Ice Fishing: Could the Cold Weather Outdoor Activity Gain As Much Traction as Hunting Did this Year?

by Josh Lanier

The number of hunters exploded this year as people left lockdown for the outdoors. But will ice fishing see a similar spike now that hunting seasons are coming to an end?

Wildlife experts believe so.

“All needles are pointing to people wanting to get outside and do stuff this winter,” said Henry Drewes, a regional fisheries manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “And one of those things will be ice fishing.”

Earlier this year, fishing and all other outdoor sports saw marked increases. The pandemic shuttered most entertainment options such as concerts, bars, and music festivals. People returned to their hobbies or looked for new ones to pass the time in quarantine.

Hunting license sales were way up this year as well as the number of deers brought back for harvesting. Fishing licenses are also seeing a spike in recent weeks across the country.

“I think people are going to be looking for ways to get out of the house,” Drewes said. “Besides having restrictions on some of the things we can do, many people are working remotely from home. I think we’re going to need outdoor activity to help people keep their sanity.”

Retailers are also preparing for one of their biggest sales periods in years.

“We have been planning for ice fishing to be super popular this season, even without the pandemic,” said Caryn Olson of Scheels, an outdoors retail giant in the Midwest. “It’s no secret that the outdoors industry has been booming in 2020 and we would expect the ice fishing season to be no exception. Hunting and fishing are a couple of the ultimate social distancing activities.”

Those numbers may climb even higher. Retailers said they had sales increases after the first stimulus checks were cut. That could be replicated as the U.S. Treasury began sending out the most recent round of $600 stimulus.