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Ice Fishing for Christmas

The temperature was a perfect 18 degrees in a Winter Wonderland.  We had recently received three different blessings of 3-5 inches of snow.  I had recently told my son Alex, age 25, “no gifts, this Christmas, I just want quality time with you.”  He is an independent young man who works all day, then goes ice fishing.

And that’s when he devised a plan to take me and others in our family ice fishing on Christmas Day.  He gave us two directives: “Get a fishing license”  and “Dress warm.”

I had never gone ice fishing.  My son became addicted to it in the 6th grade when he chose “ice fishing” as a Discovery Day option.  Every year the students could pick one major activity to explore for Discovery Day.  For a minimal fee, he could take a 3 day trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota with a small group of classmates and his teacher.

I got my fishing license two days ago.  I put good thought into my layers of clothing:   heavy socks, waterproof winter boots,running tights under my sweatpants, undershirt, sweatshirt and ski jacket, topped off with a warm stocking cap and my 4-layer deep mittens. The night before I packed up essential supplies and double-checked them twice.  There are no convenience stores where we were going.

Alex decided we would take the portable ice houses since the ice wasn’t thick enough for the Ice Castle. At 8:30 a.m., our party of 5 drove to Larimore Dam, about 20 miles away and parked our vehicles.  We hauled out all the equipment out to an area on the ice, including houses, auger, propane tents, fishing equipment, bait, etc. on sleds.  It took about 15 seconds to drill our holes with the gas auger, and Alex quickly set up the lightweight portable houses around the holes.  Alex prepared poles with minnow or wax worm bait for each of us, and we were soon learning how to jig our poles to attract fish!

My twin sister caught the first one… a large mouth bass.  Exciting!  Her husband caught the next one, a perch.  We caught five in all, but they were all too small to keep so my son quickly unhooked them and set them free to roam.  One of the most fun aspects of fishing was watching fish using the underground camera.  I admit I lost a fish that way, though.  I was so entranced watching the fish take my bait I forgot to set the hook and reel him up! My brother-in-law was coaching me, “Reel him, Bev!  NOW!”  but I was looking at the camera not my pole and lost him. It was a lovely perch, too.

I could see why Alex enjoys this so much.  It isn’t just the fishing: it’s the beauty of the stark outdoors of winter.  The prairie landscape is so still against the fast pace of our daily lives.  You can simply meditate on watching a perfectly round glassy hole, hoping to see your bobber dive downward to snare a fish, or you can simply sit back and sip your coffee with its shot of Peppermint Schnapps.  You are far from the maddening crowd- the only sounds you hear are those of wind and silence.

More than once Alex chastised my sister and me for talking.  He likes silence.  I am guessing this is why he comes out here- to find peace and quiet.  He likes summer fishing for the same reason.  I was learning more about him as the day went on.

We did take a break around noon and my son grilled lunch for us on the ice using a grill fueled by a propane tank. We had delicious Chili-Lime-seasoned chicken and smoked sausage plus crackers and Christmas goodies.  Food definitely tastes better in the great outdoors!

My favorite moments were sitting alone with Alex in his newest portable, learning how to use the under-water camera and how to flick my wrist to attract the fish. But the best gift I got for Christmas was the only gift I asked for… time with my son.  Thank you, Alex.

Alex and Bev 12.25.15

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