Well, today marks the start of the 2015 ice fishing season and we need new fishing licenses here in Minnesota. We managed to make it out a few times this year, but due to illness, not nearly as many as we would have liked. We will go get our new licenses for 2015 and potentially make it out a few times in the late season, but the next few weekends are already accounted for and our spring break trip is coming up soon! We are about to shift our focus to camping and mountain biking soon.
I started the season off by getting out on the ice by myself over the Thanksgiving weekend with 8″ of ice on Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota. Below is a picture that I took of my ice gear sled after packing up for the night. I remember the moment because I packed everything up and looked up at the sky to see an amazing view of the stars. It was like standing in a planetarium. That is one my most favorite things about early or late ice. It’s very quiet, because less people are out and you can really enjoy the nature and peacefulness of the clear night sky.
Here is picture of my first catch of the season. I was able to find some decent size crappies. No monsters, but all good enough size to make a couple of meals. The kids love eating fish and get pretty excited when I bring fish home. Of course, it only leads to the next question of when is the ice thick enough for them to join me. I usually get out a few times and then once people start driving on the ice, we’ll go out as a family. We usually ride out in a Ranger UTV vehicle at that point. I still don’t like driving the cars out on the ice and it is a easier to explore around the lake with the UTV.
Up until this year, we had kept our ice fishing focus on bluegills, perch and crappies, but his year we decided to branch out and try for some walleye. We packed up our gear on a Saturday and headed for Mille Lacs with the whole family. Mille Lacs is a large lake in North Central, Minnesota that is known for some good ice fishing. It is a really large inland lake and my internet searches didn’t really lead me to a good place to start, but we figured we would give it a go regardless. We drove up the west side of the lake until we found a maintained ice road that lead out to some houses. We stopped into the bait shop and paid a daily fee for the ice road access and off we went!
Fishing was pretty slow and we did not mark many fish on the Marcum. However, we did have a few bites throughout the day. My oldest son Kyle caught his first walleye through the ice, which I failed to get a picture of. It was just outside of the slot limit, so we got it back in the water as quick as possible. Kyle had another one on that day as well, that appeared to be a monster. The fish was more than his rod could handle, so I was trying to help him out by pulling the line up by hand, while he reeled, but I let too much slack in the line and we lost him. Reid also had a nice one that we lost right at the surface. The hook came out as he was trying to pull him through the hole and off the walleye went. We marked it as a successful day for our first attempt at walleye through the ice and decided we will give it another go in the future.
We added some new gear this year as well. Santa Clause brought the family a new Clam BigFoot XL4000T that let us spread out and have a little more space. I also picked up a Marcum Showdown 5.6 Dual Beam early in the year. Each year we are adding a bit of gear and trying out a few new things. The Showdown is very easy to use and when fishing in our Clam shelter, everyone can usually see their lines on the screen. The best use I have found for it, is to get an idea of water depth before I start cutting holes. It will even pick up fish markings through the ice. I just carry a little bottle of water to squirt some water on the ice surface and the Marcum can read the bottom.
The Clam BigFoot is perfect for our family. It fits my wife and I along with our 2 kids and we don’t feel cramped. It is still small enough to haul around on the back of a Ranger UTV or pull on a sled. It sets up quick and is easy to take down. Our previous shelter was the same pop up style shelter, but was not insulated and was much smaller. The insulated walls make a big difference for two things: It holds heat much better and the insides don’t frost up from condensation freezing.
The boys love cooking hotdogs over a fire in the summer and discovered that they can also cook hotdogs in front the Portable Buddy Heater. I love getting out there with the family. The kids crack me up with the funny things they come up with and it is funny to see the different things that really make their day. They thought it was something else to cook hotdogs out on the ice.
There are many things that I enjoy during the ice fishing season. What I enjoy most is the close family time. There is something about cramming your family into a 8X8 foot hut out on the ice for the day that brings you close together. There is always time of frustration as you are trying to get set up or fighting tangled lines throughout the day, but it is all worth it to see the smile on your kids’ faces as they pull a fish through the ice. I know that the kids will look back later in life and remember these good times. Below is a picture I took one of the evenings out on the lake as the sun was setting. It’s hard to find this type of peacefulness sitting on the couch in your living room.
Do you have any good ice fishing stories with your family? I’d love to hear about them in the comments or on my Facebook page.