Ice Fishing A Stone's Throw From Downtown Milwaukee

Feb 7, 2014

While frigid temperatures are a hardship for some, they’re a blessing for ice fishermen. Marge Pitrof from Here & Now contributor station WUWM met up with some on a small bay in Lake Michigan, a stone’s throw from downtown Milwaukee.


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But, you know, some people actually love these frigid temperatures, and I'm talking about ice fishermen. Marge Pitrof, from HERE AND NOW contributing station WUWM, met up with some of them on a small bay in Lake Michigan, a stone's throw from downtown Milwaukee.

MARGE PITROF, BYLINE: There were huge rocks that line the shore of Lake Michigan, where it meets the edge of downtown Milwaukee. During the summer, you might sit on them to watch fireworks or listen to a concert. In the dead of winter, if you can find a way over the ice and snow-covered boulders, you'll reach a spot where people are ice fishing. Excuse me. How do you get down there? Three fishermen walk over to lend a hand: Jeremy Christian, Big Dave and Leo Principe.

Well, thank you. And the lake is frozen, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: With all the cold weather we've had, the ice is probably, what, 15, 16 inches thick. So that's certainly safe.

PITROF: We slide over to the spot they've staked out today.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, yeah. Look. There's coyotes. See the tracks?

PITROF: How did you discover this?

LEO PRINCIPE: You know, we've been around here for a long time, and so we know that this is an open body of water from the summer. You can bring in the boats and so forth and you can come in here. But believe it or not, this is world class fishing in this area here. Absolutely. You've got different variety of trout, salmon. You got walleye. You got northern. You get perch. So you have it all, really, just concentrated in this bay with easy access.

PITROF: And you don't even have a tent.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No. Actually we just bring pickle buckets. You can see it actually has pickle spears. That's sort of old school to just sit on a pickle bucket.

PITROF: I see you've got your little sled and your beverages.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is the ice auger. We have a manual one, which is like a - operates like a corkscrew. We rotate it clockwise into the ice. And the circumference of the whole is what?

PRINCIPE: Six-inch hole here.

PITROF: The three have their lines submerged in holes the auger has carved through the thick ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: You have to jig the rod a little bit just because the fish, being so cold, they're, like, kind of in a hibernation sort of state.

PITROF: Have you caught anything?

PRINCIPE: Not this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Are you kidding me?


PRINCIPE: We catch something every other year, you know, but it doesn't deter us. We're hardheaded that way. The only thing you got to watch out for is not going into some other person's camp, and that's kind of like a unwritten rule, a violation. So you can see those guys have their camp over there. There's a little camp down far. We give each person about 50 feet.

PITROF: We walk over to the blue shanty a few dozen yards away. It belongs to Robert Zalewski.

ROBERT ZALEWSKI: This is where I got my heater and that. We're using it to come in here to warm up and you can sit there and fish.

PITROF: It is warm inside, even a little slushy. But Zalewski is starting to close camp.

ZALEWSKI: We were out here since 7:30 and nothing, so we're packing up right now.

PITROF: Do you think you'll come back?

ZALEWSKI: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, I think with the amount of ice we got, it'll be well past February we can still come out here.


PITROF: For HERE AND NOW, I'm Marge Pitrof on Lake Michigan in the shadow of downtown Milwaukee.

HOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.