How ridiculous is ice fishing?

Humiliating myself for fun and profit.
Feb. 20 2006 1:02 PM

Sleeping With the Fishes

I thought ice fishing would be cold, uncomfortable, and a little bit dangerous. How wrong I was.

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Calling spirits from the vasty deep
Click image to expand.
Calling spirits from the vasty deep

Denny and I went back to the house, and while Denny continued to pull up a stream of perch, I went for hours without a fish. At one point I took out my cell phone and called my daughter 1,100 miles away, to see if she was doing her homework. As we talked I felt a tug on the line, hung up the phone, and pulled in my second fish. By now the sun was starting to set, and before it got dark Denny suggested we walk farther out onto the lake to take a look at an ice heave—a place where the ice has buckled upward several feet.

We set out and I was finally cold—it was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and as I took off my gloves to snap a few pictures, the tips of my fingers started burning. We walked about a third of a mile straight to the heave. It was a windless day with about 4 inches of snow on the ice, and all was flat and white and quiet. We stopped to take it in, just as the Ojibwe, the Indians who lived by and fished on this lake for hundreds of years, must have.* I realized in all my life I had never experienced such utter, spectacular silence.

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We walked back, packed up, and drove off the ice and back to Onamia. At Trophy's Sports Bar I ordered a walleye dinner. It was delicious.

*Correction: This piece originally stated that the Ojibwe Indians have lived by Mille Lacs Lake for thousands of years. In fact, they have only lived there since the 1700s.