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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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June 25, 2019

5/4/2019 7:30:00 AM
Natural Reaction
The allure of late ice
Jacob Friede
Of The Lakeland Times

There's nothing more glorious than ice fishing a lake when it's 50 degrees outside, especially after a season that saw the thermometer hit 50 below.

It's elemental irony. It doesn't make sense. It almost doesn't seem possible, walking across the ice, dragging just the basics, in weather that feels like July. The day's checklist chopped to a Vexilar and auger, some bait and a bucket and a pole. Gone are the gloves and the heavy coats and hats and hoods and hand warmers, and you're traveling so light it's tough to let go of the feeling that you're forgetting something.

When you search the back of your brain for what's missing, all that's found is you're simply not freezing.

Which is a perfect chance to reflect upon the times when temperatures were not so sweet, because the challenge of ice fishing is most appreciated when it's taken out of the equation.

My last hurrah on the hard water was on a super warm day on Clear Lake just a couple weeks ago. It was a fascinating scene, with clouds rising from the lake, like a collection of small, scattered, campfires.

I was lost in a daze watching winter flee for the heavens right in front of my face. Fishing, though, was slow so I began reminiscing about the past season on the ice.

As far as a fight, the best was with a largemouth bass that I landed with a small panfish jig. It measured 20 inches and the monster somehow stayed on the tiny hook after a heck of a battle put forth.

The most fun I had all ice season was a day of slaying bluegill. A friend of mine put me on a hot shoal where we caught gill after gill, most of them keeper size, from dawn to dusk. With the panfish hitting like that, the waist- deep snow was a walk in the park.

However, my favorite catch this year was an early morning walleye taken on a Swedish pimple. I had just been told, by some guy at a boat landing, of a prime time spot for early ice walleye. I don't always follow such random advice, but the more I thought about the location, the more it made sense. Because of that I had not been able to sleep that night so I set forth into the darkness, around 4 a.m., to test the validity of the tip. Sure enough, the second the spoon dropped into the hole, a walleye was there to inhale it.

The mild, almost perfect weather on Clear Lake put those memories into perspective because when they happened it wasn't so pleasant. And like every catch through the ice, they're cherished for the trials that accompanied them.

It's the freezing of fingers tying a hook in the dark with invisible line through a pin hole, and the hurdling of snowbanks with every step trying to get across a lake, that give meaning to the meager victories over the conditions in which they are achieved.

And that's why the winds of change that break up the ice are so wonderful, because in contrast to what you've already endured, the rest of the year should be a warm breeze.

Jacob Friede may be reached at or

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