“My wife would say I’m an ice fishing fanatic,” he laughs. “I enjoy it so much; it’s very rewarding. Minus 15 with about a 20-mph wind, riding around on my quad four-wheeler. Yeah, I’m one of those guys. But I have the proper gear and clothing. And when it gets that cold, I have a portable (tent).
“I live, eat and sleep ice fishing. It’s a passion and a hobby.”
Bieghler has been hooked on ice fishing since his first cast in the late ’80s when he and a friend went out with a sponge bobber and a $6 rod and reel ice-fishing combo.
Through the years, Bieghler’s passion has grown along with the arsenal of tools he uses to help him get a gill up on the fish. And in 2009, he entered his first tournament, an ice fishing derby put on by Des Moines’ Parks Department. He caught a 2.5 -pound walleye in the last half of the tournament and won.
“You can imagine my excitement,” he says. “I was shocked.”
After the win, Bieghler began upgrading his equipment. Warmer clothing. Better boots. A flasher (a depth-finder and sonar system to monitor fish activity). Then he went to ice fishing school at Ice Roads in Okoboji where he learned about “everything ice fishing.”
“That really helped me out,” he says. He’s been competing for five years now.
As Bieghler experienced a higher level of competition at various tournaments, he saw how other ice fishermen did things, and he used what he learned to continue to advance. Eventually he became an expert himself, and he now pro staffs (someone who promotes a specific brand of products and is selected based on their ice fishing achievements) for Clam Outdoors, Vexler, Eatmybait/jnscustomjigs, Ace Custom Rods and Hicklin Power Sports in Grimes.
Bieghler also runs a Facebook page called Central Iowa Icesticks and speaks at various ice fishing seminars. An “icestick” is a term of endearment between ice fishermen.
After all the fun he’s enjoyed on the ice, he encourages others to do the same.
“You don’t need all that higher end stuff to get out and enjoy it,” he says.
Unlike bass fishing — where some people might buy a $50,000 boat — all you need to ice fish is a little pole, a bucket to sit on, a hand auger and the desire to sit out in the cold.
“Safety is first,” he says. “That’s the most important thing.”
He warns to stay away from solid objects such as a dock or trees sticking out of the water, and make sure to always walk at least 8 feet around those items.
“The heat transfers through the item, and the ice will be the thinnest right around that object,” he warns. “A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Bieghler also recommends fishing with at least one other person, and telling someone where you will be fishing. Lastly, always bring a cell phone.
“Ice safety first,” he says. “Always.” ♦