2019 Women Ice Angler Project Focuses on Empowerment and Facing Fears on Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay

(Bayfield, Wisc.) Jan. 29, 2019 — After a busy week of fishing and media interviews on the ice, the eight-member Women Ice Angler Project (WIAP) team welcomed more than 35 ladies from across the country for a meet and greet and a full day of ice fishing. One angler flew up from Phoenix, Arizona and said when it wrapped up, “This has been an amazing experience—life changing.” Another angler traveled from Nashville, Tennessee. The remaining attendees were from the ice belt.

Bringing women anglers into an area is a tourism opportunity and the Bayfield-Ashland communities capitalized with WIAP—a media event. “These women travelled to fish with us on new ice and target new species of fish,” Barb Carey said. Carey is the founder of Women Ice Angler Project now in its fifth year. Previous years were held on Lake of the Woods (twice), Mille Lacs and Otter Tail County—all in Minnesota. The WIAP ladies caught whitefish, perch, herring, splake, coho salmon and brown trout and shared what they learned with the out-of-town guests. Tommy Hicks, local Beyond the Catch guide service, provided a fully-guided ice fishing experience to a small group. Most women anglers showed up with their own ice fishing rigged ATVs and snowmobiles and their own shelters, electronics, augers and tackle. “Most of these gals spend a lot of money on this sport,” Carey said. “Our sponsors are starting to understand this is a demographic to market to and showcase in their media.”

The Wild Rice Retreat Center of Bayfield hosted the meet-and-greet. Many area businesses offered coupons or other goodies to the guests. “Everyone has been very generous to welcome our ladies,” Hannah Hudson said, who formerly resided in Bayfield. “I think they know many of them will likely return to the area. That’s special to me because Jim and I ran a business here and we know what a great place this is to visit all year long.” Kat Werchouski spoke on the Ojibwe traditions and her friendship with the late Jim Hudson. GrassFed Cinema showed their documentary filmed last year following the Women Ice Angler Project. Several media outlets interviewed Hannah Hudson at length around the sixth anniversary of Jim’s thin-ice accident in which he lost his life while guiding ice fishing. “It was work that he loved and it made me very happy to be out here with these ladies fishing and filming a documentary on this anniversary day that is often very hard for me,” Hannah said. “I think I know what I need to do every year now. He definitely was a part of the day—and that’s a good thing.”

Many outdoor women find empowerment through getting outdoors as they live life to its fullest. While everyone has respect for Lake Superior, or at least they should, most step forward with spud bar in hand and good intel from local guides, and they show up and fish. Fears and all.

“Since the moment my husband passed away on this body of water six years ago to the day [on Saturday], my focus in life has been to help others address their fears and move forward from loss,” Hannah said. “Returning to where Jim taught me to fish, with this group of women who encouraged me to keep fishing after Jim’s death, really brought it full circle.”

GrassFed Cinema filmed during the weekend for a second documentary highlighting women ice anglers and specifically Hannah’s story of Jim’s death on this lake and her way forward. Wisconsin public television filmed for Wisconsin Outdoors, Minnesota Public Radio recorded on the ice as well as other media stories to follow.

WIAP 2019 anglers include founder and Ice Team pro-staff ice angler Barb Carey, Shelly Holland; Clam pro-staffers Bonnie Timm, Shantel Wittstruck, and Rikki Pardun; outdoor communicators Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, Kristine (K.J.) Houtman and Nicole Stone from Nicole Stone Outdoors.

Project sponsors include Fleet Farm, Blackfish, Clam Outdoors, Jiffy, Garmin Panoptix, Automatic Fisherman, Outdoor First Media, Larry Smith Outdoors, Grass Fed Media, Fish On Kids Books, Stonehouse Photography, WI Women Fish, Women Anglers of Minnesota, The Woman Angler and Adventurer, and local hosts Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Mission Springs Resort.

Hannah and Bonnie Teamwork
That moment