Wardens remind all anglers of safety – no matter the weatherThe much-anticipated Wisconsin Fishing Opener arrives on the heels of an equally unanticipated May snowstorm – not big enough to halt this annual outdoor party but big enough to require all who hold a rod or throw a line this weekend to have a lot of fun with the highest regard for safety.
By: By Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement, Superior Telegram
The much-anticipated Wisconsin Fishing Opener arrives on the heels of an equally unanticipated May snowstorm – not big enough to halt this annual outdoor party but big enough to require all who hold a rod or throw a line this weekend to have a lot of fun with the highest regard for safety.
That’s the ice safety message because, as of Thursday, there are lakes in the north with up to 20 inches of lake ice beneath the new foot of snow. When you think of Wisconsin’s fishing opener, it typically does not mean the ice fishing opener.
Head to the south and the story is saturated soils, overflowing lakes and -- in the case of the Vern Lake Wolf Dam in Kenosha County and the Portage levee in recent weeks -- straining dams and levees. But that’s the south.
Travel through the counties between this tale of two states in one, last night there were thunderstorms and freezing drizzle.
It’s so wacky around Wisconsin even the sturgeon wrapped up their spawning session after just more than three days. The big fish that typically enjoy spawning for at least a week said forget this and split after just more than three days.
No matter what Mother Nature says, it is the weekend of the fishing opener. And the weather is posing some challenges, putting it mildly.
Why the heavy tone? Because it’s heavy snow. Make that about a foot or more on top of vulnerable ice that anglers may not realize is there. So, here are a few safety pointers to pack with your tackle box to make sure you have a lot of fun – and go home at the end of the day with great stories to share with friends and family.
“Ice is always unpredictable, and that’s particularly true under current conditions of heavy snow and late season deteriorating ice,” Todd Schaller, the Department of Natural Resources recreation safety chief, says.
Schaller recommends you not only learn these top ice safety regulations, but teach your kids about the dangers associated with frozen ponds, lakes and rivers. Turn it into a game: See who can remember most of them, you or your kids. And remember in Wisconsin, there is no wagering.
Here are the top weekend safety tips:
If you are an ice angler:
Know before you go, contact local sport shops to ask about lake or river ice conditions.
Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have current that can thin the ice.
Do not go out alone, carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you’ll return home.
Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket to help you stay afloat and to help slow body heat loss; take extra gloves so you always have a dry pair.
Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
Carry a couple of spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself – or others – out of the ice.
Do not travel in unfamiliar areas or at night.
Use caution near shorelines -- water level drops may occur close to shore and ice may not be supported by water underneath.
If you are a boat angler:
Wear your life jacket.
Be aware of high water and swift current areas.