Frozen Assets: It’s Ice Fishing Season!


Here comes winter. The pumpkins I spent so much time carving are smashed all over the road and I’ve eaten so many turkey sandwiches I’m growing spurs out of the backs of my ankles. Every fall, after I’ve watched my wife rake up all of those beautiful leaves and the gray sky starts spitting snow, I know December has head-butted its way into my life. The season of fighting the crowds, frustration and spending tons of money is upon us.

It’s ice fishing season!

I grew up ice fishing. Some of my best winter memories consist of grabbing my five-gallon bucket and heading to the frozen lake. Back then, a 12-year old boy could walk three or four miles alone without somebody calling child protective services on his parents. Good old days and all of that.

Early in my career, I spent a few years in Fairbanks, Alaska and the brutal cold there kind of drained my desire to participate in winter activities. For decades I have followed the lead of the majestic black bear. In autumn I gorge myself on the wife’s cooking and when that first blanket of snow covers our lawn I crawl into our darkened living room and settle on the couch for a long winter. My heart rate slows and my metabolism adjusts while my body remains motionless, the only movement coming from my remote control fingers.

But this year will be different. After all of these years, I have decided to start ice fishing again!
My ice fishing odyssey started with a trip to my local outdoor superstore, where I told the sales guy I wanted to get everything I needed to start ice fishing. He greeted me warmly and shook my hand as if the commission from this sale was going to put his kids through college. We visited the clothing department first so I wouldn’t get frostbite on the parts of my body that didn’t get hypothermia. After getting a base layer, mid layer, outer layer and shell layer I was shown boots, hats, gloves, hand warmers, foot warmers and special socks. My sales guy looked me over and declared that I was ready to brave the colds of our local frozen lake. As I filled my cart up with a mountain of clothes I remembered going out when I was a kid wearing an old hunting coat over my sweatshirt. I must have been the luckiest kid in Michigan not to die of frostbite-induced hypothermia!

Clothing shopping complete, we moved along to pick out the gear I would need. One thing hasn’t changed since the last time I went ice fishing…you still have to make a hole in the ice. Nowadays the only way for a self-respecting ice fisherman to make a hole in the ice is with a gas-powered auger that bores through in record time. I asked the guy if I could just use a spud. He looked at me like I had asked for the square root of pizza. I tried to explain that a spud was a long spear of iron that was used to chip a hole in the ice, one small chunk at a time. I told him it was like a posthole digger but heavier, colder, and less efficient. He didn’t seem to understand so I threw a gas auger in the overloaded cart.

After choosing fishing rods that were one fourth the size of my normal rods and only three times the price we found ourselves gazing at the shelters. The sales guy told me that the shelters could hold one or more people and had a little sled they folded up into that slid across the ice. These shelters, he explained, were absolutely essential for success on the frozen lakes. He went on to say that they provided the warmth needed to ensure my ice fishing experience was satisfactory. Before I could remind him that I had filled my cart full of clothes to do just that, we had a giant cardboard box perched precariously atop a cart full of clothes and gear. After a few side trips around the giant store I had my hooks, sinkers, electronic fish finder and a dozen other odds and ends that were absolutely crucial to fishing success.

As we neared the checkout I told the salesman that I was surprised that a person could drag all of the gear across the ice. He halted in his tracks. “Oh, you can’t,” he laughed, as he looked at me like a shark eye-balling a baby seal. “You tow it out with your snowmobile. You do have a snowmobile don’t you?” Two weeks later and a 23% interest rate credit card and I have everything I need to catch some fish through the ice. I’m sure it will be a lot more fun than sitting on that bucket when I was 12 and the salesman’s kids need an education too.