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Ice fishing season getting shorter, data suggests

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Decrease in Ice

WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- If it seems like your time ice fishing has been cut short over the years, data suggests you're right.

This year, temperature-wise, has featured many days above freezing, which is something Jake Yang, who owns the shop Back Outdoors in Wausau, has taken special note of.

"We started off really cold, and I think that froze things up, and the ice fishing season kind of started earlier, but now it's starting to warm up a little bit," he said.

This has been part of a trend lasting over 50 years, as temperatures have gone up and the amount of ice cover time has gone down.

"Climate change is increasing air temperatures and then air temperatures are increasing the water temperatures, and warmer water doesn't freeze as fast, and it thaws more quickly," said Alex Latzka, a fisheries systems biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Less ice cover means thinner ice and shorter ice fishing seasons.

"On average, we're losing about a month of ice cover per year," Latzka said.

DNR research also says the ice fishing season has gotten shorter by more than three weeks since the 1970s.

Before you set up your camp if you haven't already, experts say it's now more important than before to check the ice.

"From an angler perspective, that just means fewer days that I can fish, but it also means the ice is going to be thinner, it means ice safety is always a concern, but it's an increasing concern," Latzka said.

The warmer water temperatures and thinner ice impact the fish in lakes as well, as walleye struggle more in warmer water during this time of year, whereas bluegill and bass tend to fare better health-wise.

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