Wild Northerner Magazine 2015/16 Winter Issue - Page 64

Ice fishing offers benefits you just can’t get during the open water season. No one is bound by the availability and confines of a boat, there is no need for rods and reels, tackle boxes, nets and much of the other gear that fill and clutter a fishing boat.

Warm clothes, an ice auger, a spool of line or two, a handful of jigs, a couple of tip ups and/or a few twigs and a bag of minnows are the basics required for a fun-filled day on the ice.

A large group of newbies who joined me on an outing two winters ago, coined the phrase ‘white sand camping’ at the end of the day’s activities. The analogy isn’t far off for me, as I approach ice fishing as more of a trip to enjoy the great outdoors than going to catch fish.

Add a shoreline fire, some hotdogs, sausages and marshmallows and a kettle for hot chocolate and maybe a couple of lawn chairs, and you have the basics for white sand camping.

Bring along a Frisbee or a football, and you have the makings of a fun-filled day. A nice base of fluffy snow is perfect to make those diving catches you wouldn’t attempt otherwise, and there’s nothing like a little physical activity to warm up a bit should anyone start to get a chill. Just be careful not to get into a full sweat, as you are guaranteed to get a chill as soon as the activity stops. Peel off some layers as you begin to feel overheated.

Of course, a fire and a hot drink or some warmed up soup can help make any winter outing a little more comfortable.

I will at times bring a bag of wood you can purchase to use as a base to start the fire, just to be sure I can get it going with ease and create a nice base. Don’t make a fire on the ice, it will be hard to maintain and will leave a floating mess in the spring. I usually look for a rock on shore, clear the snow off it and start the fire there. I will also often use two or three pieces of wood as a base and build the fire on top of those.

Ice fishing is the perfect way to introduce young children to the sport of angling.

When my two daughters were in elementary school, we had what called our annual ‘environmental studies day,’ which meant taking them out of class for a winter day and packing up the ice fishing gear and a bunch of their toys to head out for day on the ice. Now in their late teens, neither recall the pike we used to catch with some regularity, but instead speak fondly of the snowball fights we had and hot chocolate that followed.