Winter in Canada can be a challenge to get through. Extremely cold temperatures, short days and snowstorm after snowstorm (which leads to shoveling) can take their toll and it can seem like winter will never end. While most Canadians pride ourselves on being hearty, winter going folk, deep down inside, many of us long for spring and the sunshine and warm weather that it brings.
Canadians have two choices for dealing with winter. We can hibernate for 4 months or we can get out and embrace what winter has to offer. Several years ago I made the decision to embrace our unique weather and being that I was an avid fisherman during the warmer months of the year, ice fishing seemed like a natural option for me.
My humble beginnings as an ice fisherman began when I made a deal with a friend; I would detail their car, if they gave me their old 6” Normark Swede-Bore hand auger. Given the messy state of their car it didn’t seem like a great deal at the time, but after nearly 12 years, that auger has paid for itself many times over. Along with this auger I purchased a very inexpensive rod/reel combo from the local Walmart.
The first few trips on the hard water proved to have a sharp learning curve. These trips can best be described as me freezing my ass off and not catching any fish. Was it fun? Yes. Was I learning from my mistakes? Sometimes. Did I keep going back? Most definitely.
One outing with my friend and longtime fishing partner Bob and I in the middle of Collingwood Harbour during what can only be described as a blizzard. With nothing more than a bucket to sit on, we sought shelter from the wind next to the largest ice hut in the harbour. If we weren’t so damn cold, we probably would have been embarrassed when the owners of the hut stepped outside and saw us huddled at their front door.
As the years passed and I continued to enjoy the sport, I started to invest in better gear. While rods, reels and tackle are important, it was the purchase of a portable shelter and a propane heater that really endured me to the sport. Some of the more hardened anglers will look down their noses at you while they sit on their buckets and you set up your tent, but it is tough to beat the comfort of a heated shelter on a cold, windy winter’s day.
I often find that I need to defend the sport that I have come to love. When people ask me what I do on my days off, I get funny looks when I tell them I went ice fishing. The typical reply is “why would you want to do that?”. My immediate response back is “why wouldn’t I want to”.
In my chosen profession I deal with hundreds of people a day. I am happy to say that most of them are great people, but the law of averages demands that there be a few overbearing assholes in the bunch. Whether I am fishing with a good friend or enjoying the quiet, serene glow of an open ice hole, I’m happy to be out of the office, off the couch and embracing winter. I’m evening happier when I feel that tell-tale tug on my line. Fish on!
**I would be remiss if I didn’t speak about safety on the ice. The old adage “No ice is safe ice” is something that I live by. While some people scramble to be the first anglers out every season, I prefer to take my time and wait for quality (thick and consistent) ice to form. While I encourage people to get out and try the sport, I will only recommend this with the proper safety precautions. If you’re not sure if it’s safe, connect with a local outfitter or other trusted (experienced) anglers.**