Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ice Fishing in Otter Tail County

Ice Fishing in Otter Tail County

Over my Christmas break, I got the opportunity to do something that I absolutely love: ice fishing with my family. For those who haven’t ice fished, you should make it a point to give it a try. It is particularly fun to introduce the young ones to ice fishing, and I can say they take to it like a duck on frozen water.

A frozen lake hides fish underneath…

The first thing you have to do, of course, is drill some holes. Since the ice was about ten inches thick, we used a power auger. I am old enough to have had to use a hand auger when I was younger, and then chip the sides of the hole with an ice chipper.

Drilling the holes in the ice used to be backbreaking work, but not anymore.

Daughter can’t wait for the ice houses, so she’s first line in.

I also am old enough to remember having to haul out a wooden ice house on sleds by hand, arduous work even for the young of heart and muscle. New portable ice houses like this Eskimo set up in just minutes and weigh under 30 pounds.

Two person portable ice house.

Quickly we are on to fish—and to our great delight one of them is a nice 19” walleye! This is quickly followed by a four pound northern, perfect size for pickling. Northerns between 3 and 6 pounds are keepers; anything smaller or larger are released. Catch-and-release practices such as this keep balance in a lake.

Two fish.

A great deal of fishing gear is unique to ice fishing, including the special short rods perfect for light lines. Here I tie on a new airplane jig because a ten pound northern cut me off on the lip of the hole. As an aside, a week later my father-in-law caught the northern and it still had my jig in its mouth.

The daughter helps her old man scooping minnows for the fluorescent jigs.

Tying on a new jig after my big northern cut me off.

A fine day of fishing indeed. The whole family catches their share of fish.

The daughter sitting in the ice house.

She soon sets the hook and lands a cute Black Crappie!

Everyone joins in the fun.

Ice fishing is a blast and grows more popular in the northern climes every year. I know several people who fish 5-7 times a week in the winter who are lucky to be seen on the lake once a month in the summer.

If you don’t ice fish, you should. If you do ice fish, get out on that frozen pond and drill yourself a hole!

-- Dr. Todd


Bill Sonnett said...

Todd I got a kick out of your comment that you are old enough to have used a a hand auger when you went ice fishing. I am beginning to feel really old. When I started to ice fish, over 50 years ago, most fellows including me used an axe to chop a hole in the ice. This actually works fairly well until water runs into the hole after which every swing splashes ice and water all over the fellow with the axe.
About the time I was in high school my fishing partners and I decided to move up in the ice fishing world and procure a “spudbar” which is what ice chisels were called in our neck of the woods. No one produced or sold them commercially so like most others we had a local welder build us one. He mentioned that we might want to temper the blade as it was fairly soft iron. I got an ancient book somewhere that talked about tempering and mentioned that blacksmiths often used horse urine to temper red hot iron in. We died not have access to a horse but did have access to plenty of urine. After a “group effort” we had a coffee can full and built a wood fire in a friend's backyard burning barrel. It was a wet, foggy winter day with 6 inches of wet snow on the ground and the temperature was around 40 degrees. After heating the business end of the “spudbar” to a bright cherry red, 4 or 5 of us stood around in a tight circle to watch the red hot iron plunge into our “tempering agent”. We were instantly enveloped in an acrid smelling fog that remains sharp in my mind to this day. This was followed shortly thereafter by the mother of the household coming out the the door an asking in agitated terms. “What the H*** is going on out here?”
Later I moved to Michigan and the hard winters of the 70's brought on as much as 30 inches of ice. Time to buy one of those new Swedish spoon-shaped augers. It worked great as long as it was kept sharp and not abused. I quit Ice fishing about 15 years ago and even then folks had mostly moved on to the “auger” stile of ice auger as one didn't need to stop and clean the hole out periodically while drilling as with the Swedish spoon. Las t year I had occasion to drill a hole in the ice for some folks who were all in their early 20's. When I showed up with my Swedish Spoon and a spud bar, they look at me as if I had just stepped out of a history book! My only advice when it comes t “spud bars” is never lend one that you cannot afford to lose. At least four of mine are on the bottom of lakes after being borrowed by folks who had never used one and didn't take my strong suggestion that it was always wise to tie the tool to your wrist while hammering away at the ice!

Bonneville Mariner said...

Todd, great pictures. I see you are one of the power auger-using pros that I talked about envying in my article!

Lakes are starting to thaw here in Utah, but I may have a few more weekends of good ice fishing ahead of me!

(bonneville mariner)


This is really cool. I really appreciate your hard work and effort. Thanks

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