OK, I’m not a hard-core ice fisherman. I don’t want to be a little wimp but deep down, I don’t relish the idea of breaking through the ice. I don’t know which would be worse.
Breaking through the ice, or getting to survive and having to crawl out back up on the surface soaking wet and freezing cold! It’d be a toss-up.
Now mind you. I’ve experienced a lot of near-death experiences. But the older I get, the harder I try to stay alive. I haven’t broken a bone in… a few years now. Used to I thought you had to or you weren’t living life to the fullest.
But there’s something a little spooky about hearing that harmonic cracking sound reverberating across the lake as a crack comes racing across the lake and the ice semi cracks/splits between your feet. Like I say, I hate to be a wimp but it’s just a little disconcerting.
I remember one time, not long after I graduated out of college, I took a job over in Nebraska. My buddy Mike Helzer wanted to go ice fishing. It had warmed up a little and the snow had melted so there was a little water on top of the ice.
I’d taken my Pastor’s son with us. If a fish hit at one of the holes and we all three ran over to reel him in, the ice would somewhat sink down an inch or two and water would run out of the hole onto the top of the ice and we’d slightly sink down. Again, I hate to be a wimp but that is a little once again, disconcerting.
The fishing was pretty good the best I remember but…. I don’t think it was good enough to have been designated as my final spot on earth.
Then after that I moved to Colorado. A couple of buddies had some death wish to go up to the mountains and ice fish all night every year on the longest day of the year. Well, I got out of that ordeal but we did go up on a lake at 10,000 feet on New Year’s Day.
We were drilling holes to fish and my buddy Mike Trautner was setting up an ice house. We were involved in drilling our holes and suddenly we hear some screaming.
A stiff wind had whipped up and he was in the process of going airborne! We grabbed his ice house (with him in it) as it was sliding across the lake and rescued him.
But, all of our gear. 5-gallon buckets to set on, rods, gear AND my party trey with sausage, tomatoes and slices of cheese had been blown away. We got Mike’s ice house staked down and then took a hike across the lake picking up gear.
But while walking across the lake there were little frozen red marbles which I’m finally figured out were the little red tomatoes that were on my party trey. The slices of sausage were rolled for amazing distances like pinwheels all across the lake. My party trey was scattered to Kingdom come.
Luckily, there was a barbwire fence on the far side of the lake which stopped all of our gear from blowing to the Antarctic.
Then one more ice fishing horror story. Years ago, I attended a Winter Camping seminar at Sierra Trading Post put on by Brian… I can’t remember his last name.
After attending his seminar I came up with an ingenious idea. Why go winter camping with nothing else to do?
Why not go winter camping on a lake and make it a joint ice fishing trip!! I’m a genius. No, that’s not giving me enough credit. I’m a visionary genius.
The only problem, I couldn’t find anyone dumb enough to go with me. None of my buddy’s were game. Surely Ron Spomer would go. Nope. Oh well, I’ll go by myself.
I threw my gear in a sled and on my backpack and hiked a mile or so out to an island and luckily set up my tent on the side of an island in case the wind whipped up. Which it did. It was by the grace of God that I didn’t go tumbling off but luckily, I was on (whatever it is??? The leeward side of the island). I thought my tent was going to take off rolling. The wind was howling. The next morning, I gingerly crawled out of the tent to surprisingly (not) find that all of my ice holes had frozen solid with my lines frozen in them.
Luckily, I had a tent heater and had survived the night. I caught a few fish that morning and finally gave up the ghost and headed for the truck.
A guy on a snowmobile stopped by and fished with me for a while. When he was leaving, he asked if I wanted me to carry my gear to the truck. Naw. I’m fine.
I hiked to the truck and the road had drifted shut. There was a good 2-feet of snow. Luckily someone was behind me and had to help me get out or they wouldn’t of been able to leave. Gee I love ice fishing!
Tom Claycomb is a hunting enthusiast and writes a bi-monthly column for Winnemucca Publishing.