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It's not about the fish

We didn't stray far from home for last week's adventure, an impromptu family ice fishing day on the lake, a mere 100 feet from the house filled our Saturday. Every year, at least once, we get together for a day of food, family, and fun, ice fishing in March. Last year covid prevented any such gathering. Covid is still around, but after a year of mastering social distancing, we knew how to take precautions for everyone's safety.

Our ice fishing days start early, usually before sun-up. But I have noticed as everyone gets older, we aren't as eager to brave the elements quite so soon. I considered going out to offer encouragement to those drilling and setting traps, but once I was giving the morning temp, I decided to stay inside and cook my traditional breakfast sandwiches. Zero degrees with a slight wind is not what I call fun.

I couldn't hide inside any longer. I was running out of excuses to remain indoors, so, I located all my warm clothing and headed out. The sun managed to warm the air up to about 24 degrees by the time I made it to the lake, but the windchill made it feel much colder. Thankfully, my gear was toasty warm. It really wasn't too bad as long as one kept their back to the wind. The bright sunshine on the face was a real treat.

It wasn't like we were roughing it. The house was only a handful of steps away and if you didn't want to walk that, we had two warming huts, one without heat and one with a heater.

Our part of the lake has never been what one would call fast-fishing. It is pretty slow. But we usually get several flags, a few fish that get away, stolen bait, and 1-2 fish per outing. The pattern is predictable. In the morning there are several flags and possibly a catch. Then things peter out as the day goes on. There is usually a 2pm spurt of activity for about an hour. Then just before sun down the action picks back up. Saturday though, Matthew, my nephew, was the only one with a couple flags and one large salmon that got away due to the knot on the leader letting go. Other than a few stolen and beat up bait, the day was a bust fish wise.

Some people think Ice fishing is so boring. Why would anyone want to battle the cold, drill holes, and then just sit and wait with the occasional tending to the holes? Not for us, Ice fishing is not about the fish.

It is so much more than that. It's about getting outside, spending time with each other, learning a skill, and more. If you do catch a fish, that is just a bonus.

We teach them young in our family.

One of the best things about these get togethers is the food. It's nothing fancy, but there is something to be said about a Maine red hot dog cooked in cast iron with grilled onions on a camp stove. The only way it could be better is if it was over an open fire. Everything tastes so good when you are outside. I remember as a kid we would go bait trapping with my dad and we would bring hot dogs to cook on a fire. The tube-steaks would freeze by the time we snow-sledded into the deep woods to a secret pond. When we cooked those red hotdogs, they would be black on the outside with split skins and still cold in the middle. And they were fabulous. If I ever severed something like that inside for a meal I would be shot. But outside, it was awesome, go figure! Add a kettle of spicy sausage soup and you'd think we were at a 5 star restaurant.

Since the fish weren't biting and our tummies were full, there really was only one other thing to do. Take a nap. I considered going inside to get a cot, but it was packed away, so I grabbed a moving blanket, spread it out on a sled, and took a nap in the sun. My black full length down coat absorbed the suns rays keeping me toasty warm. I couldn't fall asleep completely for very long with all the chit-chatting about me, but it was still quite relaxing and therapeutic.

The only bad part about ice fishing is when it is time to pack up. Even with a day of no fish caught and strong cold winds, the end of the day is sad. It means it is time to say good-bye and go home, back to reality.


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