By Matthew Hankey – Sun Newspapers
In conversations I’ve had about the popular winter recreation pastime, it seems to me ice fishing is a polarizing activity. I know people who ice fish as soon as there is 3 inches of ice on a lake and fish every possible weekend. Conversely, I know people who cannot fathom receiving any enjoyment from it.
I lie somewhere in the middle of the chasm. Because it was took me 27 years, I obviously didn’t grow up cultivating this passion.
But, in my fourth winter of enjoying the sport, I can reflect on what it has meant to me.
My first time ice fishing was roughly two weeks after my father passed away. I was in a state of shock, pain and worse.
I don’t recall the details of how I ended up spending a weekend in February fishing on a frozen lake, but I will be eternally grateful to my in-laws for hosting us at their lake cabin.
My father-in-law, being the hearty Minnesotan he is, gladly dusted off his old ice fishing gear and invited me, two good friends and his daughter – now my wife – for a weekend shacked up in the cabin and adventuring on the frozen lake.
I had been boating on this lake dozens of times before in the summer. It’s a small lake with no public access, and my in-laws and friends will often have the lake to themselves.
Fast forward to a Saturday in February, and I’m now walking in foot-deep snow to dig holes in a lake I had been swimming in seven months prior.
I was slightly unnerved walking across the lake, but the desolation and winter landscape quickly became more apparent to me.
Here we were – our fishing group of four – on the lake, by ourselves. The temperature was no warmer than 10 degrees, but without a hint of wind, it was bearable.
Because there was no wind, sounds of the occasional bird or car driving on the highway a half-mile away traveled clearly across the lake.
Aside from the sound of a far off vehicle, and cabins dotted along the shoreline, I could have been in Siberia. White snow blanketed the frozen lake and seemed to stretch forever.
This was exactly what I needed at that point in time. No estate lawyers. No papers to sign. No calls to make. No packing up boxes.
I needed to be out in a foreign environment, doing something new, with good friends.
To some, ice fishing is nothing more than a bunch of guys freezing their keesters off while enjoying an adult beverage or 12.
While that is true, do not underestimate the value in first-time experiences and doing so at a time in your life when you need the distraction of something new. You might find out you enjoy something you might normally not have tried.
Contact Matthew Hankey at [email protected]