by Dennis Glavin
What do the words “ice fishing” conjure up for you? Like most people, I had visions of crotchety Minnesotans in Elmer Fudd Caps complaining about kids these days as they scowl into the frozen abyss.
What I discovered experienced three years ago when I went ice fishing for the first time on a lark was that this stereotype is far from accurate. Instead, I was treated to a lifeline between the end of deer season and that magical time when the largemouth bass start beefing up for the spawn.
That cold December morning, my friend, a veteran muskie hunter and hard core ice fisherman, hauled me out, drilled through six inches of ice, and announced, “From here on, you bus your own tables.”
I dropped a vertical jigging spoon through the hole and bounced it off the bottom. A steady routine of lift and drop for half an hour paid off with a big-shouldered black crappie on the ice.
The rest, as they say is history.
Over the next couple of weekends, I caught more crappie than I had ever thought possible. The awesomeness of ice fishing is in its mobility. No fish in the first spot? Grab your gear and slide to the next one. Rinse and repeat. You will find them eventually and the results will be amazing.
Ice fishing, for safety reasons, is a group sport. Contrasted to the solitude of deer season, in which the day is spent in seclusion, I found a contemplative camaraderie similar to pheasant hunting. A group of like-minded guys feasting on venison backstraps, talking football, and complaining about kids these days (I suppose that part is true). I like to imagine troupes of hunter-gatherers centuries ago forging that same kind of bond.
In the late afternoon, the ice creaked and popped like a living thing, the sky blazing purple and red with dying rays of winter sun, we would pack up and head in. An evening spent cleaning fish rewarded with grilled crappie and more venison – Midwestern surf and turf at its best.
I don’t get out on the ice as often as I would like. Since I took up the sport, we have had on year with no ice at all and winter roads can play havoc with the best of plans. But hope springs eternal and every year now as I pack away my deer hunting gear I hope to be walking on water, gorging myself on fresh venison, and putting my limit of crappie on the ice.