Get Hooked

Five reasons why you should try ice fishing (or not)

illustration by brad fitzpatrick

If there’s one question that troubles every thinking person, it’s what goes on in those ice-fishing sheds or “bob houses” (or outhouses) you see on the ice when driving around New Hampshire’s lakes.  

Said one fisherman to me, “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be just wasting time. It seems it’s not about where you are, it’s about where you are not. You’re not in a traffic jam. You’re not getting a hip replaced. You’re not at home with the damned cat.”

There are five reasons to go ice fishing: the dump is closed; the Winnebago’s up on blocks; you’ve finished rotating your mud flaps; your wife listens to opera; and your mother-in-law slept over.  

Also, you want to stay in shape. Of course, you have to decide what you want your shape to be. The calories burned by an ice fisherman sitting on his stool holding a fishing pole all afternoon are roughly equal to what you burn turning on a light. But that’s without a fish on the line. Now, add a fish! Whoa. The fat melts away. And you’re having the time of your life — sitting with your fishing rod alongside a hole in the
ice in freezing weather. What this tells you is that there never will be a great ice-fishing novel written.

You can see the allure. You can even find guys in their homemade man caves with no bait on their hooks. That says it all. Peace at last. A chore-free zone. Show me one ice-fishing shack with a Post-it on the wall. (Except for maybe one that says, “Bait hook.”) Basking in the warmth of your little stove, you can pick your ear or scratch whatever itches. Sweetie Pie won’t see it. You can say “bleep” whenever you feel like it.

The correct bait is important. Do not use a black-eared gooey moth or a fluttering bugmeister. Fish know both bugs are sound asleep in winter. I recommend minnows, worms and Polish sausage, the latter with fried onions and a Samuel Adams. Where was I?   

Actually, come meal time, your typical ice fisherman will whip up some coconut shrimp for starters, grill a piece of Mahi Mahi, drizzle it with lemon sauce and toss a Waldorf salad. Followed with a dessert of  Bananas Foster. OK, fine, would you believe bologna sandwiches?

There is but one thing to worry you — thaw. Typical warning sign number one: You come out of your ice shanty, and there across the ice where you left your pickup, you just make out an antenna sticking up through a hole. Number two: You come back with doughnuts and coffee, and your shanty is missing.

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