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Free fishing weekend preview

Ice fishing holes on Fox River in De Pere, January 19, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

DE PERE (WLUK) -- Even in mid-January, many fishermen are out on frozen lakes and waterways in our area, and that includes the Fox River off Voyageur Park in De Pere.

And for the seventh year, the Department of Natural Resources is offering a free fishing weekend, January 20-21.

Sleds loaded with equipment crossed 16 inches of Fox River Ice Friday morning. Not far away, anglers set gear called tip-ups. The flag alerts fishermen of a possible bite from below. It's all part of a popular pasttime called ice fishing.

"It gives me an extra three months in a year to fish. We can come out and get to places we can't normally get to from the shore," said Lenny Gister, Racine.

Gister and his friend Andrew Nowakowski have been ice fishing as long as they can remember. They drilled six holes, and used minnows to jig for walleye and perch.

"Patience is a virtue. as they say. It's no truer than with ice fishing. You can go hours between bites. So you got to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep fishing," said Andrew Nowakowski, Ashwaubenon.

"We have fun. It's something to do in the winter," said Gister.

If fishing sounds fun, the Department of Natural Resources is offering a weekend of free fishing, for those who may want to test their luck both on, and below these frozen waters.

"We offer two of these during the year. You don't need a license or a stamp. You can go out and fish. But what you have to do however, is obey all the other fishing rules and regulations," said Steve Hogler, DNR Fisheries Biologist.

Hogler says clinics at various lake locations will teach newcomers, the tricks of the trade.

"Get out and have some fun, enjoy the outdoors. Perhaps learn something about a sport that they once participated in. It's a really good family opportunity to go out with your kids and fish," said Hogler.

"I think it's a great idea, because it gives a chance for especially young kids to come out here, have a good time with their parents, just like I did when I was a pup," said Nowakowski.

1.3 million people buy a Wisconsin fishing license, either annual or daily each year.

Experts warn people that no ice is ever 100 percent safe. And they say check with bait shops for conditions before heading out at your own risk.

The DNR had authority to create a free fishing day in 1986. It was expanded to a free fishing weekend in 1994. The winter free fishing weekend started in 2012.


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