Ice Fishing Memoires
By Daniel Kiazyk
Every year doing it makes a world of difference on how you get it done… ice fishing that is…
When I first started out, I didn't have an idea of how technologically developed and how far along the sport had developed. I simply saw guys standing outside freezing their butts off, not doing too much. Was I ever in for a surprise/education over the next few years. Basically ice fishing has become a passion for many and more than just something to do to break up the cabin fever we suffer up north here in the snow-belt. More people are doing it with more money being spent each year and as opposed to open water fishing this is one sector of fishing where new products and innovations are being introduced at a remarkable rate. However having said this much, there's something missing in this or that article I've read from the ice fishing gurus of late (or maybe I just haven't read enough!). Where is the description of their own apprenticeships throughout the years? That's what I'm up to here: A reflection on a few salient points in my own ice fishing evolution/education. Who knows maybe you can laugh along at having made the same journey or maybe you're a smart one and want to learn by seeing what others have done.
In my years of reading this or that pro outdoor writer, I really haven't read much about "the apprenticeship" of any proficient ice angler. On the contrary many of the articles I'm reading are in effect reading like some well crafted infomercials where angler x is using this or that item with this or that technique in this or that ice tent… need I say more? Many people get discouraged or they just watch in awe as this or that pro does his thing. Perhaps a small element that has been lost is that there is always a need to give an incremental view of how you can get into the sport.
Well, my apprenticeship has been an ongoing education depending upon a number of factors; species; location; and "time" of the ice season, gear, presentation. Sound familiar? Well, it is! It's the same process that I went through on open water (and I am still progressing through from year to year). The most significant component about this process is that on some occasions things come together to form a "pattern" and on other occasions they don't require that I go back to hypothesizing how it can be done more effectively. But there in lies a significant point: You are going to be developing a repertoire over time and that a day where you've caught nothing is not a total waist of time. On the contrary the next time you'll know better (I would hope this is the case) what might make for a more successful outing.
Where did I start? Well, I read a bit, saw a few videos and talked to some seasoned ice anglers. This kind of homework, although not necessary, really makes a difference when trying to decipher the ice fishing code (that is… what it takes to get fish to bite). I also like the idea of getting some confidence, which in turn allows you to venture out and to continue to try to learn. For those folks who don't have a good start, the result usually is they prefer staying at home. One downside to depending too much on pro sources or fishing reports from reputable sources is that their concepts may not apply to the context you're working out of or experiencing at this or that moment. Eventually you realize that there may even be an "infomercial" element to what you're being told. It's not that I'm totally anti-commercial but sometimes simple or context specific and not the gadgets gets things done. Leaving a person to feel that if you don't have this or that and aren't fishing here or there you won't succeed is not a positive message. Eventually you may develop a skill set that gets you sponsorships and T.V. spots, but do we all want to go that far with our ice fishing?
Well, as simple as this may sound, when I started, I knew that a hole in the ice was necessary and that some gear needed to be purchased. The end result (after that initial interest) was the expenditure of about $100.00. To be honest I had the bare bones of what it would take to ice fish and would not have to depend upon someone else to drill my holes or provide me with equipment needed to catch a fish through the ice. A hand auger does quite well although a gas auger makes things so much easier. A regular tent I picked up at a garage sale gave me the cover needed to stay a little bit out of the elements and a shorter ice rod/reel gave me pretty much all that was necessary at a reasonable cost. So to start you can be innovative suiting your own personal means and goals. Yeah better more refined equipment does make a difference but maybe later if you really get into it…
Knowing what I do now, I would have referred more to the classified section as well as for sale posts on bulletin boards like the Fishing Manitoba Bulletin Board to get the stuff to do the job – but hindsight makes us all professors doesn't it?
Having my gear in hand, I went out to a couple of places where I heard fish were being caught through the ice (in most cases by the time I received the info the bite was over!) but I also I tried out a couple of spots I thought would hold fish. The end result, obviously, was that I'd find fish at both locales. I was fortunate enough to have gone the latter route and not to have put all my fishing eggs into one basket. I was also able to see how other people actually did it at the same time as trying a few things out myself. These two sets of experiences were perhaps the most important learning tools for everything I continue to do when ice fishing.
And so it was from these meager beginnings that I started to develop my own repertoire. As such it hasn't all come at once either. I've noticed that many of the best ice fisherman have spent years and years honing their craft. I've also seen it so cold or I've had other things going on where it was near impossible to get out there on a regular basis to continue to develop that routine. But through it all I've grown fond and look forward to any time I can spend on the ice. And I guess there's an expression that fits my experience to this point with ice fishing: That's life…… or is it (?)…. That's fishing eh!