Back from the Ice

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Originally uploaded by sogrady

When we plowed into the drift in the middle of Gull Lake on Friday night, the sun was going down, it was already five or six degrees below zero without the wind chill, and it had just begun to snow. Hard.

The four of us hopped out, put on everything warm that could be easily extracted and gamely dug for a bit with occasionally gloved hands. But at this point, it’s necessary for me to explain to you the single most important thing you need to know when it comes to “crossover” vehicles stuck in deep Minnesota snowbanks: the ground clearance on these not-quite-SUVs is minimal. Hardly better than that of a car, in fact.

Also good to know is that when the frame of the car is sitting – more or less welded to, in fact – hard packed snow, you’re in trouble.

Making a very long and cold story short, we eventually separated the truck from the loving embrace of hardpack after several laborious hours of digging, some minor frostbite, and a few abortive tows. When the Ford Edge finally climbed over the lip of the ditch we’d been forced to create around it using one real shovel and an ice fishing ladel, the driver didn’t stop, but put on speed and flew, music blaring, for the relative safety of the lake’s edge. All for fear of getting stuck once again and forcing a repeat of the evening’s unpleasantness.

Would that I could tell you that the ill omened commencement to our ice fishing weekend was the last bad luck we had all weekend, but I can’t bring myself to lie to you, of all people. Unless it’s about how many fish I caught, in which case I will lie liberally and at will.

Our home for the weekend was an 8×6 shack, heated by propane, lit by a car battery, and powered by a small Honda generator. Drilled figuratively through the floor of the establishment were seven eerily luminous holes in the thick ice.

These were, of course, expected to be the source of a substantial bounty, measured in walleyes, and if we were less fortunate, perch. If we were more, northern pike. Regrettably, the latter declined to show entirely, while the first two put in only sporadic appearances over the three days we spent consuming bag packaged food of varying colors but uniformly negative nutritional value.

By the end of the three days, I was cold, filthy, and largely defeated (again) by an animal with a brain smaller than my thumbnail.

And yet refreshed, because of that. By the company, of course – there were four of us, after all, crammed into a smaller trailer’s worth of space. But also by the distance, the air, the cold. This trip was the first time in years that I’ve been without a laptop for more than 24 hours, and the disconnect was enjoyable.

If I need to recharge more regularly – and I do – I’ll look for something a little warmer, and a little less foul smelling. But as an occasional escape, it’s tough to beat the cramped, enforced socialization of ice fishing.

Pictures, for those interested in such things, are available here.

Thanks go out to my brother’s brother-in-law for organizing the weekend, and the excellent folks from Walleyedan‘s that took care of us. Tim Hanske, from their staff, is probably the friendliest and most personable guide I’ve ever encountered. If you want to fish Minnesota – whatever the season – I can’t imagine you’ll do any better than these guys.

One comment

  1. I’ll stick to skiing, thank you 😉

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