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The Last Windrow: Sometimes you brave the elements to ice fish

The scene resembled outer Siberia. Nary a fisherman was in sight. We had the lake all to ourselves! Photo Illustration.

The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is about to happen in my area of Minnesota. The event will draw worldwide attention as ice anglers of every ilk will trudge out on the frozen tundra of Gull Lake in hopes of winning a new pickup truck or some other minor prize.

It's a great fundraiser for the Jaycees and I hope they have a great turnout.

The contest got me to thinking that I've really not visited much in this column about ice fishing this winter. I did write a few weeks ago about trying to hack through two feet of ice with a wood ax to no avail, but I am remiss in not talking a little bit about this sport of the north country that attracts so many every year.

There is really nothing that can compare with driving your $50,000 truck out over 30 feet of water and hoping the ice will hold you.

Ice fishing today doesn't remotely resemble the ice fishing I knew when I arrived in Minnesota in 1970. Those were the days of 4x6 fish houses, heated by a wood stove and pulled across the lake on skids.

Although some ice fishermen still hold to those traditional houses - the times, they are a-changin'.

Now ice fisherpersons sit in the comfort of insulated houses with satellite TV and full bathrooms. They play cards and watch football games. A long way from sitting, staring down at your bobber floating in a hole for hours on end.

I was visiting with my brother a week or so ago when we came to a conversation dealing with an ice fishing trip we had taken back in the early 1970s.

We drove up to a small area lake after hearing that the crappie and sunfish were "jumping out of the holes." It sounded almost too good to be true, but we were suckers and decided to drop a line. We should have been suspect.

The temps that morning hovered around 30 below and the aspen trees were popping as we loaded my pickup. We took a 4x8 sheet of plywood along to block the wind. As we entered the public access we saw a northwest wind blowing snow across the surface of the lake. The scene resembled outer Siberia. Nary a fisherman was in sight. We had the lake all to ourselves!

We drilled our holes with a spoon auger and positioned my truck so as to block the wind with the aid of our sheet of plywood. Our holes froze over before we could even lower our lines into the water. We used the ice scoop to scrape the ice off the holes, but our lines looked like a string of pearls after just a short time.

We sat there for three hours with nary a bite. So much for the "jumping out of the hole" story.

A human can endure only so much discomfort before he or she seeks shelter. With frozen fingers and ice-filled nasal passages, we finally relented to the elements and declared the day a dud. Thoughts of sitting in a warm home watching the football playoffs danced through our heads as we packed up and sped back to the main road.

Since that time I have ice fished many days, some in the far reaches of Canada. Most of those experiences have been fun and fulfilling. Some of them resembled that trip with my brother on that lake where if we'd been more stubborn, we may have lost our lives and ended up frozen when our wives would have found us sitting there, ice fishing sticks in hand with eyes glued to the frozen hole in the ice.

I'll be thinking of some of those days when I hear the results of the Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza. I wish all those braving the elements good luck. I will be watching the results on this computer.

See you next time. Okay?

randomness