LA CROSSE, WIS — With temperatures in the Coulee Region steadily dropping well below freezing, ice has formed in many of the backwaters along the Mississippi River, prompting area ice fishermen to start preparing for a new season of drinking.
“I look forward to it every year. It’s become tradition,” said Rob Nunebaker, 54, of Onalaska. “It’s exciting dusting off the cooler, reorganizing my mixers, stocking up on some new cases of beer and getting them set up just right. Oh, and also throwing my ice fishing shit in the backseat.”
DNR officials estimate nearly 10,000 drinkers flock to the area’s waters every winter, some of whom also ice fish.
“We live on a multi-alcohol fishery, so anglers can keep themselves entertained by targeting all the different types we have out there,” said Jerry Funkill, game warden with the Department of Natural Resources. “It’s shaping up to be another productive year for anglers. Can numbers should be very high again, based on our projections. There’s also been a huge uptick in the number of seltzer waters, so anglers can expect good action there.”
Both Nunebaker and Funkill urge caution when heading out onto the ice this winter.
Funkill advises switching over to hot drinks when temperatures get deep into the negatives.
“You have to protect yourself well. A hot toddy or spiked coffee can help you stay warm,” said Funkill.
Meanwhile, Nunebaker advocates for basic gear safety.
“You have to know your equipment and know how to use it properly. Hell, a lot of times I just put it all away and concentrate on drinking. Safety first.”