Photo © Ian Coristine/
 You are here:  Back Issues      Archive

Ice Fishing is Not for Me

As I sit on my porch, enjoying the early fall’s warm air and beautiful River views in every direction, my mind is, for some odd reason, drawn to memories of that frozen winter of ’14, which we spend on Wellesley Island chopping wood and spending many dollars on heating oil. The September days here are some of the best. The sunsets are unparalleled. Leaving is a sad thing to think about. Perhaps I think about that winter to remind myself that leaving is not the most painful thing to do.

I recall reading in the local North Country papers, that one could enter an ice fishing tournament and win a thousand dollars, by catching the right fish! This is amazing money for catching the “right”, by which I suppose means “biggest” fish. For this money, all one has to do is put on all the winter clothing in the closet, and perhaps somebody else’s too, go out on the ice, drill a spot large enough for the fish, and maybe shovel a nice little square space, where a small hut can be erected, and sit there for, I don’t know – all day – watching that fish hole, with its tip-up, for the fish to take its bait.


Oh, one must spend a certain amount of money on “Things To Drink.” And, what do people like to eat while freezing on the ice?  One might need a Sloppy Joe or two and a nice thick ham sandwich. Some soup in a thermos? Also, a candy bar, preferably chocolate. Yes! Chocolate! For energy! Do not forget the beer. Good tasting food aside, my idea of ice fishing is, at best, eating a nicely baked fish. Hopefully not in my own kitchen.

To be fair, my charming husband says I am all wet behind the ears on this. I am loath to admit, he is right. He has, in his possession, several tip-ups and a healthy yen, to go out on the ice and use them. They were his dad’s. I do think nostalgia has a hand in here. The idea is great, really wonderful. The actual DOING is something else again. I have been invited to accompany him on his adventure, and in return, I invited him to watch the paint dry on our house, in the spring. There is also an open invitation for him to pull up a chair next to mine, while together we watch the grass grow next July. Fair is fair, right?


In an effort to keep this highly informative and factual article from actually having any information, or facts, I am simply going to point out that I think winter sports can have their drawbacks, some more than others. Here is a perfectly good, three season sport, being stretched to beyond all normal reason, into weather that should be enjoyed indoors, beside a fire, drinking hot cocoa, perhaps after a good day of skiing. I question the sanity of sitting in (or on) snow and ice, looking at tip-ups. Maybe this can get exciting. Maybe one has many tip-ups to watch, and maybe one runs back and forth all day inspecting each spot, in turn. Well, at least that is exercise! Maybe there is a heater in those huts and maybe there is hot cocoa. I would definitely need these creature comforts, but they would most likely detract from all of that running and inspecting, I would have to do.


I apologize to those who love ice fishing and think it is a great sport and a fun thing to do in the winter, and to those who may be offended by my off-hand statements. Clearly, I know nothing about it. I am going to go with my husband, even if he declines my prior warm weather invitations. He does say now, after having donned our snow shoes and visiting the advertised fishing tournament, in Clayton’s French Bay, that he believes his corkscrew is too small to even think of competing. The motor-driven machines are impressive. The charming tip-ups in our closet are just that: charming. One does not order up a toddler, to do a man’s job! I expect someday if we are here again, when the ice freezes over, and we get out on it with his dad’s tip-ups, I will write a fair and balanced report of the day’s activities. As splendid and sentimental, using his dad’s equipment is, we will be winning no large-fish prize, with that teeny little hole drilled in our chosen spot. The eating should still be very good, even if his fish don’t compete!


We have now embarked on a very different sort of expedition; from Oregon we will fly to India and then on to Southeast Asia, to see what’s going on there, and maybe to my favorite travel destination, Bali. We will put our feet in that water and hopefully, notice that it is just as clear as the waters in our Thousand Islands. For this River, and no other, is the bar to which I hold all standards.

By Susan Schongalla, Thousand Island Park, Wellesley Island.


Editor’s Note:  Come on you ice fisherman… there must be a good story or two you would like to relate.  When we spent winters on our Sagastaweka Island in the Admiralty Islands, we did not do any fishing, but we often took our hovercraft out on the River and visited fishing huts.  The fishermen, each and every one, were having a wonderful time and the camaraderie was evident.  The late Hunter Grimes III, whom we still miss, would have had fun with this article, and would certainly have  had something to say!  I asked Doug Tulloch if he had any photos depicting this special winter sport and he sent this one!

Posted in: Sports
Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


John Kunz
Comment by: John Kunz
Left at: 8:56 AM Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Love this article! Mirrors exactly how I feel about ice fishing. Great sarcastic take on a truly ridiculous winter activity. In Russia, all the politicians must be seen ice fishing as a sign of connecting with the people. I have heard is said that it is popular to keep the worms warm by keeping them in your gums like chewing tobacco.
Comment by: Jack
Left at: 5:52 PM Saturday, November 12, 2016
At 65, and an avid fisherman, I was directed toward ice fishing by one of the staff at the Thousand Islands Bait Store. I gave it some thought and decided to have a go.

Dad said he didn't like it when he tried it but his story about ice fishing with Great Grandfather sounded like a good way to spoil a youngsters interest in ice fishing. He froze whilst the two old guys played pinochle over a small stove with short sprints to the tip ups.

Last fall I bought some minimal ice tackle and a good ice fishing parka , bibs and boots. I only got out three times last February. The first time I dropped a line in the little hole I caught a perch in the first thirty seconds. On another trip I thought I was going to be blown off the ice in forty mile an hour winds.

I am looking forward to the coming ice season in hopes of fishing in Black Lake, Chaumont Bay, and Lake of the Isles.