Get Hooked on Ice Fishing

When I lived out in Oregon, my neighbor—a lifelong Oregonian—admitted to me one day, as we were sitting by the pool, that he was intrigued by Minnesota.

What’s so intriguing? I wondered.

He proceeded to pepper me with questions. “Tell me all about Jesse Ventura. Did intelligent people actually vote for him?” “Is there seriously an amusement park inside the Mall of America?” “Do you really have 10,000 lakes or is that an exaggeration?” “Ice fishing, really? I don’t get it.”

I tried to answer to the best of my ability, but some things—like ice fishing—you almost need to experience. Since I couldn’t exactly take him out on a frozen lake, I did the next best thing—I asked my dad to send photos. He was glad to help. He went out, took step-by-step photos, and mailed them to me within the week.

Here’s the ice auger for drilling the hole in the ice (you can use a hand-held or a powered auger; the powered ones are much faster). Here’s the tip-up that lets you know you have a fish on your line. Here’s the little heated ice shack where we warm up. Here are the minnows we use as bait. Here’s a nice northern to show for our hard work—pulled up through that little hole in the ice! What a rush!

Ashley ice fishingIt was like a whole new world had opened up to him.

I don’t think people give ice fishing the credit it deserves. It can be really fun. I love going to ice fishing contests not only for the camaraderie, but also because it’s a great excuse to get outside on a crisp, clear, cold winter day (sure beats sitting on the couch watching TV). Just make sure to dress for the weather. 

I love how excited people get when they realize they have a flag up. I love that you can go out on any lake and create your own adventure—with a fishing license of course. I love that you can go alone, enjoying the quiet solitude of the lake (if you play it safe), or take your kids or your friends. I love that you can catch your own fresh dinner. And I love that area resorts are getting in on the action by offering the full “ice fishing experience,” complete with heated ice fishing houses, equipment, even bait. You can rent an ice fishing house at Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake (complete with the Lil’ Grand View Lodge on Gull option, an 8-by-16-foot conference center on the ice with a 32-inch flatscreen, sink with running water, private restroom, and eight fold-down beds), Cragun’s, Breezy Point, Grand Ely Lodge, Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge, and The Lodge on Lake Detroit.

The DNR is trying to inspire more people to try ice fishing through various clinics. This weekend they are hosting “I Can Ice Fish! 202 – Using a Tip-Up” at Lake Bemidji State Park from 1 to 4 p.m. You need a fishing license and your own equipment, and they’ll show you how to “catch a big one” using a tip-up.