I can count on one finger the number of times that I have ever gone ice fishing, and that wasn't really ice fishing. It consisted of me smashing a hole through the ice with a big rock and dropping a minnow through the ice with my 6'6" fishing pole. While I did manage to catch a small pike that trip, I really don't consider it "going ice fishing".
Aside from that one time, I have always looked at ice fishing as a preposterous idea. I mean let's think about it; you drill a hole in the ice, plop down some bait, and then freeze your butt off while you wait for the off chance that a fish comes by and takes your bait. Then, just to top it off, you get consider it a "great day on the ice" when you catch a heap of blue gill that you normally wouldn't even think twice about catching.
When a phone call came in from my buddy Dan to go ice fishing for some big steelhead this coming weekend, I decided to jump on it. This trip made a little more sense to me since we were going to catch some real fish. Besides, if I am going to have an opinion about something, I at least want it to be based on something. Unfortunately, a day later, Dan notified me that he wouldn't be able to make it, but to call his friend JP if I still wanted to go. I had already purchased a Wisconsin fishing license so I wasn't going to let it go to waste. I set up a plan with JP and the day was set.
The next day, at 3:34am, I showed up to JP's house.
That's right....3:34 AM
JP was ready to go as soon as I arrived at his place and off we went. We made a quick stop to meet up with some other guys at an oasis where we had a couple of laughs, figured out the final plan, and off we went in a 4 car caravan to Milwaukee's lake front.
Once we got there, it didn't take long to get to the spot, start drilling some holes, dropping some bait, and waiting for something to happen. So far this is just as I imagined it would be.....
Surprisingly enough, while Ed (a local blogger and well known local fisherman) and I were setting up a tip-up, we had our first flag on the tip-up we had just set up seconds before. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a false flag or missed fish. Oh well...off we went to wait.
As we waited, JP set up the grill and cooked up some fantastic breakfast burritos that Ed had made the previous night. It wasn't long before they were ready to go and we all enjoyed a great breakfast! A few hours went by and we hadn't had any fish....still. Naturally, we all got hungry again so JP once again, fired up the grill, and made some fantastic cheeseburgers that he had prepared the night before. Those were some fantastic burgers!!
Finally, there was some excitement on the ice as couple of ice fishermen that were set up about 100 feet from us had a flag pop. This was their second fish of the day and it turned out to be a huge brown trout. While it wasn't a fish for us, it was a nice fish nonetheless and my hat's off to them.
We spent some more time waiting and it was quite obvious we were getting bored. Since the fish weren't keeping us entertained, the group resorted to snowball fights, tricking people into thinking a flag had popped, and watching Big Mike prove that he was too big for the ice to handle. That's right, he went in the lake. Only up to his waist though. The most amazing part, at least to me, is that as fast as he had fallen in to the water, he was out of it. Once we all knew that he was OK, it was time to laugh about the whole thing...and the whole day. We packed up a short while later and headed home.
So what did I learn today?? Well, I actually learned a lot about ice fishing. Besides learning some of the technical aspects of it, I learned what it's really about. It's about having a good time. It's about getting to know other fishermen. You see, when I am out on open water, I am not there to socialize. I am there to fish. I am constantly scanning the water, the sky, and anything else that may indicate where the fish are. It's intense and serious...but relaxing at the same time. Ice fishing allows you the time to do all the things that you might miss when the water isn't frozen.
Would I do it again? You bet I would!