Back in January I polled our readers with a series of questions about ice fishing. I got a number of different responses from people from all walks of life with all different experience levels. Here are a few of their answers:
How long have you been ice fishing?
People’s ice fishing experience ranged from this year being their first on the ice, to grandparent’s who had been ice fishing for as long as they can remember. Some people’s answers revealed that ice fishing has been an integral part of their life and was something they do every year, others sporadically ice fished, while some were just getting into the sport. Lots of people have been ice fishing since they were kids and it’s been an activity they’ve continued with some even having their own kids they have introduced ice fishing to.
What is your favourite thing about ice fishing?
People’s favourite thing about ice fishing varies. Some liked ice fishing because you can get away from the city and only focus on ice fishing without any other distractions. Others love ice fishing because it’s time to spend with family and friends. Some catch fish for their family and friends. Others love that ice fishing brings them outside and takes them to new places, while others simply like the thrill of driving the snow machine. Some love having a campfire while being on the lake. Others just love the excitement of catching a fish. Overall there is a theme that ice fishing brings people together with friends and family and immerses them in nature, two important factors for our well-being.
What is your least favourite thing about ice fishing?
The overarching thing that people liked least about ice fishing was the cold. Whether it’s forgetting the ice hut, getting cold hands, or feet, or slushy boots — the cold can make it tough. Others miss the feeling of casting the line and physically fishing, while others don’t like when you get skunked (i.e, catch no fish). Others still don’t like the large crowds and people disrespecting the lake by littering and not cleaning up after themselves.
Do you eat the fish you catch?
People typically keep the fish they eat as long as they’re within regulations. Some keep everything they catch and are allowed to keep because fishing is a form of sustenance for their family. While others are pickier and only keep their favourites and release the others. Some decisions on which fish to keep were based on the time of the year and the size of the fish. They let the medium-large to large-sized fish go because they were considered prime spawners and keeping those fish would have a greater impact on the fish population.
If so, what is your favourite type of fish to eat?
Across the board, there was a large preference for walleye. Many said that that walleye was their favourite by a landslide. Lake trout was also popular among respondents. With a few people preferring burbot, whitefish, crappie, and perch. One respondent said his favourite meals to make were your classic fish and chips as well as fish tacos.
Are you concerned about the impacts of climate change on ice fishing?
Overall there was a general concern about the future of ice fishing. This winter had had a low ice-cover and warmer temperatures until the cold-snap at the end of January and early February. Some people mentioned the inconsistency of their favourite ice fishing spots freezing over. This year with its low ice cover meant a lot of the best places to ice fish on Lake Superior weren’t safe to fish on. Other’s major concerns were not with the increasing temperatures, but from pollution and garbage impacting the lakes. The concern of what climate change will mean for fish adapted to cold waters was also a concern. The concern of decreasing ice cover and the safety of traversing the ice was echoed through the responses. Other’s that fish on smaller lakes commented on the thinner ice and that they haven’t had to use their auger extension as much in recent years.
Have you noticed any changes to your ice fishing practice since you started?
Some of the fishers were new to ice fishing and haven’t noticed personal changes. While others commented on the increasing use of technology since they started fishing. From watching the fish on a fish cam to topographic lake maps and the use of sonars to detect fish. These advents in technology have made it easier for individuals to catch fish. There is also increased planning that goes into deciding where to fish based on these technological advances. People acknowledged that there are variations year to year but that in recent years they’ve noted how the climate has changed and ice cover and duration is different than when they were a kid. Some commented on the decreased fish populations that are forcing hard-core anglers to go further out than ideal. There were also responses that ice shacks have gotten a lot bigger over the years.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey and sharing some of your ice fishing stories and memories.