Wisconsin lures out-of-state anglers by waiving ice-fishing fees

By Rebecca Fanning
Medill Reports

Boating, fishing, cheese and beer. Wisconsin’s identity is rooted in summer fun. But plunging temperatures mean fewer tourists in the chilly months.

In 2012 Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources launched free fishing weekends to attract more visitors to their state. For one weekend each January and June, the DNR waives the 50 dollar fishing license and offers free gear and lessons. Their goal: Get locals and visitors outside and excited to kick off the fishing season.

James and Kendra Hall were two of the first-time anglers who drove from Chicago to give ice fishing a try.

“I’ve wanted to ice fish my entire life,” said James.

The need for specific equipment and a short window when the lakes are frozen keeps many from trying the sport. But last weekend in Wisconsin both elements came together to kick off the season.

If you missed the Wisconsin fun, there’s another chance to ice fish locally. On Saturday, January 26 the LVVA hosts the ninth annual ice fishing derby in Wauconda, IL. Visit lvvaicefishingderby.com  for details.

Photo at top: An early freeze and “free fishing weekend” bring families and novice ice fishermen to Wisconsin’s lakes. (Rebecca Fanning/MEDILL)