It’s the first ever "free fishing weekend" in wisconsin. It's run by the DNR and it's the only weekend where both residents and non-residents can fish without a license. It costs ten dollars for resident to get a fishing license for the day, but this weekend it's free on any lake or river and that means more anglers out on the ice.
Experienced anglers are happy to see newcomers on the ice. Eric Smet has been fishing since he was a kid and he’s taught his son Austin the tricks of the trade. They’re glad the DNR is encouraging others to test out the sport.
“They think of winter and they don’t think of something like this, and it’s good for people to get outside,” said Austin Smet.
“The ice is a lot easier for people who may not have access to boats,” said Eric Smet.
Free fishing weekend was set up under act 168, a law passed to boost fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities. It means anglers not only don't need a license, they also don't need to have the equipment. The DNR is also offering free loaner equipment.But fish biologists, like Steve Hogler, say that with a lot of inexperienced fishermen on the ice, safety is a top priority.
"Ice conditions can vary greatly from lake to lake, and from even within the lake, so we always suggest that you treat ice with extreme caution and certainly know where you're going,” said Steve Holger, fish biologist.
The ice is about eight inches thick out on the bay, but it’s not always easy tell if it’s safe.
Even experienced anglers like the Smets know first hand just how important it is to be cautious.
“I won’t go out on the ice if there’s less than like six inches. I fell in once,” said Eric Smet.
Keeping safety in mind makes the weekend a successful one for all.
Free ice fishing continues tomorrow.The DNR will also be holding its annual summer free fishing weekend in the first week of june.