People in Minnesota have to be nuts to stand on ice all day, in January no less. Either that or this is just too much fun to pass up, which is most likely the answer.
I never thought I’d actually enjoy spending 7 hours on a frozen, huge lake, all day long in the dead of winter in Minnesota. Ice-fishing yesterday was one of the best recreational days of my life. We headed up to Big Stone Lake which is located on the Minnesota-South Dakota Border. The day was incredibly warm and there was not a cloud in the crystal clear blue sky. At one point a small airplane dropped down out of the sky to try his luck with the fish. Amazing to watch it land on the lake and even more so later when it took off again.
One of our out-door enthusiast friends invited us to go ice fishing and he was well equipped with a very sharp ice auger and all of the short fishing poles and bait. When Fred was about to drive onto the ice, I asked him if I should open the car doors and he laughed and told me to just open the windows if it made me feel better……..which I proceeded to do. Not a worry though really as the ice was over 14 inches thick and there was what looked like a small city out on the ice filled with trucks and ice houses. Talk about a great feeling!
Folks have been catching their daily limit of Perch up at Big Stone so we were hoping with our gang to bring home a large amount. Our guide/friend, Don, proceeded to pick out a nice open spot in the middle of the huge lake while the kids and I tried to get used to being out on the lake. He augured out 10 holes in the ice in just under 2 minutes……..I kid you not. It was a very sharp auger. The water came gushing out and he walked to the next hole and proceeded to dig another, until we had two rows next to each other. It was so amazing to walk up and scoop out the hole tops and peer into the cold depths of this very cold lake. Later, we found out the depth of the lake beneath us was 14 feet.
Don had tents with him but we never did set them up since the weather was so warm at just under freezing. Instead, we sat on chairs and pails soaking up the warmth of the January sun and beauty of our surroundings. Watching the other people fish was entertaining as well. The only scary part for me was the sound of the ice cracking all around us once in a while, only when a truck drove by. But, it was very safe and just a natural occurrence on ice.
No sooner did we all get set up with poles and bait when Marisa pulled in the first catch of the day. Silently, I should add, which can only come from Fred’s side of the genes, because I get way too excited when I pull one in. After that, we started to get a few more fish, but not enough. We were pretty happy mind you but Don, having been a professional fisherman wanted us to catch way more than that.
Don kept analyzing the situation………which was really interesting to me. Now I am going on memory here but I think we had caught 4 or so fish in just around 3 hours so we decided to pull up and move our group. That didn’t take long by the way and we moved maybe a mile or so over and he dug another 11 holes in just a few seconds. 11, because we had another person meet up with us.
This time Isabella, with our guide friend close by, proceeded to catch 4 Perch in rapid succession and we all started to get some action going. Wow is it ever fun. It is even more exciting pulling up a cold fish from the icy depths of a winter lake, through a fairly large hole, than it is during regular summer fishing.
It’s even more exciting and entertaining watching the faces of our kids as they pull up fish after fish after having waited so patiently for a nibble. Since I am a mother, above all other things, by vocation…….I was also in charge of the food. The night before, we made up a bunch of Nonna’s Stromboli and Focaccia to take along. Just before we took off I whipped up a quick Marinara sauce to dip in………along with hot coffee, cappuccino, water and junk food. Mostly with hot jalapeno flavoring:) So, making the rounds to each persons ice hole with food, I watched on with appreciation and satisfaction, at the enjoyment on the faces of those who ate such good food, in the middle of the lake on a cold winter day.
More than once I had to declare how much fun this day was………..we invoked St. Peter and soon thereafter…….REALLY…………….we started nailing them over and over and over again. That is “they” actually…….because I still had not caught a single fish. I became restless, needing a walk, ventured over to a nice very old man who sat there fishing nearby. In my arms were Stromboli and Marinara sauce…….and a few slices Focaccia. He never even heard of such Italian cuisine….this being a Norwegian, German area……….anything other than Italian.
For a few minutes we visited as I watched him relish the new flavors of food. When I said good-bye, wishing him luck, Fred told me to quick check the hole I had abandoned, saying that he thought he saw some movement but didn’t have time to check it. Sure enough there was a fish down there, my first of the day.
The rest of the afternoon we kept pulling in fish until just before it was dark. The lines started getting harder to handle, since we had no tent set up and the temps were dropping……….and then there were cows to be milked and hogs to be fed. Ah, the life of the farm which must keep us always on schedule and down to reality. We packed up, which only took a matter of minutes. Heading off of the lake by this time it was almost totally dark and we headed towards what appeared to be the exit. We figured this out by watching the other tail lights.
On the way out, we stopped to fuel up. One of our friends, who also stopped to gas up, asked me how many fish I had actually caught. When I told him, he blew the lid off of the action earlier…………you know the one about the fish being on my hook when I went to visit the older fisherman. It turns out that Fred and Don (our guide) put an already caught fish on my line, having felt sorry for me that I had not caught a fish yet. We had a good laugh in the gas station and made the long trip home chatting about all of the fun we had.
When we got home after 7:30 there were the chores to do. Don showed Caleb how to clean the fish in very quick manner out in our butcher shop. He can clean a Perch in less than 10 -12 seconds. Wow…….boneless filet. There were around 115 to 120 fish caught and cleaned and they were washed and placed in the freezer by 10:00 p.m. Wow, this a good life. I love my life here on the farm.
A person should note that this beautiful, warm day on the ice is not your average day. Many days you can not fish without a tent or fish house. You’d most likely freeze to death in time especially if there is a stiff wind. Quite a few of the die hard fisherman enjoy spending entire nights in the warm and cozy fish houses.
I doubt Don reads this blog, but just in case he does…………we all want to thank him for the most wonderful “Taking an Italian Family fishing Day” I think he was probably surprised that kids with so much Italian genetics in them are actually calm and quiet on the ice, a fishing necessity. Thanks for making our day so much fun. Let’s do it again soon. My only regret is that the camera malfunctioned just before I could snap a photo of our large pile of fresh fish on ice. Trust me it was a sight to behold.
You’ve got to try this, at least once in your life time!!