Next came a slow, reluctant thaw. Then, at last, signs of spring.
"Everybody is excited for opening fishing season," Smokey's On the Bay Owner Jeff Tilkens said.
The fishing season opens Saturday. The anticipation around Northeast Wisconsin is well deserved.
"We have the best fishery probably in the United States," Tilkens said. "We have premium muskee fishing, as you can see these big huge muskees here, we have a huge walleye fishery and our small mouth bass is crazy."
Tilkens is ready for another season of greeting eager anglers and setting them up for success.
"We have a whole rack here of flicker shads, number seven and nine," he said.
Tilkens is focused on his bait. Elsewhere, the DNR is concentrating on the fish.
"One of the species we're targeting are Northern Pike, and Northern Pike are one of the first species to spawn," DNR fisheries biologist Tammie Paoli said.
It's why the DNR is out on local lakes in spring.
"We do these ice out surveys every year," Paoli said. "We're essentially trying to get a large snapshot of the fishery, so we set what's called fike nets. We count and measure the fish that we collect in them, we collect a bunch of aging structures, get an idea of the overall health of the fish populations and then we can get an idea of different management that we might do based on what we find in the fishery."
It could be adjusting bag or size limits or stocking the waters. Then, the DNR let the fish go. Anglers next week may not be so inclined.