Take getting out on the ice: before snowmobiles and ATVs, everything taken on the ice was drug or carried. Unless you were fishing on a large lake that froze solid – a foot or more – and was big enough to spread the weight of vehicles, you didn’t chance driving the family car out on the ice. I remember getting bait in a shop in Tilbury, Canada, reading a sign that said if a car went through the ice, the owner would be fined $5,000.00 (Canadian of course; back then that was a deal.) It went on the say, the cost for removing the vehicle was $5,000.00. We went anyway.
When you carried or drug everything you needed, your needs were scant: something to cut or chop the holes; your poles and bait and something to sit on …oh yes, there was always peppermint schnapps in someone’s pocket. Once the holes were chopped or drilled and tip-ups placed, you sat down over one hole, dropped your hand line and waited. The only physical activity was when another hole was chopped and when you packed up and made the trek back to shore.
In older times, there would be a roaring fire close to shore to warmup and dry wet gloves and sleeves. It was also where the group gathered to drink hot coffee and toast or roast lunch.
Now of course, ice fishing is more of a physical sport. I mean there are things that require effort. Take the ATVs and snowmobiles. It’s been a while since I’ve owned a snowmobile, but when I did, getting unstuck, restarting the damned thing (no electric start) and loading and unloading it was like chopping wood; it got you warm without having a fire.
By the time you set up all of the gadgets that tell you …no, let you see where the fish are, more calories spent. The shelter has to be brought and anchored and outfitted with enough conveniences to call it a lodge. Sure, it’s a popup, but when the snowmobile breaks down, it’s like pulling a log cabin across the ice.
All these conveniences are designed to make sitting on the ice more tolerable and pleasurable. Of course, I’m exaggerating about the effort it takes to use them. But when all is said and done, it was sure nice when the only thing you needed or wanted was an auger or ax and a couple of homemade rods and tip-ups.
Got to go now and load the shanty on the sled. Who’s got the peppermint schnapps?