Ice-fishing on Adirondack lakes
My dad’s been the captain of every ice-fishing outing I’ve ever been on. And there have been plenty.
Most people envision ice fishing as a quiet, solitary activity—sitting alone on a bucket, bobbing a line up and down until there’s a hit. That’s not what it’s like to fish with my father. With him, you’re in for intense competition as well as a party.
The sport of ice fishing, as my dad says, breaks fishermen into two categories: “fishers” and “catchers.” We always want to be the catchers. This means that if a hole isn’t producing fish within a matter of minutes, we’re packing up camp and moving to a different hole. We’re tracking the depth of the water under the ice and taking detailed notes when the bite is good. We’re watching the fish finder like our lives depend on it. We’re changing bait, we’re switching poles, we’re jigging at different speeds. We’re on the ice at the crack of morning and staying out past sunset whether the bite is good or bad. (My forever optimistic dad always thinks it’s just about to get better.)
The party of ice fishing is about bringing family and friends together. My dad’s enthusiasm is contagious. He encourages competitions to see who can drill a hole the fastest. There’s hooting and hollering after a glove is tossed off so an arm can plunge into a hole of freezing water to coax out a squirming trout. When the ice is good, we take breaks to skate. We discuss and solve the world’s problems. We roll our eyes after my dad’s umpteenth proclamation—after he drills yet another hole following a catchless stretch—that “The fish are right here, I know it!” We laugh when he says he has “Moby Perch” on the line before pulling up a fish the size of his pinkie. There’s my mom’s chili and hot chocolate and her good fortune of landing the biggest fish, usually after fishing just 10 minutes of an all-day outing. Then there’s celebrating a pile of perch and debating whether we’ll have a perch fry or perch tacos for dinner.
Ice fishing lets us observe nature’s stillness when it’s at its coldest. We fish, we laugh, we eat, we drink and we appreciate these moments together.