Icebound Extremes

There are few recreational pursuits in this world quite as extreme, quite as foolhardy, or quite as all-out crazy as is ice fishing. It takes a mighty big pair of mittens to sit motionless on a frozen lake all day, waiting for the occasional nibble from below—not to mention the monstrous auger needed to get through the ice. Yes sir, a real special breed of person is the ice fisherman.

Everyone’s seen the movie Grumpy Old Men, where ice fisherman are depicted as crotchety geriatrics who sit in shanties over holes in the ice and drink beer all day long. This is an insulting and totally inaccurate portrait—many ice fisherman drink wine, and some even drink whisky. In this area, most ice fishermen don’t use shanties at all. Rather, these hardy souls brave the elements on uncovered lawn chairs or chaise lounges. Some traditionalists use a primitive hibachi and dine on wild-game sausage.

It may seem to the casual viewer that ice fishing is really just an excuse to escape the domestic sphere and drink with friends. But as with any form of outdoor recreation, the beer eventually runs out. Ice fishing is also a chance for regular folks to test their skills and hardiness against the harsh northern elements. Other reasons that ice fishing draws such a loyal following might be the tranquility, or the relatively inexpensive gear, or quite possibly because you almost always keep what is caught.

Whatever. Reasons don’t really matter when you’re dressed like an Eskimo, staring at a hole in the ice. So this winter, grab every article of insulated clothing you own, fill your Thermos and your flask, and head to the lake. The most popular lures for ice fishing around Bozeman are the Swedish Pimple and the Perch Eye. Tip these with a bit of night crawler, a maggot, some cured salmon eggs, or any one of those garishly-colored flavored marshmallows. And try not to run out of beer.