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