Weather Forecast


Open Season: I really should be ice fishing

Nothing beats sitting comfortably in a heated ice shack, waiting for the next bite.

I really should be ice fishing.

Seriously, there is no excuse for my complete lack of motivation this winter. Time to man up, grab the portable shack and head out to my favorite lake.

But for crying out loud: what's with this awful weather? Reports are coming from near and far about fishermen frantically hauling off their ice shanties before another wave of snow and ice permanently cements them to the lake's surface.

And how about those travel conditions? Good grief! Don't even think about driving a vehicle on a lake right now, unless it's a jacked-up, 4-wheel drive Humvie with independent tracks in place of tires. The slush and snowdrifts have made many lakes nearly impassable, even for ATVs.

Those folks lucky enough to own snowmobiles aren't really finding what they're after, either. If, perchance, one makes it out to good ice, the fish have been more than just finicky - they're practically anorexic.

And of all places, Lake of the Woods - yes, let me spell it out for you: LAKE...OF...THE...WOODS - is slow! Slow? In January, the best time of the ice fishing season for catching? Slow?!?! By George, it's unheard of! Gone are the days of 100-plus fish outings. Be content with a handful of cigar-sized saugers and 13-inch walleyes.

Just pathetic.

Then again, this could be the weekend when it all turns around. Didn't the weatherman say something about another storm moving through? I've had darn good trips right before a mean front dumps a load of nastiness on the region.

That said, I really should be ice fishing.

But do I have enough money to go? The holiday's sure left gaping maw where my bank account should be. Let's try to break it down: gas is $3.09 a gallon at most places and $2.95 at Flying J. That means, if I stick with one lake - Otter Tail, perhaps - and come right home afterwards, I'll put on roughly 100 miles. My F-150 likely will average 15 miles per gallon. So just the cost of fuel will be about $20, give or take.

Twenty smackers, plus bait, of course. I likely only will need a half scoop of fatheads, and maybe a container of waxies for panfish. That'll be about $5. Maybe a couple snacks, too, if my pickled pike doesn't go over too well. There's another $5.

I could go without beer, of course, but what's the fun in that? A sixer of High Life should be $7. And then you have to bring some propane, and because I don't want to get stuck (again) on the ice without heat, I'll pick up two one-pound disposables at 3$ apiece.

So...all that, plus the fuel, will cost me around $40. And that's ideal. No telling what unforetold unfortunate incidents await me on the trip. A broken tip on my $60 Thorne Bros. rod, perhaps? Or maybe a malfunctioning less-than-a-year-old gas auger?

But one can't get too wrapped up in "coulda, shoulda, woulda." That's bound to drive a man funny in the head. No, we'll be optimistic and stick with $40. That means, if I can catch my one-man limit of Minnesota walleyes (six), they will average a little less than $7 a fish.

Isn't the going rate of Canadian walleyes at Hornbachers like $15 a pound? So if each fish produces at least a pound of fillets, I'm in the black! Hey...maybe I can sell my fish to the grocery store and pull a profit! Say, that's not a bad idea. I'm guessing they'll pay at least $10 - no - make it, $11 a pound for good quality walter fillets. And given they're coming from Minnesota waters, the freshness can be guaranteed. No flash-freezing these babies to cross the border. No-siree-Bob. That's high quality Minnesota walleyes. Loads better than the Canadian stuff. Heck, those so-called "Canadian walleyes" probably are nothing but eelpout and rock bass, anyway.

My fish are the bonified, 100 percent real deal. Nothing but home-grown, white-fleshed walleye.

I should really go ice fishing.

But the time expense! I'm going to burn an entire day sitting on my duff, praying there's enough ventilation in my tarp ice house to keep me from getting carbon monoxide poisoning. If I want to get out and hit the morning bite, I'll need to leave here by 4 a.m. So that means I'll have to wake up by 3 a.m., so I'll have enough time to snag breakfast, pick up bait, get to the lake, drill holes and crank the heater before sunrise.

Then it's a waiting game. Waiting for that first tentative, red blip on the flasher to give away the position of an incoming fish. Waiting for that red line signal to strengthen and enlarge, to change from far-away red, to close orange, to right-under-the-hole green.

Waiting for the tell-tale "thump" of a stout walleye, and its drag-screaming initial run.

Oh what the heck, I'm going ice fishing!