Tip-ups on Opening Weekend?

By Ted Peck - April 1, 2014
Tourism folks in Wisconsin's Indianhead Country are anxiously watching the weather this first weekend of spring. Last year they were able to put a positive spin on tip-up fishing at the Governor's Opener held on Lake Namekagon.

If ice fishing in May were a once-in-a-lifetime event the experience would certainly be noteworthy. The winter of 2012-13 was semi-tough. The winter of 2013-14 was brutal and still making its presence known in a cruel April Fool's joke.

Speculation at Governor's Opener venue on Balsam Lake isn't a question of ice fishing or not. The real question is whether participants will be able to reach water without an extension for their power augers.

Ice will certainly be gone from lakes across southern Wisconsin by the first Saturday in May. Prospects for making a long cast when the Minnesota season opens are just as dismal.

Mobility is a major key to success in a late ice scenario. Walking a half-mile to a favorite spot with a sled full of gear in tow stretches the concept of "fun".

Hovercrafts, Argos and Wilcrafts are beyond the price point of most recreational anglers. Those who own an ATV can be serious late-ice players with an invention called "J-wheelz".

J-wheelz are the brainchild of a South Dakota farmer who had trouble getting out to feed his livestock in winter conditions like the ones we've become all too familiar with.

When I saw how they worked on a recent perch trip out there the check book that is attached to a back pocket with several large fishhooks came out so fast that pain from writing a $650 check wasn't even noticed.

"What ARE those things?" has replaced "how are they biting" as the most asked question at the boat ramp for the past couple weeks. Now that J-wheelz have been given a hard and honest field test I can offer a heartfelt endorsement.

One of the most ironic aspects of promotion on the J-wheelz webpage is "recognized to meet floatation requirements in Dane County, Wisconsin". This tells me there is no other jurisdiction between South Dakota and Timbuktu mandating floatation on a machine used to traverse the ice.

Flotation is a good thing to have on an ATV in a winter which refuses to let go. Mandating flotation which is subject to government approval is counter to generally accepted common sense which Cheeseheads take quiet pride in.

The manufacturer says this product provides 310 lbs. of positive floatation, in addition to profoundly enhanced traction over snow, muck and other stuff which isn't much fun to walk through.

With the front rack of my ATV modified to carry a power auger and the back rack modified to carry a portable shanty with all other necessary ice fishing gear no lake-dwelling panfish can feel safe about not becoming a sandwich between now and ice-out.

Riverine walleyes are about two weeks behind the norm across most of the Midwest.

A great deal can happen with weather between now and IRS appreciation day at mid-month. April 15 is the full moon. Look for walleyes which typically drop their eggs around April 1st to get frisky during this full moon period.

Walleyes which typically spawn around April 20 may go early because of the moon's influence if the weather quickly approaches seasonal norms.

A lot of water will come down the river between now and then. Meanwhile, we have the option of ripping lips with short wands on a number of different fisheries.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.