Jig’s Up and nothing’s biting

UW-Eau Claire’s Recreation and Sports facilities introduced a kids event to the Jig’s Up ice-fishing contest


Photo by Andee Erickson

Bottom to top: Four-year-old William, 6-year-olds Henry and Abbott after participating in the Kids Klub contest of the Jig’s Up ice-fishing event Saturday on Lake Altoona.

After a morning spent fishing, two brothers and their cousin sat eating lunch on a frozen lake until the youngest ran off in a hurry to replace his tipped hot chocolate.

UW-Eau Claire University Recreation and Athletics kicked off its third annual Jig’s Up ice fishing contest Saturday with a new Kids Klub ice fishing event. The proceeds from Jig’s Up fundraiser support Eau Claire’s recreation and athletic organizations, including 24 sports clubs, said Andy Jepsen, interim director for recreation and athletics on campus.

The contest was a fundraising opportunity different from the typical golf-outing and attracts a whole new audience, Jepsen said. Over 700 tickets were sold to register the fish caught into the contest, Jepsen said.

Mitch Cullman and his two sons, 6-year-old Henry and 4-year-old Jackson attended the Jig’s Up fishing contest on Lake Wissota of Chippewa Falls. They weren’t able to catch anything, Cullman said, but as Jepsen’s brother-in law, it was an opportunity to support the campus.

Mark Thorn said he and his 10-year-old daughter Grace didn’t catch anything either, but they were able to see the sun rise.

“We got up extra early to be on the ice since seven,” Thorn said.

Along with partnering with the Lake Wissota Lions Club for the first year, University Recreation and Athletics also partnered with Scheels to present the Kids Klub ice fishing clinic the night before the contest as part of Jig’s Up events.

Jamie Kane, the events coordinator for Scheels, said most of the 30-40 kids who attended the contest Saturday also attended the clinic Friday evening where they learned fishing skills.

The kids had a great time making s’mores over the bonfire on the ice and eating hotdogs, Kane said, even though they hadn’t caught anything but minnows.

A tagged 19-inch walleye was released into the lake and participants in the contest were eligible to win a 2015 Ford F-150 if they caught the fish. If a child in the Kids Klub contest caught the tagged fish they could win the truck, Kane said.

“That would be a riot to see,” Kane said.

The tagged fish wasn’t caught, nor was the Ford awarded to a lucky winner. Director Jepsen said campus recreation will discuss new approaches to take with the vehicle contest for next year’s Jig’s Up.

“We want to keep trying to have that opportunity,” Jepsen said, “it creates a different buzz for people.”

The partnership with Scheels and Lake Wissota Lions Club was the event’s biggest success this year and helped to advance the event and create a family environment, Jepsen said.

Dave Vollmer, a math instructor at Chippewa Valley Technical College, said he spent the morning on the north end of the lake trying to catch northern pike, until his 3-year-old grandson James joined. He likes to get the kids started young, Vollmer said.

“I’ve got lines in the water, but I’m not expecting to catch much,” Vollmer said. “It’s more about being with the kids.”

It was a good day for fishing on the lake, Vollmer said. He participated in the first year of Jig’s Up on Lake Altoona when temperatures were 24 degrees below zero.

He said he didn’t even need his insulated bibs and jacket, this year.