OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — If you went ice fishing this weekend and perhaps saw a little more people than usual there’s a reason why.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offered a free fishing weekend as a way to share the fun and excitement of winter fishing with more people.
With this no fishing license or trout and salmon stamps were required.
For a father-son duo who were ice fishing in Oshkosh on Sunday they said this promotion is what drove them out to the water.
"We are taking advantage of the free weekend. We go on a Minnesota trip every year and actually we didn't buy a license this year my wife and I because we had a lot going on, we didn't fish. This is a free weekend, I did not buy a license and I don't have one so we're taking clear advantage of it,” said Chad Boettcher, Menasha.
For the Boettchers, ice fishing is a family tradition.
"I like the fresh air, the experience, no place better than getting zen with the environment and there's no one bothering you. It's peaceful,” Chad said.
He brought his 11-year-old son Gavin in hopes he develops an interest in the sport one day.
"Grandpa is at home. We're borrowing his shanty and you know he's about ready to hang up ice fishing at his age and the cold. So now we're taking his shanty and going on our own,” Chad said.
And there were many others who thought like Chad and Gavin did.
Don Herman the president of Sunk? Dive and Ice services says he's seen a lot of people on Lake Winnebago and the surrounding bays.
"Hopefully this gets some new people interested in fishing. That's why they do it. They do it because of that. So maybe they like it. They can take someone out new and they don't have to buy a license. Maybe they'll get hooked on fishing,” Herman said.
But before you hit the ice, experts do have a few safety reminders.
"You want to make sure that the ice is safe and there's really no way to really know and at DNR we say we can't ever guarantee that ice is 100% safe. And especially with this freeze thaw freeze cycle, and that kind of weakens the ice in some cases,” said Theresa Stabo, DNR Fishing Outreach Coordinator.
In the meantime, as new and returning anglers hit the ice, officials hope this weekend would inspire a new generation of ice fishers just like Gavin.
“It was fun!” said Gavin.
It is important to note that free fishing weekend does not include Monday, even though it's a three day holiday weekend for most people.
If you missed the opportunity, you can go on the DNR website, buy an affordable license and head out on Monday or on another day.
Click here to be redirected to that.