Fishing is in my family’s blood. I don’t want to say my brothers and dad are fanatical about fishing, but, well, they’re fanatical about fishing. In the summer it’s all about landing the elusive musky (or walleye, or sunnies, or bass, or northern pike, depending on the day), in the winter it’s all about ice augers and tip-ups and jiggle sticks and “Flag! Flag! Whose hole is that?! Hey, you have a flag up!”
You know, the usual ice fishing lingo.
When I was younger, my family would go to the Siren Ice Fishing Contest on Clam Lake just about every year. We’d make a weekend of it, staying at The Lodge at Crooked Lake, dining at Adventures Restaurant, enjoying small town life. I loved that annual event. My grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins would all participate. It was like a big family reunion, out on the ice.
At some point, maybe when the cousins started having kids, a weekend trip to Siren, Wis. became too hard to coordinate (although a few of us still make an effort to get out there. This year’s contest is Feb. 25.). Rather than let a family tradition fizzle out, my older brother started organizing a friends/family ice fishing contest three years ago on Forest Lake, not too far from where my parents live. It’s always fun, even if the Weather Gods have frowned upon us the past two years (the wind chill this past Saturday was below zero, and still 28 hardy souls braved the elements to join the party! My brother’s friend took first place with a 5.5 pound northern pike.).
To me, ice fishing is less about catching fish and more about being out on a frozen lake on a crisp, clear winter day, exchanging stories with loved ones in a cozy little propane-heated ice fishing shack, or—if the weather cooperates—making snow angels, throwing a Frisbee, chasing the little ones around, grilling hot dogs, and racing to the next flag that pops up to see what hungry fish took the bait. (I will pull the fish out of the hole, but someone else can get the hook out of its mouth. After 30+ years, I still feel bad doing that!)
The next ice fishing contest on my radar is the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza Feb. 11. (It was originally set for Jan. 21, but was postponed due to unsafe ice conditions.)
Advertised as the “World’s Largest Charitable Ice Fishing Contest” (all of the proceeds benefit charities), the $45 entry fee includes a chance at over $30,000 in prizes. Don’t forget to buy a valid Minnesota fishing license if you intend to fish.
Tips for participating in the Ice Fishing Extravaganza can be read on the city of Brainerd’s website. (After reading this, I kind of want to catch Jingles! It sounds like one of those fishing legends, doesn’t it?)
Random drawing tickets are available for $10 and don’t need to be purchased in conjunction with tournament tickets. The kick-off party is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 10 from 6-9 p.m. at Grand View Lodge. Tickets are $20.
If you can’t make it to an organized contest Up North and still want to try the sport, there’s a great list of top metro ice fishing lakes in this ice fishing article.
If you’re out on the ice this winter, I hope you are careful, I hope you have fun, and if you’re fishing, I hope you get to hear “FLAG! FLAG! YOU HAVE A FLAAAAAG!” many, many times before the season is over.