Drilling down on Minnesota ice fishing's steadfast allure

  

Category:  Fields and Streams

Via:  community  •  8 years ago  •  34 comments

Drilling down on Minnesota ice fishing's steadfast allure

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My late father, a proud Irishman with blue-collar sensibilities, had one prerequisite for ice fishing: Copious amounts of brown liquor. He said he had to be “half in the bag” to tolerate it.


For the first time this winter in many years, I’m going to tolerate a day or two of fishing the hard water, because I want some crappies and bluegills for the frying pan. Don’t get me wrong: I love to fish. If I had one day to live and one outdoor wish, I’d fly-fish for trout on some picturesque western river. A pod of rising brown trout would be gorging themselves on mayflies or caddisflies. Wading in thigh-deep moving water as clear as moonshine, I’d cast dry flies to those ravenous browns until I developed a repetitive-stress injury.

That’s my idea of really fishing, not plumbing the hard water with a two-foot pole as I stare through a Frisbee-sized hole in a contained and claustrophobic environment (see: fish house, a variation on the man cave). I don’t hate ice fishing like my father, but I certainly don’t idealize the pastime. Which, quite honestly, doesn’t sit well with some. Let me explain.

Here in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters, some of my lifelong fishing buddies, those self-appointed culture warriors of Minnesota fishing, have told me repeatedly that anyone worth his or her salt fishes through the ice. And if you don’t (or if you do and don’t love it), there’s something seriously wrong with you.

What they’re really saying is that I can’t call myself a true-blue, bona fide fisherman unless I regularly and enthusiastically fish through the ice. In fact, one of my buddies told me that “you’re really not an angler unless you own an ice auger.”

 

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Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton    8 years ago

Ice fishing ....everyone should try it once in their life!

:~)

 
 
 
Petey Coober
Freshman Silent
link   Petey Coober    8 years ago

Drinking brown "anti-freeze" seems to be part of the process ...

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Petey Coober   8 years ago

Absolutely, though not required, likker is highly suggested. Also coffee or hot chocolate, chips, jerky, and candy...don't ask me why, I didn't invent it.

:~)

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
link   Kavika     8 years ago

Real ice fishing is without a fish house and using a spear, not rod and reel.

Try it some time.

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Kavika   8 years ago

Ha!

:~)

I have, I suck at spearing, though being out in the open is better some days, more so than others. This year looks to be mighty fine with more snow and less cold.

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Guide
link   Hal A. Lujah    8 years ago

"Real ice fishing is without a fish house and using a spear"

Note to self:  bring spear to grocery store to get fish fillets into cart.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
link   Kavika   replied to  Hal A. Lujah   8 years ago

You could get arrested doing that Hal...LOL

 
 
 
Dowser
Sophomore Quiet
link   Dowser  replied to  Hal A. Lujah   8 years ago

Ha!  Good one, Hal!

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
link   Krishna  replied to  Hal A. Lujah   7 years ago

Note to self:  bring spear to grocery store to get fish fillets into cart.

Yes, & that's also genuine ice fishing-- you can even see the ice clearly in the photo. 

 
 
 
A. Macarthur
Professor Guide
link   A. Macarthur    8 years ago

Before the days of the ice fishing shack and the gasoline-powered ice auger, a few of us Philly-city boys used to head north to Levitown (PA) Lake when it froze over. Four inches thick ice was the safe minimum for walking on and we sometimes had to surmise that thickness.

We chopped holes into the ice with hatchets and when we got close to an opened hole, the final chops resulted in splashed lake water in our faces. But we endured and caught mostly chain pickerel and yellow perch.

Once we hooked a Northern Pike with "shoulders" too wide to get through the hole … I hope the hook dissolved in its bony jaw and  it lived on.

On days when there was no snow on the ice and sunlight could penetrate the translucent surface, we'd lay on our stomachs with our faces in the hole and coats over our heads to see what we could see in the icy water.

I'm no tough enough these days to go ice fishing … but a few years ago I was tempted when a state record yellow perch was caught through the ice in Beltzville Lake in the Poconos.

But, I thought better of it and took snow scene photos (on land) instead.

Thanks or this story, Larry.

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  A. Macarthur   8 years ago

You are most welcome A Mac, and thanks for your story too...what great memory. 

I once saw a fella chopping ice sink an axe in his boot. He yelped; and, then we used alcohol to clean the wound and duct tape for both the foot and boot. That proved later to be an unwise choice when it was time to re-wrap the wound! Another time I saw a guy drive his brand new pickup into an ice hole, scramble out, and watch it go down. He was lucky, his dog was in there with him just a couple of minutes before. Ice fishing is an adventure sometimes.

:~)

 
 
 
Dowser
Sophomore Quiet
link   Dowser    8 years ago

It sounds like loads of fun, but I'd prefer just sitting in a boat, on a nice, warm, but not hot day, down on Kentucky Lake-- preferably that cove where the willow trees dangle their trailing branches in the water, and the sunfish dart among the rocks on the bottom, and there's a nice breeze, with my family, and my dog.  Yeah, if we're wishing for the laws of physics to be suspended, anyway, I'm also going to wish that Daddy would be there, with his perfectly organized fishing tackle box, and Grandpa and Grandma, with their giant snarl of tackle, and a few random slivers of Juicy Fruit gum, lost among the sinkers and bobbers.  I'd like to watch the shore where the deer come down to drink at the lake, and no one really cares if they catch fish...  Oh, let's not forget Grandma's fried chicken picnic lunch, and deviled eggs.  Sounds like the perfect day, for me!

Even though this day exists only in my dreams, since my then family never met my now family, I'm allowed to dream, on occasion.

Thanks, Larry, for the story and for the dream-mories of a lovely day!

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Dowser   8 years ago

Thank you Dowser for sharing that wonderful memory. Things have changed so much, but a lot of my childhood memories involve outdoor activities. It seems we have gotten away from that too much.

 
 
 
Dowser
Sophomore Quiet
link   Dowser  replied to  Larry Hampton   7 years ago

We still camp a lot, and that helps...   Although we camp in a condo on wheels, we still get out in the outdoors and enjoy it!  thumbs up

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
link   Krishna  replied to  Dowser   7 years ago

 I'd like to watch the shore where the deer come down to drink at the lake, and no one really cares if they catch fish...  Oh, let's not forget Grandma's fried chicken picnic lunch, and deviled eggs.  Sounds like the perfect day, for me!

I think many people go fishing because...well, they actually want to catch fish! But I think for many others its just a good excuse to hang out in a beautiful area. Maybe have a picnic, drink beer...Also, with many forms of fishing there are certain rituals, certain arcane words used...and of course the endless stories fishing generates!

 
 
 
Dowser
Sophomore Quiet
link   Dowser  replied to  Krishna   7 years ago

We used to have to say the charm:

Fishy fishy of the sea, oh come to me, oh come to me!

If we didn't say it, we didn't catch any fish.  If we did, the fish obviously volunteered to have supper with such delightful people as Grandpa and Grandma!  

Daddy, on the other hand, viewed it as a military campaign.  Eyes to the bobber, no moving, no wiggling, everything in its place, everything labeled, everything perfectly just so-- but both them, the super military campaign style and the much more relaxed and normal, haphazard method, resulted in fish-- IF you said the charm...  

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
link   Buzz of the Orient    7 years ago

I never tried ice-fishing although the lake on which my northern 4-season chalet was located froze over solid enough for us to flood it in front for a smooth skating rink. I could see the ice-fishers' vehicles and shacks out on the lake but was never tempted to try the sport. My preference was sitting in my boat just off the shore during an early summer morning and taking in enough nice-sized bass for a very fresh pan-fried breakfast.

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Buzz of the Orient   7 years ago

Thanks for sharing Buzz. Great imagery in that story,,,sounds wonderful!

 
 
 
Randy
Sophomore Participates
link   Randy    7 years ago

I have driven my car (a Pinto) over frozen lakes before in ND, but had the heater on and never went ice fishing. Too cold! Spinning around on the ice was good drunken fun though, 'eh!

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Randy   7 years ago

Lol Randy, that would have been one of those exploding cars, right?

 
 
 
Randy
Sophomore Participates
link   Randy  replied to  Larry Hampton   7 years ago

That's partially a myth and partially true. A lot of small cars did the same thing, Chevy Vega for instance (which also had a habit of rusting out in the center of the roof (not sure how Chevy got it to do that?)) when it came to where the put their gas tank, but it was Pinto that got all the bad news reports. Anyway I bought it when it was only 6 months old (it was a 1973) for just $1,500 off from another Airman who had received a surprise assignment to Great Britain. It had helper springs on the back to lift it up just enough to put a set of Goodyear, raised white letter 50 series racing tires under it (it looked like all tires from the back) and 70 series on the front, with ET spun aluminum mags all around. Hell the tires and wheels on it cost almost what the car did!. It was emerald green mini-metal flake and I'd take it back in a heartbeat! It had 2000cc  straight four cylinder engine and was really, really quick off the line. I didn't want it at first because I had my eye on a '72 Gran Torino, but he kept dropping the price and I'm glad I bought it. I had a ball with that car in the blizzards (it was all over the road on ice when you just sort of had to sail it from place to place) and on hot summer days I could get those rear tires smoking! Here is yours truly (at 18 (and wearing sunglasses of course)) laying on the hood! Note the missing "tooth" in the grill for the block heater plug. 256

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Randy   7 years ago

Sweet pic Randy; what a pimp mac-daddy!

;^)

 
 
 
Randy
Sophomore Participates
link   Randy  replied to  Larry Hampton   7 years ago

It's the aviator sunglasses. It's always the sunglasses. lol!

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Principal
link   Krishna  replied to  Randy   7 years ago

I would imagine that you'd have to be very careful not to drive over ice that was too thin...

 
 
 
Randy
Sophomore Participates
link   Randy  replied to  Krishna   7 years ago

Actually is was pretty safe, especially since you'd go through periods of 4 or 5 weeks in a row where the high temp of the day didn't get above zero. I put a suicide knob on the steering wheel so I could spin around while shifting. Besides a lot of people drove pick up trucks out to their ice shanty and they never fell through. Just drive down the boat ramp and right onto the lake.

 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
link   Kavika     7 years ago

You can ice fish in northern Minnesota anytime of the year except a Tuesday afternoon in August. That's summer in the far north.winking

 
 
 
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Kavika   7 years ago

I hear tell of a a summer so hot,they fished all the way until Wednesday morning one year.

;^)

 
 

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