What’s the best part of winter in Minnesota? Ice fishing.
Oh, there are the snow forts, snowball fights, cross country skiing and downhill skiing, ice skating and so on, but you can’t beat a cold winter afternoon in an ice fishing house, warm and toasty, while pulling up those trophy walleye. and Northern Pike.
And anyone can do it – from little kids of a year or two old, to grandparents and great grandparents. If you’ve never fished in your life, you can do this!
Start by finding an outfit that rents ice fishing houses, or you may have a friend or relative with an ice house. These buildings are usually the size of a garden shed (although I’ve seen some the size of a real house), insulated, cozy, and equipped with a propane heater to keep you nice and warm while you’re fishing away for your cold. -water prize. Drill a few holes in the ice with an auger, drop a line in the water with a minnow on your hook, and you’re fishing.
Jig the line up and down a few times every so often so if a Walleye (in my humble opinion, the best eating!) is swimming by, he catches a glimpse of what he thinks will be his dinner. If he grabs your line, start hauling him up fast – don’t let him have any slack on the line or he’ll be gone! Once you have him reeled in, be sure to take the hook out of his mouth with a pair of pliers – Walleye and Pike have sharp, nasty teeth. Toss him out on the ice outside your ice fishing house to cool his heels, and when you’re done fishing for the day, collect your prize and go home to a wonderful fresh fish meal.
You can find a tremendous variety of ice fishing houses out there, from the small portable versions to the large camper-type houses. One of our friends has a house that sleeps 6, complete with stove and bathroom. Others are simpler, with a few chairs and a heater. Whatever your preference, you can enjoy ice fishing much more when you aren’t sitting in the cold winter wind. Who doesn’t like to fish in comfort?
The cold weather states are where ice fishing is most popular – after all, you need ice to go ice fishing! Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are known for excellent ice fishing. In Minnesota, the ice is usually thick enough to walk on by the middle of December and can last as late as the end of March. Walleye can be anywhere from 12 inches to 36 inches and sometimes longer, and weigh anywhere from 16 ounces to 13 or 14 pounds. The smaller fish taste the best (and of course, check local regulations for the fish that can be kept and those that must be returned to the lake). Northern Pike are also common, but I find they contain too many bones for my taste. Many fishermen say Pike are the most fun to catch because of their “fight.”