Ice Fishing Part 1

  As summer is fast approaching it seems like a good time to talk about something new. Ice fishing. Where I live, on the gulf coast, summer means "After June don't go outside." You'll melt. Seriously. Triple digits and 100% humidity are like living in a sauna. Not the good kind. I'm more at home in moderate temps. But I do have plans for tomorrow.  A little snow in the winter, and a lot more comfortable in the summer. Balance is the key. I keep praying. I know he listens. Till then, cool off, with ice fishing.

Brief history

     Ice fishing has been around since pre-history. Some historians claim it's at least 2000 years old. Well, that's about how long they know native people in north America have been doing it.

   Amazingly it probably didn't look a lot different. They used crude ice chisels to punch holes in the ice. Then they used spears to catch any fish that came within striking distance.

   The only problem was that fish could sometimes see the fishermen. So, they came up with a solution. A small ice shack over the hole to block the sun. This is known as dark house fishing and is still being done.

    The native peoples also invented the fishing pole and jig fishing. They used small pieces of wood or bone to jig for fish. Once again, it's still being done.

     The only real improvements have been in gear. Rods got shorter; augers got motors, the ice tents became shanty's and got warmer. Some now days are quite nice inside. Not exactly roughing it. But you can fish longer if you're comfy. Which works out great for me. (It's a small place just right for 2 with a great view. of the ice hole. You have to have goals.) 

Be safe

   Before I get into the how's of ice fishing, I need to discuss some basic safety. Common sense should tell you somethings. 

    Ice and freezing temps can be bad for your health. Anytime you go into the woods, in a boat, scuba diving, snorkeling, or just for a hike, things can happen. You need to be prepared. But at the same time, I have to mention this. Driving a car on the interstate is more dangerous. I know what a bear is going to do. I don't have any idea what that person in the next lane is going to do.

  Hypothermia is no joke. Dress warm. Take extra clothes. It will probably be colder than you think it will be. And if not, take off layers. This is defiantly one of those times where having it and not needing it is better than needing it and not having it.

     Take a friend. If you go through the ice, you will most likely need help. Once again better to have and not need.

   If you don't know anything about ice fishing, get a guide. Especially if you don't know the area. Especially if you're not familiar with ice at all. Personally, I think there should be more ice fishing vacations, but that's me. Maybe I should just start telling people they can't do it. Maybe, someday. See if I can't compel a little interest first.

 

Gear

     Ice fishing doesn't really take a lot of gear. And most of it isn't too expensive. I guess you could spend a lot, but it's not necessary. The most important parts are the things keeping you from freezing, and a way to get to the fish. They were doing this thousands of years ago. So, you could just go all primitive. A big club to get through the ice, animal skins to keep warm, and a spear for the fish. Personally, I like our little improvements to the tools. The easier I can get to the fish, the more I can catch. The more I can be comfortable on the ice, the longer I can stay. Which also contributes to catching more fish. You have to have your priorities in order. Like most other things in life. You need a plan. Especially on the ice. Faith will get you a long way, but don't test God. I try keeping the Big Guy smiling. I suggest you do the same.

    While I'm at this point about faith and the power of someone who believes I have to mention Wim Hof, the iceman. He's the guy who wanted to climb mount Everest in underwear. Everybody said he was crazy. Then he did it. Yeah, he climbed Mount Everest in boxers and used no air. How, he believed he could? Look into him, he's an example of what people can be if they believe. I'm not at that level yet. I still wear protective clothes. God hasn't put it on my heart to climb mountains in my boxers yet. YET! 

Auger

     You need a way to get through the ice. They used to use spears or clubs. Now we have augers. You can either get a handheld or motorized. The handheld is cheaper but motorized is quicker. So, it really depends on your budget. They both work fine. And the handheld will keep you warmer. Don't believe me. Try it.    

Clothes

    In my opinion the most important part of your gear. Your clothes. If you get cold, you'll probably want to go. You definitely won't want to fish. So, wear layers. Make sure your outer is waterproof or at least resistant. Your gloves and boots have to be waterproof. No exceptions here. And make sure you take EXTRA clothes. Weather can change in a second, and the science of weather isn't exactly fool proof.

    So here are a few weather tips that never fail. Wind and waves rise with the sun. It's true, ask any waterman. 

    Clear means cold and will get colder. Clouds actually hold in heat. Especially at higher altitudes. 

    Red sky in the morning means bad weather is coming. Red sky at night means good weather coming. That my friends is in the bible.  One of Jesus's sermons. I trust that more than "SCIENCE".

Ice scoop

    This is a simple little tool to scoop ice out of your hole. Keeping it clear helps keeping it from freezing back. It also makes it easier to see what you've got. To be honest, you can use a big slotted spoon. No sense going overboard here. But it worth mentioning.  You don't want to use your hands for this. If your hands and feet get cold, it's usually time to go.

Sled

     As you start getting ready to go out fishing, you'll probably notice your gear is starting to make a small pile of sorts. You should be thinking, I need something to carry all this. And you're right. The sled is the easiest choice. And with the right one you might get to make a couple of runs getting there. Snow brings out the kid in all of us. And sliding down a snow-covered hill is still fun. I don't care who you are. It's fun.

Rod'n Reel/Pop up

    Unless you plan on spearing the fish, you'll need a rod and reel. Just like any other fishing. Except one big difference. Ice rods are short. Short enough for you to stand directly over the hole and reel in your fish. No 7 ft rods here. More like 2 or 3. Or have a pop up.

    A pop up is a type of fishing rod, or holder that pops up when you get a fish on. Some have flags on them so you can see it. These are mainly for people who plan on having multiple rods and holes to fish at once. In other words, serious ice fishers. Not just a fun day on the ice. They are out for fish. And they mean business. I'm a little more casual in my approach. 

    My approach is to simply find a spot. Make a whole, drop a line. See what happens. But I only go with people I like spending time with anyway. Then it doesn't matter if I caught fish. We had a great time together. Once again, you have to have your priorities straight.

The shelter

     Shelter. This isn't a must have, but it makes it a lot more enjoyable. It gets you out of the wind and weather. Gives you some privacy. You can even have a little heater.

     It also varies in price like everything else. You can get one like a pop-up tent that's pretty inexpensive. You can also have a more permanent one. Basically, a small cabin. Complete with a wood burning stove. Where the floor has a trap door to open for your hole. 

     It also depends on how often you plan on going. Once in a while, pop-up. Every chance I get, maybe the more permanent kind. 

    The bottom line here is like with your clothes. The more comfortable you are, the longer you will stay. Funny how many things in life this rule applies to. Most things in nature go for the path of least resistance. People are the same. So is electricity. Some principles apply to most things. Kind of like there is some sort of underlying plan to it all. Something greater than us that makes it all. There is. 

     There are also things that make it all worth doing. Little things. Here and there. They are the things that matter. Yes, they are part of that greater plan. There is one. A plan. God's plan.

    I try to have one. I try to work with his plan. Things don't usually work out when I go against it. Learn to go with it. Learn to go outdoors. Be part of the scene not just viewing it. Life is supposed to be lived. It takes faith. Luckily faith doesn't have to be something your born with. You can learn to have faith. Or learn to trust God's plan. You'll need it. On the ice.