NEW ULM - Ice-fishing season has cast into full swing with the arrival of snow and ice that have riddled southern Minnesota.
Jason Kuester, president of the New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen (NUASF), said the current season began in late November when the ice became 4-6 inches thick, which is standard for safe walking.
"Now we're up to 9 inches to a foot already, so we're able to take four-wheelers out and small ice houses, get out on the lake and do some fishing," Kuester said.
Photos Courtesy of the New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen club
The New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen hold their annual ice fishing contest on Clear Lake near New Ulm. This year the contest will be held February 9, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be 300-400 prizes, including a $10,000 ice-fishing house.
With the ice almost 12 inches thick, which is safe for small trucks to drive on it, ice-fishing has been on the rise in the area.
"We've noticed that with more ice - the ice getting thicker on the lakes - it's been busier and busier just about every day," said Dan Meinzer, sporting goods manager at Runnings Farm & Fleet in New Ulm. "We've been selling a lot of live bait - not that we've gotten a whole lot of response back from guys having a whole lot of luck from fishing. But bait sales have been good."
As president of the NUASF, which was founded in 1986, Kuester said a lot of his work is focused on promoting the sport of fishing within the area. This also includes getting kids involved in fishing.
"We usually get anywhere from 200 to 250 kids at our summer fishing event, but we usually get anywhere from 200 to 300 kids at our ice-fishing event," Kuester said. "And every kid walks away with a prize at our events."
Getting kids involved also teaches them safe ice-fishing practices, which Kuester said is one of the most important aspects.
"It teaches them the safe way to do it because you can die out there on the ice if you're not doing this right," Kuester said. "A lot of times, you're out there at the extremes - it's really cold. It teaches them about carbon monoxide in the ice houses and not to fall asleep with a bad heater and that type of stuff."
The NUASF, which consists of more than 180 members, has also partaken in clean-up activities around the area among other feats, according to its website.
Kuester said the biggest appeal for ice-fishing is the camaraderie it creates among family and friends.
"That's the biggest thing: Catching some fish and having fun with everybody," Kuester said. "Getting out, drilling holes, having a nice day out on the ice, having a picnic. That's another great thing is sitting out there with the kids, having a picnic with family members."
Ron Ludewig, an NUASF board member, said he started ice-fishing when he was 20 years old because it was "something to do in the winter."
Ludewig said he enjoys the aspect of being outdoors, but the below-zero temperatures can make it difficult to endure.
"I don't do it when it's real cold like this - the cold front really shuts fish down anyway - I like to enjoy it a little more anyway," Ludewig said. "They say you can dress for the cold, but the cold can still get the best of you."
Ice-fishing is more limited than fishing in the summer in that participants must be more selective of where they are at as well as what they are after. Ludewig said ice-fishing presents a lot of challenges with the cold and even the fish themselves.
"It depends on what you're trying to do - if you're spearing or you're angling," Ludewig said. "Now you can spear and angle in the same hole. In the spear hole, you can see so many different things through under the ice, it's unreal. You'll see all kinds of different fish. It's just interesting."
The NUASF holds one ice-fishing event each year. This year's upcoming event will be held on Feb. 9, 2014, at Clear Lake near New Ulm. The event is set to go from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will award 300-400 prizes, including a $10,000 ice-fishing house.
"I think there's a lot of guys that ice-fish, there's a lot of guys that enjoy ice-fishing," Meinzer said.