We start looking for snow in October and are surprised if we don't have any by Halloween. We receive the majority of our snow fall in March and do not expect to see the ground again until the end of March or the first weeks of April. Winter rules our lives in the great state of Minnesota, especially when you live as far North as we do.
Because of this we as Minnesotans have come up with many many ways to entertain ourselves during this long, grey, cold season.
- Ice Skate
- Cross Country Skiing
- Snow Sledding
- Winter Camping
- Dog Sledding
- Down hill skiing (literally hills, no mountains here)
- Enjoy Winter Festivals
We are after all the land of 10,000+ lakes, all of which freeze over, and most of which have fish in them.
As soon as the ice is thick enough hearty Minnesotans can be spotted out on the lakes fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, and here in town using it as a extra parking lot for the college (not kidding).
There are portable fishhouses and permanent ones. We have had both. We now have a very nice permanent house (that has been quite mobile this year).
Per more then one request here are some pictures of our experience as ice fishermen:
Here you see Dearest pulling the house out on to Lake Plantagenet.
He used the 4 Wheeler since he wasn't 100% certain of the ice conditions on this lake and he had to go quite a way across the lake. Notice the "road" that had already been created from the traffic.
Once the house is set up the wheels come off and the house sets on the ice. Snow is "banked" around the outside of the house to serve as insulation which helps keep the holes from freezing solid again after they have been drilled. It also helps keep the house warm once you have the stove going. Yes, odd, snow keeping something warm.
Holes are drilled in the ice. We finally have a gas powered auger. (vs. a hand crank one)
The ice is then cleaned out of the holes. As you fish you have to continue to clean the holes because the water starts to freeze which closes the hole. (this hole was outside the house for a "tip up")
For the holes inside the house, the best way to do this is mark the ice where the holes are going to be, move the house, drill the holes and put the house back. If you choose to drill inside the house you are left with the ice shavings and water to deal with in the house.
Here is what the hole looks like from inside the house.
Then........... you bait the hooks with minnows - drop the line about a foot off from the bottom of the lake, and wait.......... staring down the hole and watching the bobber. Similar to watching a bobber from a boat. But, you are staring down a hole. Dearest has our lines set up on a Rattle Reel. This allows the fisher-people the luxury of NOT staring down the hole waiting on the bobber. As the fish grabs the hook and takes the line, the line unwinds from the reel, the reel makes a click click click sound as this happens. This noise alerts you to the fact that you have a fish.
Games can be played, snacks eaten, and playing outside on the lake in the snow keeps the kids busy too.
The wood stove keeps the house warm. It is quite small but packs quite the punch. In fact the last time I was in the house it was 80+ degrees F in there. (It was -17F outside).
You can see here the contrast of heat from inside to out by the fog/steam created when the door opens .
Here is a shot of the inside of the fishhouse. This is the nicest house we have had. Hubby spent a Fall building it himself from the aluminum frame up. (notice on the walls, the black rattle reels, on the right and left back sides of the house)
This house has 7 fishing holes and a spear hole as well.
(Spearing is something for another post, another time. It is another way to fish in the winter)
Hopefully fish are caught, pictures are taken, stories are made...and if we are lucky there is enough for a meal.
Walleye and perch were our take on this trip.
They were delicious.
What a fabulous post! As a kid we lived in Newfoundland where icefishing may be the law in winter. I remember going into little shacks (nothing as nice as yours), digging the holes, cathing the fish. I was about 8. And I asked my dad the whole time, "what if the ice breaks and we fall through?" He reassured me that you could safely drive a truck across the ice, but I always worried that we'd find that one thin spot.
Thanks for these great memories!
As a Minnesotan I must hang my head in shame. I have never been ice fishing, not even been in a fish house. I also haven't been water fishing! I used to skate and ski though. : )
That's a nice house, but I also would worry about falling through the ice, what with the stove and all. I know it's not rational, but there you have it.
that was a very informative post...I see those little houses on lakes here in michigan, sometimes I see them sinking into the lake as well...lol
I am not sure I could get past the fact that I was sitting on a lake(I kinda have a tiny fear of drowning)
I am Jules husband...
Went fishing on a different lake today. I measured the ice and it was 2' thick. Very safe for a truck and fish house. Just like anything, after a while it doesn't bother you. Actually, I have hauled dock supplies across the frozen lakes because the shore line was hard to get to from land. Very handy. Kind of like my own ice road trucking. That one year I delivered docks acrossed the lake and within a week there was open water because the temp. shot up that week. That was a little unnerving.
I had no idea that ice fishing was such a big thing, what a lot of equipment and hard work it is.
Jules, This was an amazing post. Thanks for the window into your life and that of other Minnesotans. Simply incredible ~ and, yes, a bit unsettling for those of us who did not live in the same climate (I am in central PA, but we rarely get ice that thick, at least consistently). Your husbands follow up comments added to the story, too. I now feel a little smarter and plan to share your adventure with my family...
I read the following this morning, published in the Old Farmer's Almanac newsletter and thought of your story:
Keen gleams the wind, and all the ground
Is bare and chapped with bitter cold.
The ruts are iron; the fish are found
Encased in ice as in a mold.
–Charles De Kay (1848–1935
Very cool post. The ice house is probably warmer than my house.
My husband used to icefish. He had a hand auger some tip ups and a sled with a box on it to pull the stuff..if he had a cool house I might have gone with him.
Nice to meet you math guy
Loved this post!!! Reminds me of going ice fishing as a little girl with my dad. We never did go very often, but when we did, we had a good time. You have quite a nice ice house set-up!! :)
I could almost see myself enjoying THAT kind of ice fishing. Mike always laughs when we drive by lakes with ice fishermen bc he jokes "Look Hon, you're two favorite things combined- cold and fishing!" (he's obviously being VERY sarcastic, lol).
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