Nebraska Game and Parks has seen a growth in ice fishing the past few years.
Daryl Bauer, the fisheries outreach program manager, says the increase is slow but steady in the state.
He says one obstacle is the occasional swing in temperature above freezing, which affects the thickness of the ice.
Bauer, a year-round fisherman, thinks the winter months are the best time to fish.
“It can be a long winter around here and we’d like to be outdoors doing something, and some of us love to fish,” Bauer says. “So that’s a way we can still be on the water, enjoying what we do, fighting off the cabin fever.”
Game and Parks has been offering ice fishing clinics recently. Although one in early January was canceled because of ice conditions. The sessions highlight the basics of the sport as well as safe practices.
As proof the sport is growing here, three teams from Nebraska will compete in the North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) championship tournament. Two of those teams are in the top ten standings.
“Team USA has at least two members and I know two more that will tryout for Team USA in the future from Nebraska,” Jack Baker, NAIFC president, wrote in an email to Nebraska Radio Network. “Prior years, zero Nebraskans even attempted to represent the United States on the world level.
“Our Kids Ice Camps are seeing record numbers of kids and parents coming to learn to ice fish,” he says.
Bauer says some of the growth nationally is because ice fishing technology is getting better.
“Ice augers have advanced tremendously in recent years,” he says. “Depth finders are a big thing that’s revolutionized ice fishing in recent years and it’ll definitely help you find and catch more fish. That’s a tool that’s made it a lot more fun.”
Bauer says you don’t need any special rod and reel or bait to try ice fishing, but you will need an ice chisel or auger to make a hole.
While catching pan fish, such as bluegill and yellow perch, is common, Bauer says anything is possible. His biggest in-state catch was an 18-pound catfish, which almost didn’t fit through the opening in the ice.
You can see an ice fishing demonstration January 23 from 3-6 p.m. at Mahoney State Park, if conditions allow. It is part of Nebraska Game and Parks Cold Day, Warm Hearts and Family Fun event.