Ice Fishing OR Fishing for Ice?

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Here's "Little Guy" with the Inquisitive Mind - Bruce and Stanley holding fish

Here's "Little Guy" with the Inquisitive Mind - Bruce and Stanley holding fish

Our usual Saturday in the winter time is spent at the ski hill, but since the snow conditions were not ideal last weekend, I decided to take the boys ice fishing. We stayed at the Lac La Belle camp so that we were closer to our expected fishing hole in the Harbor.
A few peculiarities occurred to me as we were gathering the necessary paraphernalia for this adventure because my 4-year-old, Bruce, seemed confused when we told him we were going “ice fishing”. When you think about fishing and the various methods used to catch fish, why do we call it “ice fishing” in the winter? Well you say, it makes perfect sense, because you fish from on top of the ice on the lake. But in the summer, you might fish from a boat, but do you call it “boat fishing?” Or you fish from a dock or pier but you don’t call it “dock fishing”… from the bank of a river is not “bank fishing”.
Come to think of it, there are some other oddities when it comes to fishing. People fish with flies and call it fly fishing, but if you use lures, you don’t say lure fishing and if you’re dragging them behind a slow moving boat it’s “trolling.” If you use worms, why don’t you call it “worm fishing”? We use lead jigs with a piece of smelt when we fish for lake trout at Isle Royale, so it could be “lead jig fishing” or “smelt fishing”, but no, we call it “bobbing” with no fish in the name at all, even though it is the most productive way to catch lakers at the Island.
Back in the days before my boat, I used to fish for speckled trout in the streams, so the saying was “let’s go specky fishing,” and we always fished for speckled trout. We “boat fish” all summer long, but now I realize in all the time we spent “boat fishing” we haven’t caught a boat yet.
On this particular occasion, I brought my 4 youngest boys, my “littlest fishing buddy” having just turned 4. None of them had “ice fished” before, but of course the older ones, I think, had a pretty good idea how it was done. I’m sure they had seen people on the lakes in the little ice shanties and we had commented numerous times in passing. They all had been fishing on the lake in the summers, probably more times than most adults, since that’s where we spend our summers.
My “little guy”, as I call him, was more than a little confused. He seems to be somewhat of a prodigy, therefore, he contemplates things that most boys his age would not. He (very seriously) asked, “how do you catch ice” and, with a little chuckle the older boys explained that you chop a hole in the ice and fish through that (they never saw an ice auger yet either), he pondered that for a while. Then, since he’s used to casting from a dock or boat, he asks “how do you cast it when you ice fish?” Stanley, the one who has all the answers for his little brother, says “you just drop your worm in the hole and fish like that.” He didn’t know, yet, that we aren’t fishing with worms.
Since we had not “ice fished” for many years and had no rods or the proper jigs and bait needed to catch ice, we shopped at Northwoods, the local outdoor sports store. This was at the end of the day at work, and all the 4 boys happened to be there (I own the printing shop, so they are there often) playing computer games. They don’t get to play these kind of time wasting, brainless games too often, so when they do, it’s hard to get them away. In the past, for the older kids, we used to threaten that they are going to get “square eyes” by looking a the computer screen for too long and that seemed to scare them enough to get away after a while. I guess we forgot about how effective this threat was, so we have not used it on the younger kids.
With expectations that they would jump at the opportunity to shop at Northwoods for fishing stuff, I was surprised when none of them wanted to go. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but never the less, knowing how much they liked to fish I admit I was a little taken aback. My suggestion for them to come along became an order when I realized their eyes were glued to the computer screen and they reluctantly gave in. Some of them grumbled at mean old dad all they way there, but changed their demeanor as soon as we stepped foot in the outdoor store with all it’s guns, fishing rods, lures, fishing shanties and other sportsmen paraphernalia. They were especially intrigued by the little “Brucey Size” fishing rods that I was looking at. In my mind, this was the key for us to catch fish, so there was nothing we needed more urgently than a 1/2 dozen of these “ice fishing rods.”As I scanned each rod for a price, I handed one to each of the boys to hold for a while, and when we had picked out 6 rods, we brought them to the register.
Of course the spending did not stop there. We needed jigs and bait too, but I had no idea what kind, so I asked the experts behind the counter. (Try that at Walmart sometime.) After a little advice and a few more minutes and a few more dollars, we were under way with $106 worth of new fishing stuff.
Later, at home, we loaded the trailer with the old ice shack, the auger, heater (that would hopefully work after 15 years of non-use) the cooler with a few hurriedly gathered vittles, kindling for the camp and our newly purchased goods. We would spend the night at the camp and get up early to welcome the crack of dawn in Copper Harbor.
In the morning, the boys were unusually cooperative for getting up so early, nearly an hour earlier than their daily school wake up call. Nobody protested the “bootoowa” (puurua?) that I made since I called it “Schlads bootoowa” (that’s another story.)
As we pulled into Copper Harbor, the sky was just starting to brighten up and had my hopes up that we would be catching fish soon.
The boys watched in awe as I drilled the first hole with the 15 year old blue auger that I had bought when their big brothers were little guys. They thought it looked pretty easy, so they naturally wanted to try after the first one. I gladly gave up the duty, cause the truth is, my 48 year old bursitis elbows couldn’t take any more for the moment.
Measuring the distance between holes in our small shanty, I drilled a second hole just 3 feet from the first. We were not going to be able to all fish from it, but at least we had a place to warm up if need be. The temperature was mild anyway, but with a little breeze on the ice, it does not take long for the cold to set in.
Soon after the drilling ceremony, that I had to conduct by myself, I commenced working on the heater that had not burned for as many years as the auger had sat idle. For this, I needed my $12.99 gallon of coleman fuel and a funnel. A search through the sled brought up no funnel even though I remembered bringing one. I had Stanley run to the car, just a couple hundred yards away, to get if from the trunk. I was sure it would be there. Meanwhile, I could set up the other rods so everyone could fish. When he came back empty handed, I looked in the sled again, to no avail. I fired up the snowmobile, because I was too lazy to walk, and buzzed up to the car and immediately found the funnel in the trunk. Kids are generally not very good lookers, I maybe even accuse them of being blind sometimes.
Filling the tank on the heater went well, with little of the liquid gold spilled, but my matches were about depleted when a stranger that turned out to be a distant friend came over to chat. He said he’d been eyeballing us since we came, trying to figure out who we were. The number of boys made him think that we just HAD to be someone he knew. With his lighter, I got the heater going. Soon we had heat, although kinda fumy, since this was a wick-type of heater. it gave me an immediate headache, so I could not stay in the tent, but at least it was a place for the boys to warm up. The tent was really just a windbreak anyway, because the door zipper was long since inoperable.
I drilled a couple more holes, and pretty soon we all got to fish, but the novelty wore off soon for lack of action.
After a while, Calvin looked down his hole and saw a sieve on the bottom of the lake, just 7 feet down, so he spent the next 1-1/2 hours or so trying to snag it with my lures. I say “lures” because snags on the rocks took 2 of them by the time we retrieved the $3 sieve. Several times, he had it up to the hole, when it would slip off and sink back down, usually far enough away from the hole that I had to drill another one to get right above it again. Finally, I tried my luck and managed to bring it up with about 5 minutes of trying.
The other boys lost interest in fishing long before Calvin and I caught our sieve, and began to ride the snowmobile around in circles. Even Andy, who is 6 years old, got to drive around. I was hoping that no law enforcement people would come around, because I think the law says you have to be 16 AND wear a helmet, so we had at least 2 strikes against us right off the bat.
Well at least you can’t say we got skunked, but we were going home fishless!
I’m thinking maybe those non-fishermen are right, It’d be a whole lot cheaper to just stop at the local fish market on the way home rather than go through the bother and expense of fishing. At least I almost stayed within my $100 budget. Come to think of it, if it wasn’t for Uncle Sam taking 6%, I’d have been right on budget not considering the coleman fuel and the gas to get there.

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About Brian Helminen

Brian is the owner and Captain of Sand Point Charters, LLC. He also owns and operates Designotype Printers, Inc. with his wife, Margaret. They have a cottage on Lac La Belle that can be rented by the week in the summertime.

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