I am very lucky to own a house on a lake with my wife and also very lucky to have four varied seasons to enjoy a variety of activities there. One that I had yet to try was ice fishing. Some buddies from work had shown an interest in going up there to give it a try, but something always seemed to get in the way – we waited too long and the ice got too thin, Covid happened, we just forgot about it, etc.
The topic came up again though, and we decided on a date. Our group included my coworkers Micah, Tom, and Lou; however, Lou had something come up and opted out of the trip.
We left at 11 am on Friday from work. We didn’t even get a 1/4 mile away and Micah made us stop because he forgot to pee before leaving. About 30 minutes later we stopped at an old haunt of Tom’s to grab a sandwich, which we ate in the car. From then on it was another five-hours of driving before we were there. Lots of conversations were had and I think that they know more about me than they bargained for. Our shared stories of how we met our significant others were a highlight.
When we arrived I was beaming with pride about my house on the lake as they took it all in and gave me some great compliments. We unloaded our gear, and Micah and Tom picked out which bedroom they wanted, and then we made plans for dinner.
Since it was the first Friday of Lent, we opted for a fish fry somewhere and I played it safe and took them to the Boathouse in downtown Minocqua. Tom had some northern pike, Micah had the fried cod, and I opted for some fried walleye. Based on their comments, I think they really enjoyed the Boathouse.
On the way back we stopped at a local fishing/bait shop called “Dewey, Catchem & How” for some bait. The two guys inside must have thought we were real greenhorns and one of the guys helping us gave us a little attitude, but we got what we needed and then hopped back in the car with a bait bucket full of the biggest minnows I have ever seen.
Back home, we got busy getting the newly purchased rods and reels ready for fishing and made sure everything was ready to go. Micah had asked me how many fish I thought we would catch, and I kind of jokingly said “none. If we catch one, I’d be surprised,” I think my words were. They were having none of that negative talk. We were going to eat fish again tomorrow! Some more hanging around and talking then it was off to bed.
Micah had promised to make his award-winning biscuits and gravy and it was outstanding! We supplemented it with some scrambled eggs and fried potatoes, and we were eating like fishermen ready to fish for the day.
We had woken up to -12 degrees Fahrenheit and a forecasted high of 25. I don’t think it ever got that high, but the day itself was a clear blue sky with hardly any wind until the later afternoon when the breeze picked up a little. Thankfully, Tom brought a little propane-fueled heater which made our little pop-up shanty nice and toasty. It wasn’t long until I had my gloves off, and Micah and Tom had both removed their coats.
But the real excitement started right after we got the shanty set up, the ice holes drilled, and Tom had set up his tip-ups. I had a pretty good understanding of how they worked and as we were doing some other baiting and what-not, I asked Tom how the pole-type tip-up worked, because I could clearly see that it had sprung up. This prompted Tom to bolt for the pole and start reeling in the line. We were all excited by Tom’s excitement when he declared that he had a fish! When he pulled it out it was a nice-sized Northern Pike!
Turns out it was not only the only Northern Pike in the lake but seemingly the only fish in the lake. Fifteen minutes into our day and we caught the only fish we were going to catch all day! We thought we were going to be eating like kings on fried fish! I’m still laughing about it.
We soldiered on, baiting our hooks, dropping our lines into the murky depths of Minocqua Lake, and talking up the excitement of catching more fish. Other groups had joined in on the fishing nearby and we were starting to notice that they were congregating in another area. I’m not sure if they were successful there or not, but next time I think we’ll give that area a try. The only issue with it is that it was pretty close to the snowmobile thoroughfare on the lake and they roared by with regularity.
When it was time for lunch, we decided that maybe we should seek out another spot as ours had not produced any more nibbles. We dragged our stuff back across the lake and decided to set up shop out in front of the house. Tom drilled another hole in the lake and after sticking his depth/fish finder down into the hole it was declared that this would be a great spot. We went inside and filled our stomachs with sandwiches and chips and thawed out for a little bit before heading back outside. We had fish to catch, dang it!
After we ate, we rushed back down to get back at it and determined that we misread the depth on the display as 31 feet, but it was actually 3 feet 1 inch. Oops. Not quite deep enough. After Tom consulted a webpage that showed the depth of the lake we walked some of our stuff directly across the lake and left the shanty. After fishing for a while with our backs turned to a somewhat cold breeze, Tom added more steps to his watch and fetched the shanty. We then opted to move back closer to where we had caught the northern earlier in the day. It was not long after I hit the “wall.” I didn’t know that fishing could wipe me out as it did, but I was spent. I was doing everything I could to stay awake. My back was hurting, as well as my butt, and my brain was going numb as well. I was generally becoming a grumpy – make that a grumpier – old man. But we fished and held out hope that we would get lucky again.
At one point, with Micah’s family “FaceTiming” him, he thought he could sense a nibble, and got really excited that he may have seen a fish on his line. But it either was playing with him or it didn’t want to join the northern lying frozen in our bucket, and Micah was left fishless.
As the sun went down we realized that our day of ice fishing was coming to an end. I was relieved to finally be getting off of the cold lake, even if it would take a few more hours of me being grumpy until I was not as grumpy as before.
Tom cleaned his northern and Micah helped him wash it and fry it up. Tom called it our appetizer and we each had a little bit of the one northern pike in Minocqua Lake. It was a minor victory, but a victory none-the-less. Even with having to deal with the little bones, each bite was very tasty, and I was glad to have had an opportunity to share our bounty with Tom and Micah.
We finished out our evening with a trip to Bad Bones BBQ in Arbor Vitae and then back home for some dominoes and a well-appreciated hot shower.
After another great breakfast of pancakes and sausages, we packed up and headed for home, happy to have had the chance to share a weekend of fun together even if the fish feast didn’t happen. I still believe that we caught the one and only fish in Minocqua Lake, and that is an impressive feat.
Until next time…