I think if you speak with most tournament ice anglers, they will have stories of growing up in the ice belt, setting tip-ups up for pike and sitting in a converted camper trailer with their fathers, grandfather or uncles jigging and listening to fish tales. My story, is not quite the same, although I did ice fish as a young child, it was certainly not often enough to play a major role in my current positions.
Growing up in the city of Sheboygan, and being heavily involved in Boy Scouts and Church, we didn't have a ton of time to do “nothing” and go fishing. Our weekends were a bit structured, we had lots to fit into a weekend generally, or at least it seemed that way as a young boy. We would have scouting events on Saturdays, or that may have been the day that the house work had to get done cause we were busy doing scouting activities during the week nights. We had Sunday school and Church each and every Sunday morning, we didn't miss many, especially not for ice fishing.
Fortunately I had a grandfather who could persuade my Dad into letting us go out with him now and then, just for a few hours, quite possibly because we as kids would get cold and bored if it were any longer. Grandpa would take us out, we would set up tip-ups and we would attempt to jig for pan fish. I recall a day on Elkhart Lake when we did catch a nice northern pike, I believe it was the same day there was a gentleman spearing Carp next to a small outlet of the lake. It's funny the things you remember from some childhood events.
I remember a day out on a lake near Montello, WI with my Grandfather and my Great-Great Uncle, we set up not far from shore, and I learned I was entirely to impatient as a child to ice fish for pan fish. It makes me chuckle thinking about watching my Great-Great Uncle Richard as he would catch fish after fish, and unless you watched him closely, you would not even know it. He could set the hook, reel in the fish, unhook it and place it in the pale he sat on in one smooth quick movement. In the World Ice Fishing Championships, this is called sneaky catching, in 1988, it was just how Richard did it. No electronics, no gas auger, no fancy tungsten jigs or plastic baits. 28” Medium action rod, Schooley reel, same line he had on for 10 years, a simple teardrop jig and a wax worm, he could have made the USA Ice Fishing Team, no doubt about it, Uncle Richard was GOOD! I learned you could look down the holes and see the fish that day, not that it would help me to catch fish that day, but it was entertaining.
Fast forward to March of 2010, my Grandfather and I ventured out onto Summit Lake in Wisconsin, hoping to find out what the crowd was catching. That day became one of the most successful and fun ice fishing memories I have shared with my Grandpa. Nearly a limit of crappies sized just right for the frying pan, no doubt we would have had caught a limit if given another hour or so. I still remember what it was that got them to bite, besides drilling 45-50 holes in a small area and jumping around from hole to hole, a chartreuse piece of plastic and a horizontal jig. Simple, and quite effective that day, we even got a sunburn.
I can't help but look back and give thanks to Uncle Richard, my Grandfather and my Dad for making sure I had a little time on the ice, for planting that seed. We didn't have the big converted camper, and we were not out every weekend but the time we shared, the memories we made and the little things I learned have added to my wonderful experiences on ice.