Country Woman MagazineIt’s a frosty morning on Lake of the Woods, a sprawling body of water straddling Canada and the upper tip of Minnesota. Inside the handful of huts that dot the ice, kept snug by space heaters, about 30 members of the Wisconsin-based WI Women Fish club are seated on benches holding jigs—small fishing rods—over holes drilled into the ice. They’re after a fat walleye or maybe a sauger. But even if they don’t hook a thing, these women are having the time of their lives.
“I think it’s a more supportive environment because we’re women only,” says professional angler Barb Carey, who founded the club a decade ago to get more women interested in fishing. “There’s no competition or judgment. Members can learn, ask questions and reach whatever goal they want. Everybody is treated with respect; everyone is welcome—we range in age from 20 to 80. And everyone celebrates in everyone else’s success. It’s very empowering.”
With 135 members spread across six states and Canada, the group hosts about 12 events a year, including weekend retreats and educational clinics. From fishing off barges in the Mississippi River to trolling Lake Michigan, WI Women Fish offers all types of angling at locations across the Midwest. Ice fishing events draw the most, and Barb says the sport has become more female-friendly thanks to warmer clothing designed specifically for women and more lightweight augers for drilling holes in the ice.
“Once you actually ice fish and get rid of that image of your grandpa sitting on a bucket in the middle of the lake freezing,” Barb says, “you realize the feeling of being on the ice is incredible. You know, some of these ladies never would have dreamed that they’d be ice fishing. But through this group they’ve stepped way out of their comfort zone, they’re putting energy and excitement back into their lives, and they’re being successful at it. I get goose bumps when I talk about it.”
Country Woman MagazineBarb’s tips for wannabe winter anglers:
Get booted: Warm boots are key to successful ice fishing. Barb recommends lightweight and toasty Irish Setter Ladyhawks.
Get connected: Ice fishing equipment can be expensive, and no angler should ever be on the ice alone. Find a buddy who will share her gear and show you the ropes.
Get educated: Shortcut the learning curve by taking a class with a group like WI Women Fish. Barb also suggests Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, a program offering workshops in 38 states and six Canadian provinces.