A couple of first-time ice fishermen from Team Clintonville bring up a northern from Thunder Lake.
A couple of first-time ice fishermen from Team Clintonville bring up a northern from Thunder Lake.
Battling less-than-perfect conditions atop a frozen Thunder Lake, the Three Lakes-Phelps high school ice fishing team reigned supreme recently in what was the first of two Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association (WIFA) events coming to the area this winter.

Along with the Three Lakes-Phelps ice fishing team the Three Lakes Fish & Wildlife Association welcomed seven teams in total from across Wisconsin to the catch-and-release tournament which kicked off the competitive season for many high school teams.

“Overall, the day went very well,” said Three Lakes-Phelps coach and Fish & Wildlife member Jason Pertile. “The team would like to again thank the Three Lakes Fish & Wildlife Association for helping host the day, and all of the coaches and parents for supporting these kids in the sport of fishing.”

Pertile said from the get-go last Saturday the fishing was competitive as teams ventured out before light to stake their claim to a spot.

“Coaches, parents and volunteers are only allowed to help cut holes, unhook and help with the handling of the fish for measurements,” said Pertile. “They also assisted in helping to register the fish in the Fish Donkey app before the fish is released. Students were responsible for the strategy, setting of the lines and catching of the fish.”

Fishing began at 7 a.m. as the team from Wausaukee jumped out to an early lead, filling their panfish and northern pike categories early and upgrading throughout the day.

“Upgrading was allowed as it was strictly a catch-and-release tournament and the (mobile) app would only show the biggest fish for every team,” said Pertile.

 Elcho and Goodman were hanging tight to the top of the standings throughout the day much thanks to Goodman’s Lucas Baraboo who had big fish of the day as he landed a 261⁄4 inch northern pike.

The Three Lakes-Phelps team filled their pike category, and struck with an early walleye caught by Henry Siedschlag. Even after the larger gamefish the Three Lakes-Phelps squad was still trailing in the panfish category most of the morning until slightly after noon when they took just over a five-inch lead.

“It was a late-day fish by Cody Spittlemeister who hoisted in a 203⁄4 inch walleye at 1:20 p.m. that gave us the 26-inch lead,” said Pertile. “It held out then until the final bell at 2 p.m. giving the Three Lakes-Phelps kids their first tourney win of the season.”

Following Three Lakes-Phelps in the standings were second-place Wausaukee and third-place Elcho.

All seven teams who took part in the event filled their obligation of one WIFA-sponsored tourney prior to taking part in the State Championships set Feb. 15.

Come February Pertile expects hundreds of high school fishermen from around Wisconsin to take part in the championship tourney which will be held on Lac Vieux Desert, North and South Twin lakes, Big Sand Lake, Long Lake, Kentuck Lake, and Anvil, Pioneer, Deerskin, Silver, Eagle, Catfish, Cranberry, Scattering Rice and Yellow Birch lakes.

The contest on Thunder was the first of two contests which the Three Lakes-Phelps team will take part in prior to the WIFA State Championship set Feb. 15 in Eagle River. They will compete this coming weekend in Minocqua in a tournament hosted by Kurt’s Island Sports.

The 2020 season marks the third season of competition for the Three Lakes-Phelps team who continue to be supported by the Three Lakes Fish & Wildlife Association.

The group helped the team with supplying a Strikemaster auger along with a portable Otter fishing tent. They also furnished all fishermen following the tourney with a hot lunch and refreshments.