It's time to convince you to try ice fishing

Updated 11/30/2011 4:20 PM

Winter time does strange things to us here in the Midwest.

Quite often our tendencies lead us to making excuses so as to just sit inside and complain it's too cold and the lakes are frozen solid. A funny and strange lot we are.

And that brings me to that large grouping of lost souls, the ones who wear blinders most of the day and a good piece of the evening as well. You would laugh yourself silly if you had been around around me when I start talking about the joys of celebrating winter by spending some time ice fishing.

I started ice fishing in earnest when I lived in Madison, Wis. A local befriended me and then took me for rides on the back of his snowmobile. He pointed out various locations on Lake Mendota, Kegonsa, and several local spots. He then gave me a crash course on how to find and catch some pan fish.

I later graduated to the "big league" when I relocated to the Minneapolis area. I bought a second-hand ice shelter, some super-warm clothing along with a borrowed snow machine. Every trip on Lake Minnetonka brought me more experience.

This long preface is targeted at all of you who claim ice fishing is not for you.

I say this aspect of our sport can be some of the best time out-of-doors.

For example, outdoorsman A.J. Paul, local raconteur and workshop wizard, had become one of the most ardent ice men I had encountered. In fact some would say A.J. is as enthusiastic as ice fishing maven Chuck Thompson.

And yet despite A.J.'s professorial demeanor while explaining his joy with "icing," some people have a tendency, as one could say, to avoid this jolly chap like the plague. C'est la vie.

There are certain key elements with this that one must adhere to.

Ultra-cold weather dictates we use portable or collapsible ice shelters -- tents, if you will. Heavy, insulated boots with attached ice cleats are a must so you don't break your neck while walking. Thick gloves are either worn or clipped to your jacket's collar like they were when we were kids trudging home from school in the snow. If your little pinkies and toes are sheltered from the frigid air, chances are you'll be a happy camper.

One needs an ice auger to drill holes. A couple small, super-ultralight ice rods and reels spooled with 2- and 4-pound test line belong on your shopping list. A portable fish-finder is the last main tool you can make use of while out there, and a small, l.e.d. headlamp if you fish at night.

And yet when I do my annual ice fishing seminars I usually find myself answering questions about fly fishing in the Florida Keys. Go figure.

I must say one hasn't experienced true life until you've caught a mess of crappies and bluegills through the ice and prepared them for the skillet.

I know that whatever joy and good times I recollect probably won't affect the average reader much. And I believe a first-time ice angler must have a great time that first time or all this rhetoric is just that, storytelling and idle talk.

But if there is the slightest bit of interest, there could very well be hope for you.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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