Ice fishing: Into the heart of why ice anglers do it as they explain their love/obession

Ice fishing: Into the heart of why ice anglers do it as they explain their love/obession

Tim “Spike” Davis finds ice fishing gives him an excuse to wear his favorite hat. | Provided

Ice anglers answer a reader’s question about the appeal of ice fishing with an outpouring of thoughts and reasons for their love of the sport.

Elizabeth Clark asked a good question, and dozens of readers responded well.

‘‘It’s obvious that the ‘lure’ of ice fishing or fishing in this weather is very strong,’’ she emailed. ‘‘Can you or some of your contributors tell us mere mortals/the uninitiated what it is that draws them to go out in these extreme conditions?’’

‘‘Part of the lure is being, in many people’s eyes, the crazy guy that braves the elements, regardless of cold and wind,’’ Jason Langford posted. ‘‘Also . . . there is a serenity that you find patiently sitting in a small enclosure, cut off from the world except for a small hole into the unknown below.’’

‘‘Frozen lakes are very calming, shockingly quiet most times,’’ Kyle Lamm tweeted. ‘‘Staring at a Vexilar and jigging puts me in a trance sometimes.’’

‘‘Ice fishing with a Vexilar is addictive,’’ Ryan Whitacre posted. ‘‘I’ve had dreams about marks coming off the bottom.’’

Vexilars are flashers that show fish (marks).

Ben Dickinson, Indiana’s Lake Michigan fisheries biologist, weighed in with this: ‘‘Ice fishing levels the playing field. Access becomes easier. You don’t need a boat or a boat launch, even. Staying vertical over fish or structure is easier, and fine-tuning presentations is a lot of fun. In many ways, it can be more interactive than open-water fishing, especially if you have a flasher and can basically see fish reactions to your presentation in real time.’’

Michael Walsh and others emphasized the egalitarian nature of ice fishing.

‘‘Enables us to get out on lakes that are not accessible without a boat,’’ he tweeted.

‘‘It’s pretty low-maintenance,’’ Patrick Patel tweeted. ‘‘All my gear fits in a sled. Open-water gear is strewn all over [the] basement.’’

Kevin Irons, Illinois’ aquatic nuisance species program manager, noted: ‘‘With the auger as the exception, this CAN be an extremely affordable and efficient outing. A handful of small hooks, a small cork and some line, and you are off to the races! Sometimes a friendly fisher will help with the hole, too!’’

And, as John Heneghan noted, ‘‘I think fish in winter have a firmer meat.’’

The challenge is firmer, too.

‘‘I think finding and understanding winter fish is tougher,’’ Chad Rauch posted. ‘‘Throw in that you’re essentially fishing two to three 5- to 8-inch holes in a body of water, as opposed to casting where you want, so success is more rewarding.’’

Memories build from the challenge.

Ron Wozny dug up this photo from the 1980s on the Chain O’Lakes. “I see a dad and two kids walking out from the Sandbar towards us. Dad tells me his kids wanting to try ice fishing and he walked them out. We were on some big whites and the kids landed a few. Hopefully, they remember the day as well as I do.” Credit: Ron Wozny Credit: Ron Wozny
Ron Wozny dug up this photo from the 1980s on the Chain O’Lakes. “I see a dad and two kids walking out from the Sandbar towards us. Dad tells me his kids wanting to try ice fishing and he walked them out. We were on some big whites and the kids landed a few. Hopefully, they remember the day as well as I do.”

‘‘I was about 8 years old at my uncle’s in northern Minnesota with family,’’ Heather Hollaar posted. ‘‘About four of us were in his ice shack, and it was so much fun. When you’re in snow gear and inside a medium-size shed on the lake, it’s not really cold. Something relaxing about being out there.’’

‘‘The community of ice fishing brings a lot of guys together that would otherwise not interact on a shoreline of an open-water lake,’’ Tyler Peterson posted. ‘‘Maybe it’s the cold or the fact that everyone can ‘cast’ to those spots that only boat fishermen can access in the summer. But there is a comradeship between ice fishermen that does not exist in the open-water world.’’

‘‘Your creative juices get flowing, and [there is] the excitement of never knowing the size [of the fish] until it pokes through the hole,’’ Jim ‘‘The Crappie Professor’’ Kopjo posted. ‘‘We actually dial in open-water spots by getting right on top of cover and structure with our underwater cameras.’’

Carly Mullady Cowan wraps it up with this: ‘‘I can say there’s something special about walking on water! It’s so calm and so deeply serene. There’s no way to avoid feeling deeply in touch with nature — the bundling up, the thermoses of hot coffee/chocolate/cider, cozying up in a shanty. It is a truly unique experience where you feel completely separate from the hustling and bustling of regular life.’’

Dave Brandes found a photo from his first ice-fishing trip in the late ‘70s on Lake Catherine on the Chain O’Lakes. “I talked my uncle into it and we brought everything we owned and had no idea what we were doing. We had our long open-water poles to use and chopped through almost two feet of ice with a tire iron. We caught one fish that day a small perch, but it was the beginning of lifelong passion for my uncle and me.” Provided photo Provided
Dave Brandes found a photo from his first ice-fishing trip in the late ‘70s on Lake Catherine on the Chain O’Lakes. “I talked my uncle into it and we brought everything we owned and had no idea what we were doing. We had our long open-water poles to use and chopped through almost two feet of ice with a tire iron. We caught one fish that day a small perch, but it was the beginning of lifelong passion for my uncle and me.”

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