High School Ice Fishing tournaments Begin to Flourish

By Scott Stankowski - January 1, 2013
Teach a kid to read, and they will have a tool that just about anyone could have taught them. Do you remember who taught you to read? Now close your eyes and reflect on who taught you to fish. I bet it is a strong vivid memory that embeds itself on more than one level. Being a high school ice fishing team coach provides students these memories and offers the coaches the ability to make a huge impact on another person’s life that will last a lifetime. Wendy Dallman, a physical education teacher at Prairie Farms, remembers going fishing as a young girl on Lake Holcombe.

Many states across the country have high school open water fishing teams, fully sponsored and part of the extra-curricular programs. They can even letter in the sport and go on and receive scholarships at college to be a member of the collegiate circuit. With Wisconsin having hard water for much of the school year, it seems to be a good fit for the state. Ted Bonde of New Holstein, Greg Franzen of Appleton and Wendy Dallman of Prairie Farms High School have been the backbone of creating the sport. Four years ago, they worked with the Battle On Bago leaders of Art Dumke and Lori Davis to coordinate a ‘high school ice fishing championship ‘that piggybacked the big tournament on Lake Winnebago. This past year seventeen teams participated in the event. It would have never taken place had it not been for good communication. A post on Lake-Link provided such communication in the inaugural season.

This year the trio has worked out a fishing circuit. Four tournaments will be held around the state (Wisconsin). January 19th the Battle of the Bay in Ashland, January 26th on the Petenwell Flowage, the high school championship on Lake Winnebago on the 23rd of February and a mix it up tournament on Lake Chetek on March 2nd.

In Wisconsin Rapids, I can attest that the excitement of fishing in these tournaments is contagious, we have two meetings a month, and my classroom is full enough to have two teams of ten.

Dallman of Prairie Farms has even more excitement, “This year my students started asking about ice fishing on the first day of school. This promised to be our biggest year yet. After our first meeting, we have 53 students participating!

“Prairie Farm’s high school enrollment is 105 so half of the high school competes in ice fishing! Of those 53 students we have 17 girls participating on this year’s team which is an increase of 13. We also have two foreign exchange students this year from Hungary and Thailand. The most amazing fact about our team is that over half the participants involved not participate in any other organized winter sports activity such as basketball, wrestling, or dance.”

With the world in the state that it is right now, we need more Dallman’s in our schools. She is reaching out and providing lifelong activities and skills that keep students focused.

Bonde added that his students have different attitudes, “Each day at school is not a day where we talk about which party they are going to but rather a day where they come into my office and we talk about fishing trips they want to take or which lake the fish are biting on, or is the ice safe enough.” He also added that “If you have ever taken a kid out for the first time and seen the look on their face when they pull in their first fish you know what I mean when I say life altering. There are a lot of students don’t have these opportunities without these tournaments or clubs. A high school state wide fishing circuit gives these opportunities to any student that wants it.”

Battle on Bago also provides the high school teams to sell raffle tickets for their event. In return they give a percentage of the proceeds back to the teams to be used to promote ice fishing for the youths. Some of the teams have purchased team electronics, ice augers, and shelters. In addition booster clubs and PTO’s have kicked in funds to further enhance the teams. A few teams have garnered some sponsorships from the likes of Jiffy and HT.

The excitement with working with willing youth is certainly contagious and provides an avenue to transfer the respect of the outdoors to them. The circuit is always looking for people to help out with tournaments, provide gear for the local teams or to help guide the teams and educate them on the ins and outs of ice fishing. If you are interested in helping a team out, please contact me and I will find out if a team is already established in your school district and get you connected.

Author Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski is the senior outdoor writer for centralwisconsinsports.net and produces weekly articles, typically highlighting getting kids active in the outdoors. His family prides itself on living off of the land. Scott also takes the mantra into the classroom where he teaches environmental science at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. Scott and his sons have won numerous titles in turkey and deer calling at the state level. Scott and his sons have a national outdoor television show titled Growin' Up Wild and can be found on Facebook.