Ice Fishing is like a gathering arround the old camp fire
Smelt fishing in the northern regions.
Did you hear about the guy who went ice fishing in Sudbury Ontario? He got hit by a Zamboni machine. O.K. That’s enough with the jokes.
Ice fishing is a favorite pass time in many northern communities. It tends to generate a flurry of excitement throughout the community. Some of the basic benefits are fresh air, a source of good fresh food and friends getting together. There are several ways this is done, which we will cover in this article. The first of which is netting. The first thing you must do is to make sure the ice is thick enough to support a substantial weight. Next step is to cut a hole in the ice about 18” in diameter. To do this now days there are a few tools designed for this purpose. I have used an ax in the past it is a laborious job. You can rent or buy an ice auger or a chain saw works also if the ice isn’t too thick. The articles used are a smelt net, an eight to ten foot pole, a length of rope a little longer than the length of the net, about five feet, and the tool for making the hole in the ice. The idea is to string the net out under the ice, this is done by making your first hole in the ice big enough to past the pole through with the length of rope tied to the end. When this is done you go to the end of the pole and make another hole and continue to past the pole along under the ice again to its full length. This is continued until the other end of the rope which is tied to one end of the net begins to pull the net into the hole. The net should have cork buoys tied to the top and a few weights tied to the bottom this allows the net to set properly. The rope is than pulled up through the last hole pulling the net down into the first hole thus setting the net. Don’t forget to tie both ends of the net with a stick across the hole to keep the net in place. The set should look something like this when set:
The next morning when you check the set (the net), the net is pulled back out of the first hole allowing the rope on the other end to trail behind it. This will enable the net to be set again in minutes once the fish are gathered. This form of ice fishing may not be considered as the traditional form of ice fishing. In my younger days you could fetch twenty-five to thirty-five cents per/lbs. for smelts. They were some good rolled in flour and fried in butter. Didn’t worry about cholesterol in those days.
An ice shanty (also called a fishing shanty, fish house, bob house, or ice hut) is a portable shelter for ice fishing. It is placed on a frozen lake to provide shelter while you generally sit on a chair and fish through a hole in the ice. They can be as small and cheap as a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours, or as expensive as a small cabin with heat, bunks, electricity and cooking facilities.
Click to see plans and material list for Ice Fishing Shanty
The other way to fish smelts is by hand although not as plentiful. This method of ice fishing can be done through a small hole in the ice. I should explain at this point, to put a hole in the saltwater ice it is much easier because even in my day the salt water didn’t freeze much more than 6-8 inches in our region and saltwater ice is not as hard. It can be chopped with an ax easier than fresh water.
At this point I would like to introduce you to a product that you can't do with out. A written account for those who try the art of fishing on the ice. Order your copy now while available before the seasons.
A word of caution the thickness of the ice is not as great where the water is always moving, sometimes it doesn’t freeze at all, be aware of streams flowing in and out and were channels are. When fresh water freezes it can reach thickness of up to 18 to 24 inches thick in my region of the country, now if you are talking about the NWT the people who build the ice roads look for a thickness of 4 feet between Jan 31 and April 1. It would be a futile attempt to try to chop through that thickness.
When the ice is 18 to 24 inches the tool of choice changes. This is when you rent a gas ice auger or use your power SAW. Urrhh! Urrhh! This does the job nicely and gets it done in good time. Now that the hole is cut, its time to go ice fishing with your little short rod. No wait lets get comfortable.
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We need to set our ice shanty ice shanty over the hole. In northern climates, ice shanties are the center of a large, often humorous, folklore. Fishermen often decorate their ice shanties in humorous ways (toilets are a popular joke addition), while others studiously work on ways to make their ice shanties more comfortable and efficient for ice fishing because it can get cold out there. Much of the folklore involves the inherent danger of erecting a structure atop a frozen pond. A common saying goes that every lake has at least one bob house on the bottom (at least one snowmobile, too).
There seems to be a mystical or alluring invitation about a number of little shacks scattered out over the frozen water. To me it means a chance to sit down with the boys and swap stories, have a few laughs and it isn't how many fish you catch, but the big ones that got away. Well enough dreaming. I quest its time to get some information out to you good people and the where abouts to get that certain article you where looking for.
Many northern communities have developed laws about the operation of ice shanties - frequently including dates by which they must be removed, even if the ice can still hold them.
The shanty was first built to block out the cold wind, than to afford you a place to put your folding lawn chair by the hole in the ice, and you need to be able to set up a small cast iron wood, coal, or oil stove for heat. Now we are talking ice fishing.
Can you imagine what the early settlers would think, holes cut with a chain saw. Little houses pulled out onto the ice all ready made on a sled to be pulled by a snowmobile and positioned in place in minutes. What are you talking about?
The stove is set up and lit and a port-a-potty is in place. Now lets see what do we use for bait. We can try bacon, worms if available. I use to fill a 5 gallon bucket with earth and collect large earth worms from the fall plowing of the fields. I would plant the worms in the bucket and mix rolled oats in with them for their food. This gave me an early supply of fresh worms first thing in the early trout season. Don't let them freeze. You could use store bought minnows. I even used meat from fresh road kill, or from my trap line, such as coyote. Just cut a hind leg of and freeze it and cut bait as you need it. This meat seems to be course enough to stay on the hook and it keeps it fresh red appearance when left in water awhile. I guess what ever works.
Most large shanty communities now pay to have a Johnny on the spot brought in. Many places the shantiesare brought in, set up and offered for rent per day, week, or seasons for people to go ice fishing. Usually all is included in the way of equipment even the bait, and lures depending what you are ice fishing for and this depends on the waterways you plan to fish. If it is tidal water you most likely will be located on inland harbors and coves. Only there the saltwater freezes thick enough to support a substantial weight.
In saltwater you can fish smelts, sea trout, flat fish, which are a remarkable tasting fish, and a wide variety of other fish, at this point I am referring to saltwater ice fishing.
Just a short note; if the water is not to deep or if the tide is low and you can reach the soft mud bottom with a special eel spare you may be able to catch a real delicacy. Fried eel is great, and eel stew is a great dish to warm up the innards while ice fishing.
In our area ice
fresh waters you can catch lake trout, bass, pike, and pickerel. All of this lends itself to passing the cold winter months of ice and snow. It gives us an experience of learning to work with mother nature, and using the elements to our advantage. Enjoy your fishing and keep your worms warm.
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Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire
Lake Winnipesaukee Travel Guide describes favorite activities and places to go such as beaches, boating, skiing, attractions, shopping and Ice fishing every February on our many accessible lakes, and more.
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