Dave Wasness | Pro Staff
I was introduced to the sport of fishing at a young age. I basically grew up with a fishing pole in my hand. Over the years, you learn more and more about fishing, and a lot of the unwritten rules. You can say that these unwritten rules make up the Ice Anglers Honor Code. What to do while ice fishing, what not to do while ice fishing, fishing groups that help teach and grow the sport of fishing, and how anglers can give back to the sport of fishing are some of the areas of the Ice Anglers Honor Code that I’d like to discuss.
There are many things that you can and cannot do while ice fishing. What makes you a better angler to be around is how you react in different situations. I have always helped an angler in need. Whether that angler needs help drilling their holes, an extra propane tank to stay warm to be on the bite longer, or guidance on where the fish are more active, I have helped. If we all are catching fish, we end up having a better day and that means more smiles all around. It is especially important to help those ice angler families that are bringing their kids out for the day. Nothing is better than seeing a kid catch a fish or multiple fish. The reaction and smile are worth it all.
A few items that we really should not do while out ice fishing is leaving trash on the ice, dumping our bait on the ice (check local laws), leaving fish on the ice, and fishing too close without permission. Anything that you bring onto the ice, you should take off the ice with you, no matter how small that item is. We have a group in Fargo, the Fargo-Moorhead Muskies Inc., that do an amazing job each year cleaning up after other anglers. As far back as I can remember they have had their annual spring ice cleaning day. They go out to an area lake and pick up all the trash they can find. This has been extremely helpful for the lake, the fish, and the residents on the lake. I would encourage you all to find a local group that does the same and participate in their clean up day.
How close to another angler can you fish? This question gets brought up a lot on different forums. The legal response in Minnesota is that you must stay 10 feet apart. Sometimes, I think 10 or even 20 feet is too close. If I am within talking distance to another angler, I will always ask permission to fish by them. I cannot think of a time that I have said no to another angler asking if they can fish next to me. I enjoy fishing as a group and having a fun time, especially if they are new anglers that need help.
I have a deep passion for the sport of fishing. I have held many fishing clinics and seminars over the last few years and have taught thousands of kids about fishing. Passing down the sport and protecting the sport of fishing is important and a topic that I teach in my seminars. Every walleye angler has a goal to catch a thirty-inch walleye. That is a trophy fish and a fish that is not easy to find and catch. So, how big is too big to keep. While many lakes and/or states have slots or special regulations on the size of fish you can keep, I like to follow a twenty-inch rule. I release all fish over twenty inches. These tend to by healthy female fish that are needed to sustain the fisheries. I always carry a camera to take a good picture and then release those larger fish. It is okay to keep a fish of a lifetime, such as a thirty-inch walleye, if you want to mount it. Just keep in mind that replicas last longer and are just as nice to look at.
One group that I have been a part of for years is FM Walleyes Unlimited, Inc. This is a club that was formed to promote conservation, sportsmanship, and education. It is in their mission statement! I like that they give back to the community and that they teach others how to be better anglers. Whether they are helping with a local fishing derby or holding their Angler Young Angler Tournaments, they are always working on teaching others how to be better anglers. I would encourage everyone to find a local fishing club to be a part of and pass along your passion for ice fishing to others. It is so important to teach kids about fishing so that they can develop a passion for the sport that we all love so much. Next time you go fishing, bring a kid and help your fellow angler that may be in need. You will all enjoy your day more, and have a better time on the ice.