First free ice fishing weekend in Wisconsin this month - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

First free ice fishing weekend in Wisconsin this month

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - This month, you can test the waters of a Wisconsin winter sport, for free. The first winter Free Fishing Weekend is set for January 19th and 20th.

For some, winter means hibernation, for others, hiding out would mean missing out. 

"Once you pull one through the ice you are kind of hooked," says Eau Claire resident Taylor Mattson. 

Ed Culhane, the Public Affairs Manager for the Wisconsin DNR in Eau Claire, says, "It takes a little bit of a heartier soul to get out in the cold weather and on the ice."

Drilling, scooping, and jigging may not be at the top of your to-do list, but, on January 19th and 20th, you may want to add it. 

"Anybody can fish without having to buy a license on that weekend," says Culhane.   

The free ice fishing weekend is part of the Sporting Heritage Bill, a law passed last year to help make outdoor recreation in Wisconsin more accessible.

Culhane says,"It's a way to encourage people who maybe haven't tried it, to give it a try. They don't have to buy a license they can go out and see if it's something they like."

"I don't think a lot of people, if they don't have the equipment, or if they don't know people with the equipment, it's hard to get them out on the ice," says Mattson.   

Sometimes less is more, but, not when it comes to catching fish,  or the amount of people who care about winter recreation.   

Culhane says, "It gives a constituent for the outdoors, it gives us a large group of advocates, people who care about it and are going to participate in taking care of the natural resources."

And, even if you don't have beginners luck…"It's fun, being able to make friends, just based off of having the same interest. Spending time with family and friends, just getting away from everyday life," says Eau Claire resident Brandon Dressel. 

Before you get out on any lake, always check with locals about ice the conditions.

For years, Wisconsin has also had an open water Free Fishing Weekend, it falls on the first weekend of June. 

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