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updated: 3/8/2012 6:30 AM

In a weird winter, one big reason to keep fishing

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  • Joe Saftig extracted this 46-inch, 26-pound northern pike from Castle Rock Lake in central Wisconsin.

    Joe Saftig extracted this 46-inch, 26-pound northern pike from Castle Rock Lake in central Wisconsin.
    Submitted photo


With just a couple weeks to go before the official start of the 2012 spring season, area fishermen appear to be cranked up and ready to go for the annual race to drop a line in the water.

For some die-hard ice devotees, the 2011-12 ice fishing season was not what one could call spectacular, especially here in Illinois. And that's because ice conditions were not as robust as they have been in past seasons.

Safe ice was been a hit-and-run matter on any number of lakes because of premature thawing. Even southern Wisconsin locations were questionable during the season.

My friends in northern Wisconsin have been fortunate in that much of the rapidly escaping season has been somewhat decent in the way of a good panfish bite mixed with decent walleye action.

Case in point, I call your attention to a local angler who spends quite a bit of fishing time on Castle Rock Lake, north of the Dells.

Lake In The Hills resident Joe Saftig owes it all to his uncle. Joe, 28, told me he and his uncle were jigging small lures on Castle Rock Lake without much action. The duo decided to move to shallow water and set up their tip-ups in 1-3 feet of water.

Saftig noted his hands were covered in gasoline and he was fairly certain the gas odor would turn off any fish there.

About a half-hour after the initial setup, one of the tip-up flags flipped up. Saftig grabbed the braided line and set the hook.

"I knew something big was on the end of the line, so I started slowly bringing line out of the water and on to a 15-inch cover of ice," he said.

Sure enough, a 42-inch, 26-pound northern pike became Joe's biggest thrill in one of the strangest ice fishing seasons in recent history.

I suspect not many out there are eager to hear about an ice fishing tale, but I thought this story needed to be told, especially as we are now experiencing warmer temperatures and disappearing ice.

"I owe everything to my uncle because he taught me all kinds of tricks and techniques," Saftig said.

Joe has been ice fishing for about six years, and because of this great catch I'll wager that he can't wait for next winter to take another crack at a few other monsters lurking under the surface of the ice.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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