Slow start to ice fishing season

It's no surprise the unseasonably warm start to the winter season has affected everything from ski hills, snow tubing hills and snowmobile trails, but the same goes for ice fishing. It effects those who rely on the business it brings.

The cold winter weather is a welcomed sight for many outdoor sports enthusiasts. For anglers, they're waiting for a solid freeze on the water.

"Everywhere, it's all slow. The weather's been all wacky," said Fernando Alvarez of Weston.

Alvarez has been ice fishing for 15 years. He and his son, Malik, were able to get out on the Schofield Flowage Sunday with prospects of a good catch.

"It's the big surprise out of the hole. It's like winning the lottery, you just never know what you're going to get," Fernando Alvarez added.

"I love doing this. This is my favorite thing to do, probably the only thing I do next to hunting," smiled Malik Alvarez.

Area bait shops are always thankful for the freeze at last.

"Wintertime is probably one of our best times for actually doing financially well with this area on the ice fishing," said Keith Syring, co-owner of Riverside Canoe Rental and Bait Shop.

Syring says it was a slow go for his bottom line at the start of the season.

"The slow start to the year was a little bit of a hamper, but it all depends on Mother Nature, this is definitely stopping things. People should be driving out there by now," Syring added.

But Syring says he's confident things will now start picking up.

"Once the ice has been on now, we're back right up to 100%," said Syring.

As small businesses like his and anglers are anxious for the ice fishing season, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says not every area has thick enough ice.

"Most parts of the Wisconsin, the main localized river channel is open water right now," said Ben Herzfeldt, a conservation warden for the Wisconsin DNR.

Herzfeldt says you need to go out on the ice at your own risk.

"You definitely need to pay attention to the main channel of the river. Even here on the Schofield Flowage, you'll see that main river channel being black ice, that's definitely a danger sign. That's something you need to stay away from," said Herzfeldt. "No fish is worth going through the ice over."

The father and son duo couldn't agree more.

"Always be prepared. Never under estimate the ice out here," added Fernando Alvarez.

Herzfeldt says most areas in this part of the state have around four to six inches of ice, but he says that's not enough to support a car or truck or even a full-sized permanent shack.

He adds that snowmobiles and ATVs on that amount of ice could be dangerous.