By Warden Mike Rader
Well, it’s finally starting to feel like January! The thermometer is hovering right around zero as I write this and it’s time to be thinking ice fishing and snowmobiling. I thought I’d take this opportunity to pass along some information regarding new regulations and reminders of existing laws and safety information.
First, let’s talk about snowmobiling.
New this year, all snowmobiles registered in Wisconsin that will operate on Wisconsin trails or corridors must purchase and display an annual Wisconsin trail pass. The fee is $30 or $10 for AWSC (Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs) members. Members can order passes through the AWSC website www.awsc.org or their Deforest office. Nonmembers can obtain passes online at dnr.wi.gov, keyword search “snowmobile trail pass”, anywhere DNR licenses are sold, or by calling the DNR at 1-888-936-7463. A temporary trail use receipt may be issued. Once your pass is delivered by U.S. Mail, affix it to the bottom center portion of your windshield. If no windshield is available, display the pass in a highly visible location forward of the operator.
Public use and commercial dealer snowmobile registrations are now valid for three years. The registration period begins on July 1 and expires 3 years later on June 30.
Here’s a reminder: It is illegal to operate a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on any property that is held open to the public. It also is illegal to operate a snowmobile on private property without permission and this includes cutting corners on trails. Trespassing closes trails.
Here are some key snowmobile speed restrictions to keep in mind. The speed limit is 55 mph during the hours of darkness. This 55 mph limit drops to 10 mph when within 100 feet of a person who is not on or in a snowmobile or vehicle or within 100 feet of an ice fishing shanty, and 10 mph within 150 feet of a dwelling between 10:30 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Now, let’s talk about ice. Remember, it is really difficult to declare any ice 100% safe. You must know before you go. Local bait shops, fishing clubs and resorts can often provide the most up-to-date information. Here are some things you can do to minimize your risk: Dress warmly in layers. Wear clothing that provides flotation. Don’t travel alone. Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Carry a cellphone in a waterproof container. Don’t travel in areas you are unfamiliar with, at night, or during reduced visibility. Avoid inlets, outlets, and narrows that may have current that can thin the ice. Carry a pair of ice picks or claws to aid in climbing back onto the ice.
Ice fishing? There is not a whole lot new with ice fishing this year. As a reminder, any lake or river segment within the Ceded Territory has a daily bag limit of three walleyes. The statewide bag limit is five walleye, so additional walleye can be taken on a different lake or river segment to fill your bag limit. While fishing, you can not possess in excess of that lake or river’s daily bag limit.
Remember to consult the current fishing regulations to comply with local fish size and bag limits. Additionally, a person can fish with a maximum of three hooks, baits or lures.
Have fun, be safe, and introduce someone new to the outdoors!