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Do you like to fish? Do you like to stand on the pier on a warm sunny day and drop a line or go out on the lake in a small boat? Do you just hate it in winter because you can’t go fishing? Well, read on because writer Bruce Kahn found out that you can!
Text by: Bruce Kahn

few years ago I moved to the state of Minnesota, in the United States. Minnesota is near the Canadian border where the winters are generally harsh, snowy, and long. It was there I first learned about the sport of “ice fishing.”

In the cold winters of northern Minnesota, we can have -30°C air temperatures and -50°C wind chills. When this happens, the lakes freeze over and it creates the perfect conditions for ice fishing.

Ice fishing was introduced as a sport in the late 1880s. Sven Stevenson is credited with building the first cabin overlooking Lake Minnewaska and as the story goes, it was a wet winter with heavy snowfall and it appears his outhouse slid down the hill onto Lake Minnewaska – while Sven was inside! Apparently the friction from the dirt sliding across the lake created enough heat to open a small hole in the ice. While Sven was shocked at this new predicament, he was also curious and looked through the hole and saw fish swimming. So what would anyone do in a situation like that? He ran and got his fishing pole and began fishing. An outhouse in the middle of a lake? Can you imagine the size of the crowd he gathered?.

Well, Sven started a new trend. A few days later, others pushed their outhouses onto the lake and before you knew it, it was a place away from home. Not only a place to fish, but to be away from “nagging” wives.

Ice fishing is a sport that involves drilling a hole in the ice and dropping a line to catch some hungry fish. When I was first told about it, I thought my friends were crazy! Who leaves a nice warm house in winter to go out into the freezing cold and be exposed to dangerously low temperatures to catch fish? How could this ever be a fun sport?

As I asked more questions I was told that before you can go out, the thickness of the ice must be officially measured by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to determine it is safe. When they report that the ice is at least 4 inches thick you can walk on the lake, go ice skating, play hockey or go ice fishing. At 5 inches you can go snowmobiling and when it is 8 – 12 inches thick you can drive a car or small truck on the ice. And when it is 2 inches or less, you’d better stay off the lake or else you’ll be “ice swimming!”

I had visions of being all bundled up, sitting on a stool hovering over a hole in the freezing cold, but to my surprise they told me there were actually small houses out on the lake. The ice houses, also known as ice shanties, ice shacks, fish houses, or ice huts, can vary from the plain and simple to the beautifully decorated, as well as vary in size. They must be portable as they go on the lake when the ice is thick enough and come off when the Department of Natural Resources declares the lake no longer safe. So when my friends invited me to go with them to their “house on the lake” for ice fishing, with some hesitation in my voice I said yes.

As it turned out it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was welcomed into what looked like a one room cabin. It was a heated room with insulated walls, had comfortable furniture, a burning pot belly stove, satellite dish and a fully stocked bar and refrigerator. It looked pretty nice, the only difference was that there a hole drilled in the middle of the floor in the living room.

So I got settled in (without taking off my coat) and we sat in comfortable chairs, baited our fishing lines and waited for a bite. While we waited we raided the refrigerator, ate sandwiches and had something to drink. It was a great opportunity for all of us to talk and get to know each other better.

All in all, I really had a great time. It was an experience to remember and the next time they asked me to go ice fishing, I said yes with no hesitation!


Easy Summary

A few years ago I moved to the state of Minnesota in the United States. In Minnesota it is extremely cold during the winter, sometimes the temperatures are colder than -30ºC! At this temperature, the lakes freeze and it creates the perfect conditions for ice fishing.

Ice fishing is very similar to regular fishing, except you have to make a hole in the ice to catch the fish. It became a sport in the late 1880’s. The story is that one winter a man named Sven Stevenson discovered his outhouse in the middle of Lake Minnewaska. Because of the ice, the outhouseslid down a hill and onto the lake. When Sven went to investigate, he noticed a hole in the ice under the outhouse and saw fish swimming around. He ran to get his fishing pole and started fishing from inside the outhouse! Soon, many people in town were fishing on the frozen lake as well.

Ice fishing is now a very popular sport during the winter. It is safe too. The Department of Natural Resources measures the ice; if it is at least 4 inches thick you can go ice fishing, ice-skating and walk on the lake. When it is at least 8 inches thick you can even drive a car across it!

When my friends first told me about this sport I thought they were crazy! They invited me to their “ice house” and with some hesitation I finally said yes.

When I arrived at the one room house, I was very surprised! There was a stove heating the room, comfortable furniture, a satellite TV, a bar and a refrigerator. The only difference was the hole in the middle of the room!

We had a good time fishing, eating and talking. It was a good opportunity to get to know my new friends better. It was such a great experience that the next time they asked me to go ice fishing I said yes without hesitation!



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