Wednesday, February 18, 2015



  As I've mentioned before, walking out onto the ice for a day's fishing has been a regular winter activity for more than a decade, but my first forays into the activity occurred long before that. More than thirty years ago a group of friends and myself spent the Fall building an ice hut in the backyard which was later trucked, in pieces, out onto Lake Scugog and hastily assembled over dubious water. 

 The hut itself was larger than an average bedroom with a wood stove, shelving and enough bench seating for a baseball team. My memory of specific events from that time are fuzzy as ice fishing back then was synonymous with drinking, however, I don't recall a single fish ever being landed. Truth be told...far more went down the hole than ever came up out of it.

  Jump ahead several decades and I returned to the activity at the insistence JLO, a former employer and fishing newby. He'd found Crater Lake online, a flooded gravel pit just north of the city stocked with several species of trout and walleye. We rented a hut in advance with the expectations of catching in comfort but later realised we spent $50 each to drown minnows for an afternoon in an upturned appliance crate!

  The next weekend we decided to save our money and just walk out onto Lake Simcoe near Jacksons Point. By the time we chose a spot and rigged up, fishing had become impossible due to frozen fingers, toes and most likely early onset of hypothermia. I can now laugh at how ill informed and prepared we were, but the degree of discomfort we endured suggested a dramatic change of tactics or winter activities would be relegated to organising tackle boxes.  

  Once again the internet came to the rescue. When I showed up for work Monday morning I was greeted with a stack of building supplies and plans for a DIY portable shelter. By the end of the week we had a two man ice hut that folded flat and could be used as a sled to carry our equipment.

 We returned to Jacksons Point, and after pulling the sled/hut only a hundred yards out, were offered a tow by a passing fisherman on a snowmobile who dropped us off several miles from the boat launch. We fished that spot for several hours without any luck and logic would suggest that when we decided to relocate it should have been in the direction of the shore, but no, we hauled that load for another half hour out to equally deserted, deeper water. 

  It was dark when we packed up with rain blowing in our faces and a three mile hike back to the truck. To make matters worse, every third or fourth step broke through the hard crust, plunging into 18 inches of slushy snow. It took nearly three hours and dozens of rest stops to make the return trip and there were times when I honestly thought we wouldn't make it. Later that week JLO bought an atv.

  So the next week we set out again, this time to Sibbald Point, where after ten trips, I finally caught my first fish through the ice.

 The next year JLO, co worker  Road Animal and I went out to the Bay of Quinte near Belleville for some walleye fishing. After an uneventful day we packed up around sundown, JLO and Animal on the atv and me riding the sled with all the gear. Minutes into the trip the atv got bogged down in a patch of slush with me rocketing towards the back of the machine on a slack tow rope. The atv gained traction a fraction of a second before impact and just like a magician's tablecloth trick, the tow rope tightened up and everything on the sled went flying, including me! I stood there for five minutes watching the taillights fade into the distance and then collected up what I could carry (mostly my own stuff) and started after them as the crow flies. They had made it all the way back to the truck without realising what happened and it took another half hour afterwards for them to find me.  

  Since then I've had time to re-evaluated my personal approach to on ice adventures, opting for safety portability and comfort. A good survival suit and boots replace the need for a shelter on all but the most extreme days and carefully selecting only what's needed in my sled allows for quick mobility to chase those moving schools of fish.

  Several years ago at Christmas Tackle Shop surprised me with a HT Enterprises, one man hut with a built in chair that folded down into a backpack. I hauled it out on the ice every weekend for a whole season and never used it, feeling it was a "hassle"  tearing it down every time I wanted to move. TS was the first and only one to use it. Folly on my part really. 

   Since that time TS has gotten his own on ice man cave, one of those three man center hub huts that set up in less than five minutes and, I have to admit, can be a warm oasis on those arctic cold days
   Over the years I've seen all kinds of shelters on the ice, from porta potties to an old chicken coop. Last year at Minet Point in Barrie the ice was covered with rental tee pees.

   Just the musings of an old ice miner

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


  I've been an avid ice fisherman for over a decade and have finally realised that, collectively, we're a fairly odd bunch/ Set aside the fact that we willingly walk out onto frozen lakes, ponds and rivers in the depths of winter, we spend a small fortune on specialised equipment useless nine months out of the year trying to catch small fish we're just going to release!

  I recently found another fishing forum on line dedicated entirely to ice fishing called
There I found a wealth of useful topics but ultimately was impressed the most with a humorous topic called "You Know You're An Ice Fisherman When...''. So here are a few of the better entries along with a few of my own mixed in.
all the tackle you will ever need fits in one pocket

You start your auger in the summer just to hear it run.

When you willingly put maggots in your fridge.

When you make permanent modifications for ice fishing to your vehicle

you have to warm up your beer to drink it...

People you haven't seen for awhile ask if you have been to Florida or the Islands because you have an awesome windburn tanned face.

The trunk Of your car is packed to go all winter so you have to use the wife's car to Grocery shop. 
this is the best coffee of the day
You are the best prepared person on the road , if you happen to get stuck on a highway in a blizzard, you could pop the shack and keep a couple of folks from freezing and even make hot Chocolate ...

when you tell a bunch of guys on the internet that you'll be posting pics of you and a couple of big girls you pulled into the shanty with your doodling rod and your wife isn't mad or jealous...

You take out your gear during the off season and set it up like you were on the ice in your backyard

You spend more on your shanty then you ever did with any of your wife's jewelry!

you create a job just to be out on the ice
Its T shirt weather until you can actually die of hypothermia. 

You hope that you find any ice fishing gear at a garage sale

You find yourself popping the heads off leftover minnows on Sunday
night then salting and stashing them in ziplock bags in the freezer.

this is what you had in mind when you said you're going downtown.

The reason you fish open water is to find ice fishing spots.

You complain that it's not cold enough during the dead of winter and everyone gives you weird looks for saying that.

You watch In-Fisherman ice fishing DVDs in July and August

You have more gear for ice fishing then open water fishing.

this is what you mean when you tell the wife you're taking the dogs for a walk

Just calling the open water season "off season" says it all. turn your LX5 on "Demo Mode" and practice hook sets

You feel the need to tell an employee at BPS that it is time to move their inventory of Jigging Raps from the Rapala section to the ice fishing section.

...when the owner of the sporting camp that you rent for ice fishing sends you a card for your birthday in June.

being there is just as important as catching
When you drive past a pond or a lake and imagine what it will look like with ice on it!

..when you put in a Vacation Request to the boss that ends with the words..."contingent on if there is any fishable ice"!

when you contemplate freezing a five gallon bucket of water so you can try out your new auger in August

When you call fall panfishing "prefishing"

you're happy you froze your fingers for this
When you fill a bucket with water to perfect your jig presentation.

It bugs you that ice fishing gear is seasonal, and you cant buy it year round.

Setting up your shanty in the "House" just to figure out better places for things!!!

You see an orange flag marking a fire hydrant in snow and right away you think, "flag up!"

your only winter wear is a floatation device
When you wish for another POLAR VORTEX.

You watch the movie "Grumpy Old Men" and complain that the film
shows too much Ann Margaret and not enough walleye.........

When you buy tip ups at a sportsman's closeout store in the south for $2 a piece because no one knows what they are.

this is a typical Saturday morning