Staff column: Be open to new experiences, even ice fishing

By Matthew Hankey – Sun Newspapers

Matt HankeyI was 27 the first time I went ice fishing, and it wasn’t because I lost a bet. It was an endeavor I participated of my own free will.

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


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