nabbed the team’s largest fish with a 30-inch northern pulled from near Ashland, while the kids fishing near Washburn brought up a mixed bag of fish.
According to Dombrowski, the whitefish struck early. The coach reports there were some big perch in the area, and said Nick Jensen caught a splake, and someone else in the group nabbed a brown trout on a tip-up.
Overall, the team pulled fish from six different species from the bay, which added to the final points total, since each different species garnered another 30 points each toward the final total. The 180 extra points were added to the total length of the team’s 10 best fish, which left the Vikes just 2.5 points behind first place.
The second-place finish at Chequamegon sent the Colfax team home with a trophy, some team prizes, and a series of raffle prizes from the Friday-night gathering at the Ashland armory.
Over in Elk Mound, Tim Lambele said the former ice fishing team is now called Elk Mound Youth Ice Fishing.
“We have a great interest this year, and have about 10 percent of the student body signed up,” he explained. “Many kids have never ice fished, and are trying their hand at a lifetime hobby.”
Lambele said the teams fished at Bone Lake near Luck on January 6 with temperatures down around -25 degrees. Despite the icy cold, 27 Mounders made the trip along with a group of parents who volunteered to transport the students.
While the fish were not cooperating with all the Elk Mound teams in attendance, Lambele said everyone still had fun.
Twenty-four Elk Mound students headed to Bruce and the Amacoy Lake tournament to face off against Colfax and the 15 other schools in attendance January 13. Teams two and three tied for fourth place at the tournament, with both having 116 fish at the end of the day.
Lambele said he and the teams planned to attend at least two more tournaments prior to this year’s state tournament, being held February 17 and 18 on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes. Dombrowski also indicated his team will likely be making the trip to Minocqua next month.