Ice Pirates

Grantsburg High School Ice Fishing Team participants (from left) Andrew McKeag, Cody Hoffman and Matt Miller, with the school’s first ice fishing trophy.

Previously published in the Sentinel April 8, 2015

GRANTSBURG—A first-of-its-kind trophy that looks like a chunk of ice will soon be added to Grantsburg High School’s trophy case. The Grantsburg “Ice Pirates” earned a third-place trophy in ice fishing Jan. 24 at the Webster ice fishing tournament on Yellow Lake.

Ice fishing is growing rapidly as a high school team event, both in northwestern Wisconsin and east central Wisconsin around Lake Winnebago.

Grantsburg is in its second year, but some Wisconsin high schools have had ice fishing teams for five years. Siren, Webster, Luck and Unity are among area schools with ice fishing teams.

Ice fishing is not a school-sanctioned or a WIAA-sanctioned sport like football, volleyball or basketball, says GHS Athletic Director Mike Amundson. The schools recognize student ice fishing teams but provide no funding or oversight. The school does allow the team and its coaches to use its school van for a longer trip or an overnight stay.

Participants get sponsors or provide their own gear, including portable fishing shelters. Parents serve as volunteer coaches. This year, Kevin Miller and Scott Hoffman served as primary coaches.

“There is a state ice fishing association,” Amundson said, “and they communicate through a web site at www.studentfishing.com.”

Depending on tournament rules, each team has 4-10 participants who usually fish alone, but near each other. Rules vary for each contest. Scoring criteria are set according to DNR rules.

Some contests give awards for the variety of legal fish caught, or by total weight. Some contests judge according to total length, which allows for catch and release.

Grantsburg had 10-15 students participate at various weekend events during the past ice fishing season, Amundson said. “The sport has really caught on at some nearby schools,” he added. “Prairie Farm High School, with an enrollment of 120, had 60 students, or half its student body, involved in one or more ice fishing events this season.”

During the first four years, the state contest was held annually on Lake Winnebago. As the sport has grown in popularity around the state, the association decided to begin moving the state contest to various regions around the state.

The 2015 state high school ice fishing championship was held Feb. 21 at Chain of Lakes near Chetek, with 44 teams competing from 27 schools. Wisconsin Rapids took first place. Luck finished third. Unity teams placed 7th and 29th. Webster teams placed 12th and 25th, and Grantsburg took 27th. Next year, the state contest will be move to northeastern Wisconsin.

Sometimes, students participate in “a tournament within a tournament,” like the big National Guard-sponsored Ice Fishing contest on Lake Superior near Ashland. Since it is not school-sponsored, student fishing teams and individuals are eligible to win prizes at the tournaments.

GHS senior Cody Hoffman said the Lake Superior tournament at Ashland was his favorite. “It was fun to fish on Lake Superior and travel a little farther away, and stay overnight,” he said.