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Issue Date: December 2010


Freeze and Quiet

Ice fishing is as much about the solitude as reeling in the big catch, but that's great too.
Rick Lessick, fisherman who frequents the shanties west of South Bass Island set up by ice-fishing guide John Hageman.

You go out just past dawn, towed behind the ATV on a wagon. John leaves you with some minnows for bait. You sit in the shanty, make yourself comfortable, drop your line through the hole, jig your fishing rod and enjoy the day. It's very relaxing, very peaceful.

The shanty is like a backyard barn. It's made of plywood and two-by-fours. Some seat two, some three, some even four. The hole is 12 inches in diameter, by law, for safety reasons.

I've had days I've been shut out and not caught a thing. Other days, I've caught fish every 10 or 15 minutes. Walleye, perch, white bass: They're slower because they're cold-blooded, but they are feeding. They move in schools back and forth. If you happen to be where they're migrating, you're going to catch a lot of fish.

The fish locator is an electronic device that sends out sound waves through the water. It's almost like playing a video game: You see the fish on the locator, jig your rod, and the fish will hit your lure. It keeps your interest piqued. Otherwise, you might as well be fishing in a tin can filled with water.

I just enjoy being out there, whether I catch fish or not: the solitude, the peace, the quiet. I have three sons, and when we get together, it's usually an ice fishing trip. You take some food, take some drinks. You listen to the radio and talk. There is a propane heater inside the shanty. You strip to a shirt, sweatshirt and pants, worn under your snowmobile suit.

Sometimes, you're sitting there the whole day long then all of a sudden you pull up on the rod and feel a heavy thing on the bottom. Then you know you got a fish. It's a very euphoric feeling.

When you think of the volume of that water in that lake, all the way from Michigan to New York, and you're fishing over this 12-inch hole and you catch a fish through it, it's amazing to me.

— as told to Erick Trickey

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