Here in Southeast Texas, fishing is a leisurely activity most frequently enjoyed in warm weather. Local anglers usually prefer to take to the lakes or bays during a sunny spring midday or a balmy summer morning. However, north of StickerTalk’s native climate, a different breed of fisherman seeks out their quarry during the most bitter days of winter when the temperature plunges so low entire lakes freeze over. The name of this game? Ice fishing.
An angling tradition of the Nordic countries, Canada, and the northernmost reaches of the United States, ice fishing has seen a boost in popularity over the years. While many would-be ice fishermen were formerly discouraged by the harsh ravages of winter on the open ice, advancing technologies now aid these sportsmen in fighting off the cold. Pop-up tents and portable buildings furnished with generators provide shelter within a stone’s throw of the choicest fishing holes, making it more convenient than ever to participate in ice fishing. Some fishermen even deck their roving homes out with satellite television, radios, and other modern conveniences to all but ensure their stay on the ice is as comfortable as possible.
Ice fishing is a sport designed for socialization, so makeshift villages begin to assemble on the ice once the lakes are frozen; after all, there isn’t much else to do but converse with fellow anglers as you sit around a hole in the ice waiting for a tug on your line! This community is renowned for its congeniality, so newcomers to the sport easily find veteran mentors to help them get started. While many people primarily view ice fishing as a medium for social interaction, the most serious ice fishermen typically strike out on their own, changing locations up to 100 times in a day.
Ice fishermen defy the elements every time they step on the ice. Faced with subzero temperatures, howling winds, and unforgiving water, these anglers must equip themselves with the proper tools for success and survival. Warm clothing is essential, especially footwear. Because their feet are in constant contact with the frozen lake surface, heavy duty boots and socks are enthusiastically recommended. Of course, warm coats and insulating underwear also come in handy for a chilly day of ice fishing.
A few other items are required besides appropriate clothing. The auger, or drill, is necessary for boring holes through the ice. The average ice fisherman drills a 6 to 8 inch hole, but the hole can be smaller or larger depending on the size of the auger. A skimmer is subsequently used to keep newly forming ice from freezing over the fishing hole. Because it is impractical and dangerous to sit directly on the ice for an extended period of time, many ice fishermen modify five gallon buckets to serve as seats while waiting to land their trophy catch. These buckets are often outfitted with padding and rod holders for an even easier angling experience. The rods used for ice fishing are almost comically short, only two or three feet long. However, not much length is required since ice fishermen do not need to cast their bait. Finally, most ice fishermen employ a sled to pull their myriad of equipment onto the ice. Some even hitch their sled to a snowmobile for a quicker and more enjoyable trip to their favorite fishing spot.
After a successful ice fishing trip, anglers like to invite their family and friends over for a fish fry. With such an exciting prize in sight, it’s no wonder ice fishermen brave the elements for the opportunity to catch a delicious dinner!