The City of Lakes does not just provide recreation in the summer and if you drive past any of Amery’s surrounding waters, you just might find more bodies utilizing them than during warmer months.

While some fishermen prefer secret spots on hidden areas of local lakes, others take advantage of the open and fish-plentiful North Twin. The lake covers 129 acres with a maximum depth of 27 feet. Visitors have access to the lake via the public boat landing. Your daily catch can range from pan fish, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike and Walleye. For well over 50 years anglers have been flocking to the lake to participate in the annual St. Joseph’s fishing contest held each winter. But even on your average day, handfuls can be found drilling holes for a North Twin adventure with a patient mindset.

“Sometimes it can take awhile, but North Twin usually pays off,” said Cody Campbell. He said the lake offers quality fish that are great for eating. “This year the fishing has been good, but the ice conditions haven’t been optimal. There is less ice than in average years,” Campbell said.

For some, the ice fishing itch hits early and leaves others wondering as they drive past on the road, “Can that ice really be safe?” There really is no sure answer, and no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. You cannot judge the strength of ice by one factor like its appearance, age, thickness, and temperature or whether the ice is covered with snow. Ice strength is based on a combination of several factors, and they can vary from water body to water body. Ice strength can also vary in different areas of the same body of water.

Officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) said they do not monitor local ice conditions or the thickness of the ice. They feel local bait shops, fishing clubs and resorts serve winter anglers every day and often have the most up-to-date information on how thick the ice is on local lakes and rivers, as well as areas that are especially dangerous. As far as safety tips for ice recreation, the WDNR suggests dressing warmly and in layers. Don't go alone; head out with friends or family and take a cell phone if available, and make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected to return. It is important to know your surroundings before you go. Do not travel in areas you are not familiar with try not to travel at night or during reduced visibility. It is also important to avoid inlets, outlets or narrow that may have current that can thin the ice. The WDNR said to look for clear ice, which is generally stronger than ice with snow on it or bubbles in it and carry some basic safety gear: ice claws or picks, a cellphone in a waterproof bag or case, a life jacket and length of rope. 

What should you do if you fall through ice? The WDNR offers the following advice:

1. Do not remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes can trap air, which can help provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true in a snowmobile suit. 

2. Go back toward the direction you came. That is probably where you will find the strongest ice – and what lies ahead is unknown. 

3. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface. This is where a pair of nails, sharpened screwdrivers or ice picks are handy in providing the extra traction you need to pull yourself up onto the ice. 

4. Kick your feet and dig in your ice picks to work your way back onto the solid ice. If your clothes have trapped a lot of water, you may have to lift yourself partially out of the water on your elbows to let the water drain before starting forward. 

5. Once back on the ice, don't try to stand up. Lie flat until you are completely out of the water, then roll away from the hole to keep your weight spread out. This may help prevent you from breaking through again. 

6. Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area and warm yourself up immediately. In moderate to severe cases of cold-water hypothermia, you must seek medical attention. Cold blood trapped in your extremities can come rushing back to your heart after you begin to warm up. The shock of the chilled blood may cause ventricular fibrillation leading to a heart attack and death.

If you have never tried ice fishing before and you aren’t sure about investing the money into buying a license or fishing gear, there is a free fishing weekend every winter where a fishing license is not required. Wisconsin’s Free Fishing Weekend runs January 18-19, 2020.

The WDNR encourages people to take advantage of this free opportunity to introduce your friends and family to fishing. Fish almost anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp on Free Fishing Weekend. Most waters of the state are included, except for spring trout ponds. The waters of the state will be open to free fishing; however, all usual regulations will be in force.

Plans are in motion to introduce you to the art and science of hardwater fishing.  All ages are welcome to attend Family Fishing Day on Lake Wapogasset, Sunday January 19, 2020. It will take place from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the YMCA Camp Icaghowan. 

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