March blew in like a musk ox with every intention of pawing around our frozen tundra for at least a couple more weeks.

This doesn’t change WDNR regulations which require ice shack removal from inland lakes the first Sunday in March. Most years this rule makes pretty good sense.

The past three winters have been mild by Wisconsin standards. But back in 2014, weather conditions were so severe that wardens were using rare discretion in writing tickets if shack owners were making an effort to comply.

If you’re reading this and realize your hardwater man cave is still out on the lake, contacting the DNR to apprise them of the situation might save you a ticket.

Gamefish season on most inland waters closed a couple days ago. It reopens May 4.

This rule was on the books decades before the DNR trashed traditions like backtags for deer hunting and beautiful stamps as a part of license purchase.

With most folks aware of this long-standing rule, they quickly release any gamefish caught by mistake. Wardens have discretion here, too. If the warden believes you are “attempting to take” gamefish instead of panfish or other species not subject to closed season, you’re gonna get a ticket.

There are more effective ways to catch crappies than winging a No. 10 double-cowgirl bucktail on 80-pound test braid.

It’s a shame the DNR doesn’t view gamefish closed season dates with the same progressive zeal used to abolish traditional backtags.

Catch-and-release ethics were unheard of back in the day when grandpa first headed out for the 30-point buck with his old Marlin 336C in .30-.30 caliber.

Why not modify laws to no harvest, using early-season trout regulations established several years ago as a template?

WDNR fish managers use established science to manage state waters on a fishery-by-fishery basis with wonderful results. What rationale is there for not “going wild” in changing gamefish rules to catch-and-release?

Waiting for the cardinals to sing

Spring hearings are right around the corner. Meteorological Spring arrives in just 2½ weeks. When will the musk ox shuffle off the stage and let the cardinals sing?

With more daylight than darkness from this point forward and tremendous power in mid-March sun, cardinals will be singing before you know it.

The sounds of songbirds, sandhill cranes and geese are extra sweet when you’re trying to coax a walleye out of the river as Wisconsin’s favorite gamefish eases upstream out of cold water into pre-spawn mode.

Single digits in the great outdoors today make such a pursuit with a jig, apprehensive minnow and sensitive St. Croix wand a borderline nuts endeavor.

Yes, this winter is reminiscent of 2014. But the walleye spawning run that year on Rock River was in progress within 72 hours of April Fool’s Day—just as it has been all but six years during the past 30.

There is incalculable value in keeping a fishing diary. Memories that are not benchmarked by the written word beneath a date blur quickly as the years go flying by.

The old black-and-white Kodak of grandpa in his checkered mackinaw holding the antlers of his biggest-ever buck will still be in the cherished family album—next to his last backtag—long after the equally treasured record of your granddaughter’s first doe get lost forever when your smart phone falls in the river during the walleye run just a month away.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.com

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