Sitting on a frozen lake, staring at a hole in the ice is not my idea of fishing. Give me a warm summer day, a nice stable boat, tall glass of lemonade and the Tigers game on the radio – now that’s my idea of fishing. Although I will admit I haven’t caught many fish.
But since I have a teenage son who is an avid fisherman and I was glad he still wanted his Mom to be involved in things he liked to do, I have tried to figure out what could possibly appeal to him about ice fishing. So, out we went, one cold February morning, I could hardly move with all the layers of clothes I had on and wondered if I would cut off the circulation in my legs if I sat too long!
We started at the local bait shop, where the dedicated gather before sunrise, while the rest of the world is still snuggled under their warm quilts. According to my son, this was an important part of the fishing experience. There’s camaraderie among fishermen, they offer updates on the best spots, give tips and secrets and everyone shares in the success of a good catch.
As the sun began to rise, we made our way across frozen Crystal Lake, armed with a sled full of fishing gear, a small propane heater, extra clothes, snacks and two thermoses of hot chocolate, all packed in two five-gallon buckets that doubled as chairs. We took turns pulling the sled across the ice, past the shoreline and onto the smooth surface of the lake. We set up about ¼ mile out, near some other fishing shanties, which was an indicator this might be a good spot.
Being that my son was a well-seasoned fisherman, he knew just what to do and I followed his directions. He began cutting a hole in the ice with a hand-powered auger, which seemed to take forever. It finally pushed through the thick ice and soon water was gushing up through the hole. He moved over a few feet and cut another hole and a few feet away two more for me.
Ice fishing poles are small, about 18 inches, so they can be set up so all we had to do was watch them. Once everything was in place, we could stop and relax. The air was crisp and clear, the sunrise reflecting off the lake and the moon was setting in the distance. The quiet was amazing – all we could hear was the wind blowing. I began to understand what appealed to my son and the weathered group of fishermen around us. It was as if we were in a world of our own – it was just us and the fish, with no interruptions from the rest of the world.
My son baited two rods with small live minnows, which we dropped into the cold depths of the lake. Just as I began to settle in with my newspaper next to the propane heater, one of the rods started to quiver. My son jumped up and made the first catch of the day – a nice 8” yellow perch, big enough to be a keeper. He yelped, and that started our day of fishing. I soon realized the newspaper would have to wait. For the next few hours, we worked together – baiting hooks and unhooking fish, until we had close to two dozen fresh lake perch – enough for a family meal.
We quit around noon, the fish had quit biting and we were getting hungry for lunch. We packed up and headed off the lake with our catch. That night, as we all enjoyed the perch dinner, my son and I shared the memories of the day, and I gained an appreciation for fishing a whole new way.