Good day my friends,
I’m sure most of you that live in Canada and some areas of the States have noticed the change in the air when you step outside. That unmistakable chill, the crispness in the air and the smell of the leaves changing and decaying on the ground. Season change is one of the few sureties in life, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, every year like clock work. As angler this spells many things; Fall fishing is a time of year that many seasoned anglers look forward to and crave, the beautiful change in scenery, the almost frenzied feeding as most species prepare their bodies for the coming drop in temperature. It is truly a site to behold and an experience chased by many. I know for myself, the change in the atmosphere around has me spending less time looking at open water and more time preparing myself and my gear for hard water season.
Ice fishing is an aspect of angling that didn’t always come naturally to me, even living in one of the coldest provinces in Canada; where it seems like over half of our calendar year is spent is sub freezing temperatures. My grandparents took me a lot when I was a child, and my dad a few times in my adolescence but it was a type of fishing that I hadn’t truly fallen in love with. My sisters and I would sneak in the occasional trip every few years with friends and while I found it thrilling in the moment, I rarely found myself aching to get back out onto the ice. I, like many other anglers I’m sure, considered it intimidating and daunting. It’s certainly not a simple sport, there is a lot of gear associated as well a technical aspect that I was simply willing to overlook in favor of waiting for the ice to thaw and open water to return. I think I can credit Youtube and many of my favorite anglers videos for really igniting my love affair with drilling a million holes in the ice and dragging a hundred pounds of gear behind me in treacherous conditions.
Winters in Canada are long, especially so in Alberta, with our season starting as early as mid October sometimes and stretching into as late as May in others. It can be grueling and exhausting and as many know can have a significant effect on your mental health. I always try to do my best to keep myself physically and mentally occupied during these months; hobbies, sports, cooking good food and spending time with friends and family. But as we all know the last two years provided us with new challenges as well. We were all left with far more free time than we were used to experiencing, and with a lack of social contact that I don’t think many were prepared for. With all this new found free time, I knew I needed to devote my time to something, and after having spent many, many hours watching other anglers have an absolute blast horsing fish up through these little holes on these little rods, I had no doubt where I wanted to be.
It started off with menial gear, an old busted Jiffy auger that had seen many things and much better days, one rod combo bought on sale at Canadian Tire and a crappy little sled from a garage sale. My dad and I packed into my truck with little preparation but a whole bunch of ambition and set off on our first trip in more than a few years. We cautiously tip toed out onto the ice, using the other anglers around us as a guide for how far out we could go. We cleared a small patch of ice with a shovel and set to the arduous task of getting the Jiffy started. This proved to be far more difficult than we had hoped; years of old gas and oil sitting in the lines, what I can only assume was a rotten spark plug. It very sadly fired a few times, just enough to get us through about two inches of ice and it died yet again. One more hard pull to get it fired up again and the pull cord snapped right out of it…of course. Feeling only entirely deterred, and extremely frustrated, I resigned to asking a neighboring group if they would be so kind as to drill us a couple of holes, to which they obliged. We were officially off to the races, both of us dropped our lines in ready for our first bite. Time passed and fingers got cold and no bites; we did our best to not be discouraged, both of us chuckling at our misfortune. We gave it an honest try and decided to pack up and move to another lake a few minutes up the road. Now as you recall, our auger was of no use at this point so we were once again relying on the kindness of strangers ( I love the angling community by the way ), so we pull up the the next lake and notice a few people milling about, so we unload and haul our things out, me heading to the closest group asking of we could borrow their auger. They were happy to lend it out, however warned us that it wasn’t of much use and it was quite dull and antiquated. We did our level best to drill a hole with it but didn’t have much luck, and then the young fellow offered up an axe to instead chop a hole. We had come this far and I’m no quitter, so chop I did. We didn’t catch a thing that day, but shared an experience and laughed a lot; it was the beginning of something wonderful that I share with my dad.
Fast forward a few weeks and we began to accumulate the necessary gear to not have a repeat performance of that day. I repaired the old Jiffy auger, changed the plug and flushed the old fuel and she was running like a top, we purchased new sleds and even invested in a pop up ice fishing shack. With renewed vigor we set out on a new lake, ready to stake our claim and lay a smack down on some fish and we were not disappointed. It felt like you would no sooner put your lure down the hole and you were getting bit. Between the two of us in a few short hours we had caught over twenty fish total and had seen many more through the ice. It was the confidence boost that we both needed, and the day that really set off our love and addiction to ice fishing. I think we very rarely missed a weekend out over the entire winter, bringing friends and family with us as often as time and the pandemic would allow. It was a season that brought many firsts, fish and lessons and so many memories and laughs that I know I will cherish for the rest of my days.
I had read many blogs and watched many videos of fellow anglers expressing their undying love for ice fishing, and how they were counting down the days until first ice, I always thought they were nuts; how could you prefer the ice to open water…but I think I understand now as I myself am not so patiently waiting for the first signs of ice. As we count down the final days of warm weather, watch the geese leave and the trees shed the last of their foliage I will be in my garage, pulling the sleds out, setting the tents up to air them out and firing up my new Jiffy auger in preparation for the season.