May 26, 2016

High Schools on Ice

High Schools on Ice is not some ice skating show…it’s ice fishing!  That’s right - ice fishing!  High schools around the state of Wisconsin compete as teams in the life time sport of ice fishing!

When I was a young girl I remember waking up with my father to go ice fishing.  The sound of the alarm at 5:00 a.m. was no match for the walleyes we were going to catch on Lake Holcombe.  Sitting in our homemade shack with the smell of the lantern burning above our heads, we used jig poles made out of short rods and wood blocks with two nails to hold the line.  We drilled our holes by hand with a scoop styled auger.  Ah the good ole days…  My father’s passion for ice fishing was instilled in me and taught me to be the angler that I am today.  In 1991 my father passed away unexpectedly, and my desire for fishing diminished.  I wasn’t sure if I would ever fish again.

I teach physical education at Prairie Farm High School.  In 2006, I applied for the fishing and boating grant for the school sponsored by the Future Fisherman’s Foundation.  In June of that year we were awarded $5000 to incorporate fishing and boating into our physical education curriculum.  This grant allowed me to rekindle the fishing passion and to begin sharing my experience and knowledge of fishing with my students. Starting with open water experiences, we soon began to incorporate ice fishing into my classes as well. 

Ice fishing competitively started three years ago triggered by a post on Lake-link.com about the Battle on Bago in Oshkosh sponsoring the “WI State High School Ice Fishing Championship.”  What a great way to expand my student’s exposure to the sport that I am most passionate about while at the same time getting them outside in the winter months, off the couch and away from the tv and video games.  Student ice anglers wouldn’t need to be the fastest runner, the best athlete, the smartest student, etc.  Anyone with a desire to fish could be part of this group whether they were boys or girls, had experience or not.  This was a win win situation for me and my students.  This new fishing endeavor would give my students a chance to compete in teams against other schools from around the state. 

Since 2010 our team has experienced great success.  We were the state runner up at the State Championship the past two years.  With that success we have doubled in size every year. 

This year my students started asking about ice fishing on the first day of school.  This promised to be our biggest year yet.  After our first meeting, we have 54 students participating!  Prairie Farm’s high school enrollment is 105 so half of the high school competes in ice fishing!  Of those 54 students we have 17 girls participating on this year’s team which is an increase of 13.  We also have two foreign exchange students joining this year - Marci Szabo from Hungary and Nutcha Orankitjaroen from Thailand. The most amazing fact about our team is that over half the participants involved not participate in any other organized winter sports activity such as basketball, wrestling, or dance.

Additional tournaments are planned for 2013. On January 12th the Luck football team is hosting their tournament on Bone Lake.  Scott Lafler, the education liason for the National Guard, is organizing a tournament on Chequamegon Bay in Ashland on January 19th.  New Holstein’s ice fishing advisor, Teddy Bondy, along with Appleton West’s advisor, Greg Franzen, are setting up a tournament on the Petenwell Flowage on January 26th.  The Unity FFA is sponsoring another tournament on February 9th on Long Lake.  The State Championship is on February 23rd on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh.  The Prairie Farm High School Ice Fishing Invitational, co-sponsored by the National Guard, will be March 2nd, after the state championship. This will be a season finale where kids around the state can compete with others instead of against them. 

Along with more tournaments, more schools have also added ice fishing programs around the state. High School ice fishing in Wisconsin has made great strides and continues to gain momentum. Who knows?  Maybe one day the WIAA will get on board as well, and we will be a sanctioned high school sport.  

I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my love of ice fishing with my students. When the flag on the tip-up goes up the race is on to see who can get there first. Watching them push up the sleeves of their letter jackets to reach into the ice hole to grab a fish for a fellow student makes it all worthwhile. Seeing how far my students have come in regard to their desire and ice fishing skills has been tremendous.  Also knowing that my father is looking down on me smiling and watching (with as much anticipation) makes it that much more special.  My hope is that my own students take these experiences and pass them on to future generations.

For more information about high school ice fishing, please contact Wendy Dallmann, Prairie Farm High School, dallmann@prairiefarm.k12.wi.us