On a day that wouldn’t climb above zero, 11 two-angler teams of ice fishermen braved the ice of Rhinelander’s Boom Lake for a Team Extreme Ice Fishing event Sunday, Jan. 5.
The tournament series is run by the Minnesota-based Ice Federation. Wisconsin and Iowa divisions were added to the tournament circuit this season.
It was the first-ever event for the newly-established Wisconsin division. If extreme is what they were after, anglers at least found it temperature-wise.
Ray Tiffany, the Wisconsin division director for Team Extreme, noted the temps, and the weather’s effect on the fishing.
“Temperatures were crazy cold, but the wind stayed down,” Tiffany said. “Guys were on fish early [Sunday] morning. It kind of slowed down.”
Team Extreme is looking to expand further.
“The goal is to expand to other states and have every state in the ice belt have its own division in Team Extreme,” Tiffany said.
A championship is to be held on Lake Minnewaska in Glenwood, Minn. the last weekend of March.
Tiffany described Team Extreme tournaments as “high-end, high-regulated.”
“Basically, it’s like your B.A.S.S., but on the ice,” he said.
Jacek Gawlinski and Zibi Wojcik claimed the top spot in the Boom Lake tournament.
They had eight crappies and eight bluegills, the designated limit for the contest, that weighed in at just shy of eight pounds.
“We know this lake pretty good,” Gawlinski said. “We’ve fished here five tournaments already.”
Gawlinski hails from Poland, but lives in Chicago presently. Asked if he had found a particular pattern that was working, Gawlinski said, “Yeah – my partner.”
“My partner did almost the full job. He had ‘PPP’ – poor partner performance,” Gawlinski added with a laugh.
They’re veterans of the pro ice fishing scene.
“This is what we do the whole winter long,” Gawlinski said.
As far as dealing with the cold, that’s just part of it. Gawlinski has frostbite issues with two of his fingers “every winter,” he said.
The fingers turn white, then black and then the skin peels, he said.
Gawlinski and Wojcik fished adjoining Bass Lake.
Taking second place with 6.73 pounds were Justin Schall and Steve Westphal. Their 0.97-pound crappie was also the tournament’s big fish winner.
Bryan Menting and Ryan Pennings fished Peggy’s Slough. They got a full limit of eight crappies and eight bluegills.
“All the active fish were way high. We were in 22, 23 feet of water and all the active fish were in the top 10 feet of the water column,” Pennings said.
They placed fifth in the 11-team field.
Jeremy Lilyquist of Hudson didn’t see a lot of action, noting that things had quieted down compared to the day prior, before things counted.
“We had a so-so day. We knew the fish were going to shut off and I think, acrosss the board, compared to what everybody was catching [Saturday], the bags were a lot smaller [Sunday].”
He said some guys were finding fish in the 12- to 17-foot depths.
“Nobody was super shallow that I heard of,” Lilyquist said.
Lilyquist owns Solar Sportsman, which provided the tent for the Boom Lake event.
Solar tent, fish giveaway, more
Of interest on the ice, besides the anglers and fish, was that Solar Sportsman tent. Serving as headquarters, the tent was wood heated, and a 400-watt solar module provided power for things like a PA system, lighting and their indoor weigh station.
The system is capable of more, and the battery storing the power weighs just 30 pounds, according to Lilyquist.
It can give a little comfort on cold day.
“We have sponsor products that we put out ... for people to check out and get a good look at,” Tiffany said.
Tiffany said the tent is part of their efforts to stay “green” and stay away from the noise and fuel associated with generators.
And what happens with the fish tournament anglers catch?
“We have a few gentlemen out there ... who came and asked if they can have them,” Tiffany said.
“We try to always find a retirement home, or something like that, nearby and donate the fish – give back to the community that was so gracious to host us ... If nobody wants the fish, then I take the fish and on my next tournament we have a big fish fry for everybody – as much as I like spending that much time with a fillet knife in my hands.”
Team Extreme Ice Fishing had canceled an event in Park Rapids, Minn., also slated for Sunday, Jan. 5, due to extreme cold, but went forward with the Rhinelander tournament.
Tiffany said a few anglers dropped out of the Boom Lake tournament due to the cold.
Tiffany likes the area fishery and said the Rhinelander area was a possibility for future events.
Other Wisconsin events scheduled for this season include:
• Oshkosh, Lake Winnebago, Jan. 19.
• East Troy, Lake Beulah, Feb. 2.
• Fox Lake, Fox Lake, Feb. 16.
• Adams, Lake Petenwell, March 2.
Most tournaments are a 16 limit with eight of one species and eight of another, with the species varying by body of water. One exception is the Lake Beulah event, where the limit will be five each of perch, bluegill and crappie.
It keeps things interesting Tiffany said.
“Perch fishermen are a different kind of fishermen than bluegill fishermen, a different type of fishermen than crappie fishermen,” he said. “You have basin fishing, structure fishing. We mixed it all and catered to every style fishing. I’m predicting that not one team will come in with all 15 fish.”
For more information, visit www.teamextremeicefishing.com.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com.