- A frozen lake feels like a winter desert. It was so surreal to be in the middle of the wintery lake, looking out over the frozen tundra and seeing the treeline. Different perspectives carry different weight and this winter desert certainly impacted us. The snow and ice absorbed the sound—it was so peaceful.
- You must have trust. Trust that 2 feet of ice can carry the weight of a truck. We drove confidently off the road, onto the boat launch, out into the middle of the lake… only to find out when we cut into the ice that it wasn’t all that thick. Our guide casually said “yeah, if it gets any warmer out, we won’t be able to drive out on the ice”. Insert wide eyes and white knuckles here.
- Don’t leave the bait where the dogs can get it. (We learned this lesson the hard way.) We only took our eyes off him for one second, I swear! There was a moment of panic as we all reached for Cooper and we thought the outing might be ruined. C’mon Cooper. You couldn’t eat the bait at the end of the afternoon? Thankfully, our ice fishing guides were super chill and super prepared and produced a second container with no fuss.
- It takes a dog 0.5 seconds to swallow a whole container of bait. He just opened his big ole mouth hole and shoved that frozen brick of bait down his craw. There was barely any throat movement. Omega oils are good for dogs, right? The dogs also enjoyed fighting over the fish heads that we left for the wolves. Wolves. Dogs. Same thing. Our little house pets enjoyed being animals of the wild for the afternoon.
- Try something new, even if it scares you. When asked if we want to drill our own ice fishing hole, it was a resounding heck yeah! Our guide carefully instructed us on how to use the auger and how it might grab the ice once the hole was drilled. There was a quick minute of worrying about dropping the auger into the hole, until we realized that the top of the auger was wider than the hole, so it seemed okay. The only problem was, we didn’t know what we were doing past drilling the hole. We kind of spun water for a while, made the ice soggy and we figured out what we were doing. Metaphor for life, perhaps?
- Be one with the lure. Whether jigging or pulling your catch up, the technique is to make the line an extension of your arm. We used lines that were still on spools. This was new and exciting to us summer lake folks who have never used anything other than a traditional rod. A hook was attached to the end and you held the roll with one hand and jigged the line with the other. They did have the cutest little rods available, though they said they didn’t use them often– they’re harder to reel in and we had enough trouble being fast enough with the spools.
- Find your rhythm. Once we had dug the holes and knew what we were doing, we naturally transitioned into an easy routine. There’s the initial awkwardness of doing a new task, but once we were confident in what was required to be successful in ice fishing, the afternoon flew by!
- Don’t hold your phone over the hole. (Thankfully we didn’t learn this lesson the hard way). But can we talk about how incredibly cool it was to see the bottom of the lake? When the door to the ice fishing hut was closed, all you could smell was the fire from the little stove and all you could see was the light coming in through ice, your hook so smoothly jigging near the bottom and the fish swimming by.
- Fast reflexes are required. Whether drilling a hole with the auger, grabbing bait from a dog’s mouth, catching your phone when dropping it into the hole or pulling in a catch, you must be on your toes. Kyra caught two fish—one almost immediately when she put her line in the water. Have you ever tried to pull up fishing line with mitts on? As soon as she started reeling in her catch, the guides threw off their mitts and hustled, and we mean hustled, that fish out of the water. There’s a hand-over-hand trick that must be done quickly for it to be effective. Apparently, you can’t do it right with mitts on.
10. Good company makes the day great. We had so much fun with our first experience ice fishing. We got to use some fancy lures, caught two fish, had a peaceful afternoon, and soaked in the sunshine. To top it off, our guides sent us back to camp with a big bag of fish and we were treated to a Northern-style fish fry in the Ness Creek community kitchen that we will be dreaming about for the rest of the year.