Now I love winter and I love being out in the snow. I’ve skied in blizzard conditions in
Colorado, bundled up for dog sledding in Montana, and snowshoed windy dunes along Lake Michigan but I have never participated in an ice fishing excursion. As I look out of a large picture window from my cozy spot at a Northern Michigan library, I have a beautiful view of the snow covered bay dotted with ice fishing shanties. Somehow that looks cold to me, colder than skiing or dog sledding or snow shoeing. I will admit, even on a perfectly sunny day, I am not drawn to the bay to fish. So what is it that draws the ice fisherman to this frozen activity? The shanties are quite charming and I understand some contain toasty little portable heaters but to sit in one place, trying to keep warm , waiting for a tug you can feel but can not see, seems like no fun at all to me. Occasionally I notice two people heading out across the ice to the same shanty. Merrymaking with a relative coworker, or best buddy? Talk and beers? I’m not sure. Could that not be done in a warmer clime? I did see a father and son trudging out together, sled , bucket and drill pulled behind them… Maybe they sit and talk while they wait for a bite, discussing things they would not if they were at home in front of a T.V. The day is gray and all of the fisherman are tucked inside, maybe I should say fisher people because there could be a female among them. It’s hard to tell with the full body bundled up suits they wear. I think if there were a fisherwoman she might tuck her favorite book or magazine in the bucket before she heads out to her shanty. We know she’s just looking for a quiet space to be alone and catch up on her reading, no one interrupting, no one asking what’s for dinner. Maybe she’ll serve the walleye she’s about to catch. Okay, now I’ve made myself laugh. I am puzzled though by the fact that you cannot see the fish until you are about to pull it out of your circle of ice. Maybe that’s just it. Maybe it’s the surprise at the end, just like many of the other things we enjoy…an airplane flight to Jamaica, a gondola to the top of a mountain, baking bread, looking forward to lunch with friends. There is always the unfortunate possibility that someone out on the ice today is fishing for food, not sport. Not a peek of sun on the bay today and the tree branches along the shore are jiggling from strong winds off of Lake Michigan. I’ll cross my fingers and send good wishes to the fisher people today. I may not choose to participate ON the ice but I have enjoyed experiencing it from my comfy corner in the library.