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Patrick Angell Lake Villfishing open water off Thristy Turtle's docks during 2012 NICC Ice Fishing Derby Winter Festival Channel Lake

Patrick Angell of Lake Villa fishing on open water off Thristy Turtle's docks during the 2012 NICC Ice Fishing Derby and Winter Festival on Channel Lake in Antioch. | Joe Shuman~for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 13, 2013 6:05AM

Can you tell I got ice on my mind.

Here we are in the middle of January and there’s barely a thin layer of ice on the water just about anywhere. Sure, the hard-core hard-water anglers have found a channel with two inches of ice to fish on. But for most, we wouldn’t think about it unless we got 5-66 inches of ice.

Already we had one Gurnee man go through the ice while fishing on East Loon Lake near Antioch. But luckily, a nearby homeowner extended a ladder and helped him out just before the fire department’s air boats could get there to pull him to safety.

The Round Lake Park District and the Round Lake Management Commission are teaming up to introduce people to a neat winter activity you can do with your kids. I’m hoping they get some ice on Round Lake so they can get out into the field, or ice-scape, so to speak.

This park district has been doing some fun things with the outdoors, including a paddle around the lake and a fishing derby. Hats and gloves off to those in charge.

Big ice-fishing derby

Also wishing for some ice is the Northern Illinois Conservation Club for its 53rd annual Ice Fishing Derby and Winter Festival, scheduled for Feb. 9-10 and featuring more than $5,000 in cash and prizes.

Last year was practically iceless on the whole Chain O’ Lakes, but some ice anglers still went. For the first time in many years, I did not get the chance to judge ice-fishing shacks, which can range from homemade marvels to bare- bones basic ones dressed up for the contest.

Last year, I didn’t get to judge because there was no ice on Channel Lake/Lake Catherine where the derby is headquartered out of the Thirsty Turtle Beach Bar and Grill, 42273 Woodbine Dr., near Antioch.

They still held their festival games for the kids and those hanging out got to see the nice fish being brought in from other areas on the Chain O’ Lakes. You can fish any part of the chain and enter your fish by buying a raffle ticket. Only ice shanties on Channel Lake/Lake Catherine can be entered in the shanty contest, which has a prize for most creative and best presentation.

They also hold an auction on the Sunday and there are prizes every hour for the biggest and smallest fish.

While the Turtle has great food, there is also the Conservation Cafe with chili, hot dogs, hot chocolate and coffee.

The club was formed in 1960 by a group of sportsmen and persons interested in outdoor activities and they wanted to promote education, conservation and preservation of wildlife and the habitat. This was a time when there was a deterioration of the habitats, ignorance of natural processes and a lack of hunter safety.

They set out to change things and they met at various spots until they bought a beautiful piece of property in 1986. The 62.5 acres now has more than a mile of wood-chipped trail for hikers, a pond, and the old farmhouse was turned into a meeting room and educational center. There’s also a small pond for catch-and-release fishing. Members also cleared and maintain areas for camping and nature activities.

A large percentage of the land is wetlands, including two sections declared “superior wetlands” and it’s a haven for displaced wildlife in the fast growing suburbs. It’s registered with the Illinois Acres for Wildlife.

To become a member costs $25 for an individual and $35 for a family, and the club would like to have each member volunteer at least five hours per year at an event or project. See Web site www.lakeonline/nicc.

I also tell people that even if you don’t ice fish, when’s the last time you took a nice walk on an ice-covered lake. Buy a raffle ticket, catch a meal and a drink. It’s all good.

Note from North

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources took free fishing days a step further and will host free ice-fishing days on Jan. 19-20. All can fish for free that weekend anywhere in the state. No license or trout stamp needed. This means all inland waters and the Wisconsin side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Size and creel limits still apply.

Pheasant Dinner Alert

Lake County Pheasants Forever’s fourth annual banquet is scheduled for Feb. 23 at the Moose Lodge, 26020 W. Route 173, Antioch.

There will be as many as seven guns raffled, home and office decor, hunting gear and more. Besides the auction, you get a delicious pheasant dinner. For $150, you get two dinners, one yearly membership and 10 raffle tickets for a Franchi 20 gauge shotgun.

A regular membership and dinner ticket is $60 and an additional dinner is $25 (or $20 for kids under the age of 16).

Contact Jack Fields at (847) 274-3958. Last year, the 150 spots sold out.

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