I will be the first to admit I know absolutely nothing about ice fishing – the creaking of the ice when it shifts still give me the willies. My husband, on the other hand, can’t seem to get enough of it. People travel from all over the world to the Midwest just to say they have done it. For that reason, I decided to try it again – and I’m a firm believer that I’ve got at least a couple followers who would enjoy this endeavor, too!
Let’s get something straight right from the start: Ice fishing is not like bobber fishing, when you grab a rod and some worms then find some water to cast into. There is a whole lot of time and effort that goes into setting up, and a whole lot of comedy comes from watching someone run across the ice to catch a tip-up. (Word to the wise – if you’re like me and have no idea how to ice fish, get a guide or someone who does - not only for sanity’s sake, but navigating on ice is risky and not for a novice to do on their own.)
Your day should go something like this: Find every warm piece of clothing you have and put it on until you look like the kid from the Christmas Story (okay, maybe not that far…); layers are going to make your day a lot more enjoyable. Meet with your guide, who has no doubt been assembling gear since dawn, and travel to their “super secret” fishing spot. Since this year has been unseasonably warm, you will most likely be on one of the inland lakes like we were. You will catch small pan fish like perch, or maybe the occasional northern. If you’re like me, and have no ability what-so-ever to help, this is when you sit back and watch as the experienced one in your group drills holes, scoops out slush and sets up ice fishing rods called tip-ups (when the fish bites the line, a flag pops up letting you know a fish is biting).
When everything is finally set, sit back on your bucket of minnows and wait. At first you watch every flag intently for even the slightest movement, then after a while you start to shift your focus to the frozen lake and the other fishermen around you. The experience is so tranquil – it has almost a rejuvenating quality to it. It’s when the flag finally pops that the excitement begins.
You’d think we put tiny fish lunch bells on our lines because when the first flag popped, the second and third followed right behind. I’m not sure what the spikes on your shoes are supposed to do, but running from hole to hole on the ice will never look graceful – it may be even more entertaining than pulling the fish out of the ice!
After a good chunk of the day had passed, we packed up our things and headed back to reality to find some heat. As crazy as sitting on the ice all day sounds, it actually wasn’t that bad (and I really enjoyed it). Ice fishing is quiet, relaxing and completely opposite of your average day at work. You are distantly surrounded by fun-loving people who aren’t afraid to stop over to see what you’ve caught, or show off the behemoth they just pulled through the ice.
To my surprise, ice fishing isn’t just for men who would rather freeze than be at home; it’s an adventure and a getaway to be shared among friends, passed down through the generations.