A frozen Lake Atwood in McHenry County is the last place you'd expect to find a woman seven months pregnant. But that's where Meghan Stack and her husband Fred were Saturday afternoon, at a free ice fishing event sponsored by the McHenry County Conservation District.
Dressed in thermal wear, they spent some time fishing from inside Fred's nylon shanty.
"I wouldn't be out here without it," said Meghan Stack whose husband introduced her to the sport.
"Now she's hooked," he joked.
"I just love to fish," said Fred Stack, 29. "You can start fishing at two or three years old and fish until you're 90."
The day was clear and not too cold for about three dozen pink-cheeked anglers. Ranging in age from young children to seniors, and bundled in snow suits and ski masks, they sat on large white buckets on ice two feet thick. Hunched over holes about six inches in diameter (which conservation district workers pre-drilled), they gently jigged their lines hoping to snag a perch or two.
"These are perfect conditions. The ice is nice and thick," said McHenry County Conservation District education and outreach coordinator Mary Kozub, who says the lake's smaller size makes it a safe site, perfect for learning what she calls a "buddy sport."
"Look at all the families out here," she said.
There was eight-year-old Lycan Leebirong of Woodstock and his father Christopher, who intentionally set up at different holes about 30 feet apart.
"Most of the fish are in the weeds between him and me. That's where they feed," said the savvy young angler, who prefers open water to ice fishing, which he says is harder because you have to watch the top of the pole and the bottom of the line to tell what is happening.
For the Gow family of Huntley, the love of fishing is something passed from father to son.
"My dad taught me and I taught him," said Joseph Gow, referring to his 18-year-old son Trent. "He's become 10 times the fisherman I am ... I'm just trying to keep up."
Gow doesn't particularly like fish (the family practices catch and release). But he enjoys the relaxation it affords and the time spent with his son.
"Fish really are beautiful creatures," said Trent Gow, who enjoys several styles of fishing, including fly fishing.
"There are so many different outlets. There are so many things to learn, you can never know it all," he said.
For Cassandra Hoger, 16, ice fishing sparks some intrafamily rivalry between her and her dad.
"I like the competition," she admitted. But more than that, she likes the anticipation, waiting for that telltale tug on the line and the excitement of seeing a fish on the end of it.