I have to remind myself that my Wisconsin fishing license expires next month. It makes sense that the expiration date each year is in March, that precarious no-fishing time between solid winter ice and the totally open water of late spring, but that does not make it any easier to remember that I need to renew my permit. As hard as I try to not be in violation, I’ve fished in April a time or two without a valid license.

Right now, however, I have a week or two of warm weather ice fishing ahead of me. The ice gets wet and slippery with temperatures in the 40s, but I can fish with my coat wide open and my mittens on the ice. This is the time of year when at least one careless fisherman puts his ATV through the ice, but on the Mississippi River, I always enter the ice on foot and keep to backwaters where the ice is thickest. There is still plenty of safe fishing left this winter. 

That doesn’t mean I am catching many fish. With almost a full season of winter fishing behind me, I’ve brought home a total of two meals of bluegills, crappies, and perch. Last weekend a friend introduced me to a new spot. The fishing was no better than anywhere else, but it was secluded and we had a little chunk of backwater all to ourselves. 

The highlight of the fishing trip, however, was neither the occasional fish nor the solitude. It was my friend’s dog Skye. The huge Rhodesian ridgeback joined us out on the ice. Near sunset two barred owls called to each other, and Skye called back with an owl imitation much better than anything I’ve ever been able to make. In his deep hound dog voice, he repeatedly  pointed his snout to the sky and howled at the owls with the classic “Who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all.” Who would have thought that the wonderful sound of barred owls could be enhanced by a dog?

Steven Simpson