The Chequamegon Bay region is widely regarded as one of the premier ice fishing locales in the entire upper Midwest, and soon access to that great fishing will be made easier and safer.
The North Wisconsin Rod and Gun Club is building a portable ice bridge that will enable anglers to drive over pressure ridge that forms near Second Landing, a popular access to the inshore ice of Lake Superior.
The ridge, caused by the configuration of the land and lake bottom, winds and currents that cause the lake ice to heave and crack, forms almost every year just off Second Landing.
“There have been many times when ice anglers have gotten stuck out there,” Rod and Gun Club President Annette Brown said. “Last year one guy had to leave his truck out there for several days until the ice closed up and he could bring it back ashore.”
In addition to being a safety hazard, the recurring pressure ridge has an effect on winter ice fishing tourism.
“It’s really one of the prime access points to the bay. If fishermen can’t get where they want to go, they’ll go somewhere else,” Brown said.
The club has tried work-arounds such as pallets and sheets of plywood, but such makeshifts were never really satisfactory.
Then club members heard of a solution widely used on Lake Winnebago. Anglers on the state’s largest inland lake have turned to placing movable steel bridges at strategic locations to get past pressure ridges. The bridges are actually joined twin 20-foot tracks of welded steel that are jointed for easy transportation, but when laid down to form a ridged path over pressure ridges or even short lengths of open water.
“They have a network of about 70 of these bridges down there all over Lake Winnebago,” Brown said. “They flex with the ice, and the crews just monitor the ice conditions and move the bridges when necessary.
Brown said it sounded like exactly what was needed for the Second Landing pressure ridge.
“So we decided to build one,” she said.
The construction is being handled by Fast Lane Motor Sports of Ashland, which specializes in the construction of chassis for racecars. Brown said Fast Lane owner Chris Bretting was overseeing the project.
“We had started out by contacting one of the manufacturers for the Lake Winnebago project, and they were kind enough to share the specifications with us,” she said.
Brown said two of the sections of the bridge were now complete, and the final two sections were due to be finished some time next week.
Brown said the project was not cheap, with an estimated price tag of $10,000 for the completed bridge.
To help cover the costs, a fundraiser is being held on Jan. 19 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Neighborly Bar in Ashland. The event is being billed as the “Snap, Crackle Bridge!” indoor fishing tournament.
Brown was coy about exactly what was involved in an indoor fishing tournament.
“You’ll just have to show up to find out,” she said, but pointed out that unlike a cold day on the ice, the event at the Neighborly was indoors and had comforts like a walleye fish fry from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“And the beer won’t freeze,” she said.
The event will feature a Chinese raffle and a 50/50 raffle.
Brown said the project has been well received by ice fishermen and the larger community as well.
“A lot of people come here for the ice fishing. It has a trickle down effect for the economy. We are excited that we found this and also, by the way, the community is supporting us so that we can actually make this happen.”