Ice fishing options from rental to guided trips

Trevor James has a good idea with offering guide ice-fishing trips and rental packages.

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Trevor James, shown with a crappie on the ice, has a good idea for ice-fishing rentals or guided trips.

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Trevor James was ice-fishing when we talked Friday.

That was a good sign.

James is building a good idea for ice fishing in the Chicago area. His Wet N Wild Outfitters offers ice-fishing opportunities from guided trips to tent and gear rental in the Chain O’Lakes area.

Two years ago, they did three test rentals; last year, that went up to 11.

‘‘It picked up traction, and we are going all-in,’’ James said.

James generally starts taking rental and guide dates after Christmas. He said he and two other guides can handle up to 33 people individually.

‘‘The guys working for me are in their late 20s and early 30s,’’ James said. ‘‘Our friends want to go, but they didn’t want to make the investment.’’

I think he nailed an opportunity, both for locals and visitors to the Chicago area.

James recommends beginners do a guide trip first. For the more experienced, who want to do equipment rentals, James said that when customers are delivered to thermal-heated fish houses, ‘‘the heater will be running and all the equipment there.’’ That includes live bait and rods. Upgrades are available for a lunch or dinner option.

They primarily go out of Oak Park Lounge in Johnsburg. Other affiliations are with The Boat Yard in Fox Lake and Ice Strong Outdoors.

James is working with clubs, groups and organizations, such as veteran groups and the Northern Illinois Conservation Club. He hopes NICC can offer rentals during its winter festival.

‘‘It all comes full circle to the community,’’ James said. ‘‘We’re trying to grow the sport.’’

James, 27, learned ice fishing from Al Thorsen in Wonder Lake about 11 years ago. Another ice-fishing mentor has been Tod Todd.

James’ most memorable fishing trip came when he was in Cub Scouts. They forgot their fishing gear on a trip to Eagle Cave, Wisconsin.

‘‘Dad bought a spool line, and we got some sticks and were catching some nice bluegill,’’ James said.

His dad, Steve, does a lot of office work for Wet N Wild.

‘‘Nowadays, a lot is angler education,’’ James said. ‘‘Why move spots? Why the bait? How come we went from fishing shallow to a 7-foot hole? That stuff intrigues me more and more, the science behind it, what are the fish doing.’’

‘‘With the surge in folks looking to get outdoors, we are proud to offer a service for them,’’ James emailed by way of introduction this fall.

For more information, go to wetnwildoutfitters.com.

Illinois hunting

Jeff Norris of Fox Valley Guide Service sent a photo of limits of Canada geese Saturday and texted: ‘‘The migrators are here.’’ Apparently so. About the same time, Curt Pazdro messaged about geese limits in the southwest suburbs. . . . Harvest for Illinois’ muzzleloader deer season will be posted at chicago.suntimes.com/section/outdoors when available. . . . Duck season in the central zone ends Tuesday.

Wild things

Retired naturalist Carl Strang just released an updated ‘‘Singing Insects of the Chicago Region: A Guide to Crickets, Katydids, Grasshoppers and Cicadas With Audible Displays.’’ For a copy, email Strang at wildlifer@aol.com.

Stray cast

Commercial perch netters on southern Lake Michigan in days of yore had nothing on modern Major League Baseball owners for greed and lack of social conscience.

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