Tag Archives: ice fishing


Here’s what just happened.

I was out reading your blogs, buzzing here and there in the blogosphere for the past hour or so, when suddenly a Fierce Desire struck.  I’m never sure what to do about these Fierce Desires to write blogs, tell stories.  Do you simply allow your typing fingers to have their way?  Or do you attempt to discipline your Fierce Desires into some semblance of order, telling them that they must incubate until morning’s light, or perhaps stay silent until next Tuesday?

I try asking my Heart (which is always the best thing to do) but the Heart feels divided. Or perhaps it’s impossible to hear the heart because too many thoughts are adding their opinions.  So to heck with it, you’ll have to bear with another essay, or perhaps you’ll wander away to look elsewhere on your computer at Tonight’s News or maybe your friend’s latest posting on Facebook.

There’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell you, but haven’t figured out how or where to fit it in.  It has to do with glasses.  Barry’s glasses, to be exact.  I suppose you’re thinking this might be a boring story, but it isn’t.  It’s high excitement!  (At least it was to us.)

View One.  The Infamous Glasses.

View One. The Infamous Glasses.

View Two.  The Infamous Glasses

View Two. The Infamous Glasses

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Easter on ice, 2013

Hello world!

Hello world!

Picture this. Ice fishing over 280 feet of water on Lake Superior. Floating on 18 inches of ice.  Convinced by husband to leave warm house on Easter morning. No one else on ice, except one lone snowmobiler. Everyone else at church.

We celebrated Easter Services in tent.

Husband snapped this picture.

Coffee was enjoyed in the fellowship hall.

The fish have not risen. Yet.

“Flat Stanley, do you want to go ice fishing on Lake Superior?”

Last week I opened the mailbox to discover a long white envelope with a return address from Connecticut.

It was from an Internet friend, Susan, whose fourth grade students are learning about watersheds and how they can positively impact our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds or oceans. The 88 students are studying the Mill River in Stamford, Connecticut, but are also interested in learning about other watersheds.

That’s where Flat Stanley comes in. How many of you know about Flat Stanley?

Flat Stanley is a laminated cardboard cut-out (sorry, Stanley, I hope that didn’t hurt your feelings) who popped out of my long white envelope and asked to learn about Lake Superior. He is based on a book called Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. Unfortunately, the tale goes, he was accidentally squished “as flat as a pancake” when a bulletin board fell on him. He is very, very flat but otherwise very fine.

(The better to stuff in white envelopes, methinks.)

Barry and Derrick prepare to pull the ice fishing tent out on the Keweenaw Bay

Barry and Derrick prepare to pull the ice fishing tent out on the Keweenaw Bay

Susan’s students have sent Flat Stanley’s to visit watersheds all over America and the WORLD! If you are selected to be Flat Stanley’s “host family” you take him to visit one of your watersheds and tell about the exciting things he saw or did with you while he visited.

You take a picture of Flat Stanley by that body of water and write something about the watershed. Then you send it beck to the students. He will be part of a huge learning display at the school’s science expo in May.

How cool is that?

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“You always happy”

Gosh, we're happy here in the Upper Peninsula in February!

Gosh, we’re happy here in the Upper Peninsula in February!

1.  Since last Tuesday I have been a wild & crazy blog writer sharing everything from the deeply profound to the mundane.  The internal blog writer has something to say every five minutes.  Am considering hog-tying her so I can return to some peace & quiet.

2.  On Friday night we ate fish fry at the Finns with Deb and Chuck.  As you may or may not recall Deb and Chuck traveled to San Diego to attend our son’s wedding.  Deb’s son Ryan is our son’s best friend.  After most of our family departed for points east the four of us dined on lovely San Diego fare. We looked at each other and inquired, “Why don’t we ever go out at home?”  Thus was born our once-a-month restaurant date.  Friday night involved fried lake trout and whitefish with sweet potato fries, coleslaw and delicious bread.  Oh, and some wine/beer of one’s choosing.

3.  My previous three-week detox diet is going out the window if this kind of crazy eating behavior continues.

4.  Barry’s been ice fishing on the Keweenaw Bay.  Last weekend he caught his limit of lake trout both days.  Yesterday he was skunked.  He’s trying to decide if he’ll try his luck again today.

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An eagle-eye view of Lake Superior in mid-winter

Huron Bay--looking down the bay. See our house way down there on the right? lol!

Barry’s ice fishing buddy, Mike Roth, took these photos of Lake Superior last Wednesday.  I feel like he’s our Roving Correspondent in the Air as he shared these aerial photos last winter.

Point Abbaye, Huron Islands, Huron Mountains

Mike owns a small two-seater plane and likes to fly up above our Keweenaw and Huron Bays.   He likes to gauge where the ice ends.

Keweenaw Bay

I would like to report that these photos are the latest up-to-the-moment ice conditions in our area.  But that simply isn’t true.

Here’s what happened.  On Friday, wicked winds blew in at a clip of 40-60 miles per hour.  Wind is not friendly to the newly-formed ice.  It blew beneath the fragile ends and distributed it much further out in the lake. 

On Sunday, the wind rose again and blew 30 mph gusts.  The ice heaved and splintered and broke off some more.

One of Barry’s other ice fishing buddies, Nancy, declared the end of ice fishing on Keweenaw Bay on Sunday.  She was ready to quit.

However, last night Barry heard the distant humming and thumping of ice forming once again on Huron Bay.  I think it’s a little too early to pack up the augers and ice tents and sled.

(Although–this just in!–overnight the ice on Keweenaw Bay broke up all the way into L’Anse.  This isn’t lookin’ good, fisherfolk…  Many tents and shacks are now floating on icebergs…)

Keweenaw Bay again

I like to look at these photos and imagine the eagles flying above the bays.  To imagine their swoop downward toward the water. 

What a wide vista we see from above!  Suddenly our world seems much larger, much clearer, more expansive.  We see for miles and miles and miles.

Sometimes our little challenges and problems become less important as we contemplate the Larger View. 

Don’t you agree?

Baraga's "Shanty Town" (see all the ice shacks of the fisherfolk?)

Winter Stories of Lake Superior

Bench overlooking Keweenaw Bay

You can’t be part of a 30-day Gratitude Challenge around here without feeling gratitude for this place where we live.  Feeling gratitude for the woods.  For the million trees.  For the deer and bear and squirrels hunkering down in the forest as the temperature dips near zero.

Feeling gratitude for the Big Lake, for Gitchee-Gumi.  For our freezing Lake Superior, donning her winter-cloak of ice.

Ice forming

Lake Superior, as many of you already know, is the world’s largest freshwater lake.  It extends 350 miles in length and 160 miles in width and plunges to depths over 1,300 feet.

Sometimes we forget that the ecosystem in which we live informs us in so many ways.  Years ago, my husband and I moved to Texas for a short stint.  (I swear I should tell you that story one of these years.) 

You know what suddenly became clear?  I had grown up nurtured by the breezes of the Great Lakes.  They were so “normal” to me that I never ever noticed their continual refreshing presence–until moving to the middle of Texas.

My body physically felt parched, like something was missing.  The breezes were as much a part of my body as the desert dryness is part of those who live in the western part of the U.S.

"First Sand Beach"

Years ago, an Anishinabe (Ojibway) woman gestured out toward Lake Superior.

“Can you see the spirit out there?”  she asked.

I looked at the endless waves pounding against the shore.  The deep blue in the middle of the bay.  You could almost feel something–but I didn’t know what to say.  I remained silent.

Another native elder once advised, “You have to respect that spirit in the lake.  Give it offerings in appreciation for what it gives us.”

Spirit of winter tree

I hoped to take sunny photos of Lake Superior for you, but the sun refuses to cooperate.  It’s January in the Upper Peninsula.  It’s gray.  Gray informs everything.  The black and white world keeps our focus inward, as we try to stay warm. 

Ice never forms the same way twice.

The fishermen (including my husband) are tempting whitefish and burbot and lake trout on the Huron Bay.  They sit in their little shacks and thread sucker or smelt on silver hooks.  They lower the bait into the frigid water and wait. 

We haven’t eaten any fresh fish yet…but Barry says Sunday looks like a good day. The lemon pepper sauce is waiting patiently in the frig.

Ice heaves, thrusts upwards.

You can’t imagine how cold it was when I took these photos earlier in the week!  The kind of cold in which one rushes, breathless, through the icy morning toward the lake.  The wind attempted to throw you back into your car.  You persevered.  You waded through two feet of snow (in your short boots, darn it!) toward the beach.  Once on the beach, the howling north wind-swept the sand almost clean in places.

Wind from the lake blows the snow away at "Second Sand Beach"

Did you know that the Anishinabe word for “spirit” and “story” is the same?  The word is Adizokan.  Everything in the world has a story to tell us:  the howling wind, the icy lake, the twigs and branches lying in the sand.

We can rush by with our busy schedules, or we can pause to listen.

Frozen Huron Bay as it appears through the trees

Sometimes at night you can hear loud booms from Lake Superior as the ice cracks and forms.  Sometimes it can wake you from deep sleep. 

“It’s just the ice down on the bay,” you murmur, and roll over, pulling the quilts closer.

In a few weeks, the fishermen will cast their bait 220 feet into the big lake. 

By the end of the month, adventuresome souls will jump into a hole cut in the ice up on the Portage Canal.  Celebrating the spirit of Heikinpaiva (when the bear rolls over in his den) they will briefly join the spirit of the lake for a frigid communion. 

No, readers, I shall not.

More ice every day.

It’s good to pause by Lake Superior and feel gratitude for its endless spirit, its endless stories.

The Anishinabe say winter is the time for telling stories.

Thank you for listening.

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish…

Looks like the wing of angel

Did you ever read that Dr. Seuss book as a child?  Or did you read it to your own children?  One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.  It’s so catchy that you remember the title 20 or 30 or 40 years later, don’t you?

It’s still so popular that you can Google those words and come 12,500,000 responses.  No kidding.  (This blog will now be 12,500,001.)

I am here to finish up the saga of our Ice Fishing Adventure on the Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior on Wednesday. Please read yesterday’s post if you want more background information.  Today’s post shall answer the magic question of yesterday.

How many darn fish did we catch anyway?

What a day on the Keweenaw Bay

I won’t tease you any more.  Here is the answer.

Mike caught three keepers (one of ‘em pretty big.  I can’t remember all the statistics about size and weight and my husband isn’t available at this moment with exact information, sorry to say.)  Nancy caught three keepers.

Barry pulled up one undersized runt and threw it back down the hole.  And Kathy…caught…nothing.

But that’s OK!

I had two or three nibbles.  Just haven’t mastered learning when to pull.  The fish never grabbed on to the bait with ferocity.  It was more like a tiny nibble.  Then a second tiny nibble.  I was supposed to jerk the wire (to set the hook) with the second nibble, but didn’t.  Alas.

An artistic moment on ice (Nancy in the bobbing stick)

Barry isn’t having the greatest year ice fishing.  The last two years have not been stellar for him.  Before the last two years, he was catching ‘em like crazy.  Our freezer always held at least a dozen bags of lake trout, I swear.  Lately, we’re buying tilapia at the grocery store.

Mike's lake trout--it's a keeper

He did bring home one fish today.  Two fish tomorrow?  And red-meat fish are great–that means they are lean fish and not “fats”.  You don’t eat the white-meat lake trouts.  They are oily and not as appealing.  As for blue fish…hmmm….don’t know how that might fit in at all!

Fish tail

The fish are a bit bloody from the hook when they come up from 240-250 feet of water.  Not the greatest of photographic subjects.  I decided to focus on fins and tails.  Don’t they look pretty?

Lake trout fin

When you pull up a fish you throw your bobbing stick on the ice and pull up the wire in big loops.  The wire loops in a big pile.  After you take the hook out, you slowly send the wire (freshly baited) down the hole.  Down, down, down it goes.  If you don’t step on the wire, you’re safe.  It really doesn’t tangle.  The loops come off gracefully, almost in a rhythmic motion.

Fish wire on ice. It's really not tangled up, honest.

Barry invited me ice fishing again this morning but I really, really, wanted this weekend to catch up on all sorts of loose ends.  It was a lovely day.  He went off fishing and I now feel truly more relaxed and organized.  Shoveled most of the deck.  Caught up on bookwork.  Read.

And thoroughly enjoyed the 52 degree sunny day!  Can you believe it?  The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is experiencing a 52 degree day in March!!  I love it.  (The ice fishermen are grumbling…they know what the warm temps will do to their ice.  Goodbye Ice…)

How to catch a zillion fish while ice fishing…NOT!

First you get your ice auger and drill a hole in the ice.

Sorry, you guys.  Didn’t mean to use the “zillion” word.  It was a moment of weakness.

So how many of you have ever gone ice fishing?  Show of hands?  (And did you like your adventure on ice?)

Barry and Mike forge ahead with sleds filled with equipment and bait.

I never ventured out ice fishing until last winter.  You know, you’ll do anything for a blog.  Especially when you have committed to go outside for 365 days in a row and are afraid to run out of adventures.  It was fun!  I even caught a fish.

This year Barry’s been wondering over and over again if I would please go ice fishing on Lake Superior.  I kept putting him off.  Until the day of the zillion hits when he said, “Kathy, you’ll need something big to follow this blog.”  Guess what his definition of “big” might be?  To go ice fishing, of course!

Off we went on Wednesday about noon.

Yooper GPS. This is how Upper Peninsula folks mark their ice holes.

I cannot tell a lie–I was nervous about walking on the ice.  Almost whimpering-nervous for a while.  “It’s cracking, do you hear it?” I whined, quietly, to Barry so his friend Mike wouldn’t overhear.  “We’re going to fall in!”

Barry simply rolled his eyes and kept walking, pulling the sled.  We headed out to 264 feet of water, a half mile out in the bay.  The guys cranked their hand augers around, digging holes in the ice.

The ice measured eight thick inches.  We were probably safe.

Tent City. Lots of other fishermen on the ice.

After the fellas dug the holes, they baited their bobbing sticks.  The Finnish folk around here call them “gabbus” or “gappus”.  They hold 300-400  feet of wire.  You put your sucker bait (or whatever kind of bait you’re using) on your special jig and toss it down the hole.  You lower the bait and wire, unwrapping it, until it hits bottom. Each wrap of wire on the bobbing stick measures two feet.  You count to 132 and you’re at 264 feet deep.  The bottom.

It’s a skill to know when you’re on bottom.  It suddenly feels heavy down there.  My one ice fishing skill so far is that I know when the jig hits bottom.

Hole with bobber.

You pull up a lawn chair or bucket–if it’s a nice day like Wednesday and you don’t need your tent and heater–and move the wire up and down.  That’s called jigging.  You do this ever so slowly.  Everyone has a technique.  Some people say you “feel bottom” and then move up a couple inches.  The lake trout feed near the bottom and they will take one look at your sucker bait and bite hard and you’ll be on your way to catching a zillion fish.

Believe that one?

Barry jigging.

Let’s just say you don’t get a bite instantly.  Let’s just say no hungry trout nibbles.  Let’s say you want to go visiting your neighbor.  That’s when you put a bobber (the yellow ball in the picture above) on your line.  Then you’re allowed to snap a photo or six.

Me squinting into the sun after catching...no, never mind.

Lots of things happen out there on the ice.  People stop by and want to know about your luck.  Are the fish biting?  How many fish you got?  How long you been fishing?

Lots of folks come equipped with four-wheelers and snowmobiles.

Our friend, Nancy, arrived around 3 p.m.  She and I fished together in a tent last winter and had the best time.  Today, with temps in the upper 30′s, very few folks set up tents.

Nancy jigging. What? Does she have a fish?

What do you think?  Does Nancy have a fish?  Will Barry, Kathy and Mike catch trout?  Will we catch a zillion fish?  (No, don’t think the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would approve of that…) Did we fall in Lake Superior?

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog.  I know it may be hard to wait for another day–but we have too many photos to fit in one blog.  And too many fish stories.

High in the sky above Lake Superior…checking out the ice

Looking south over Sand Point...Assinins in foreground...L'Anse straight ahead

No, I did not go up in an airplane.  No, these are not my photos.

These aerial photographs come to you courtesy of  Barry’s fishing buddy, Mike.  Mike owns a small two-seater plane and he headed up into the friendly skies above our shoreline along Lake Superior last Friday.

He emailed his photographs of Keweenaw and Huron bays to the L’Anse Sentinel, our weekly newspaper (where my husband just happens to be the editor)  and I begged Barry…begged, mind you, blog readers…just for you…to ask Mike for permission to publish them here.  Mike thankfully agreed.

Looking northeast from the Head of Keweenaw Bay

I interviewed Barry about Mike’s plane a couple hours ago.  He says Mike likes to fly his plane about once a month during the winter.  He stores it in a hangar up at the Houghton Airport and keeps his eye open for a nice day.  Apparently last Friday met all requirements.  Up he went.

Looking north from the Huron Bay (Reed's Point on the left)

Strangely, Nancy and I were visiting the heronry on Friday and heard an airplane overhead.  “A plane!”  she exclaimed, “Let’s wave at it.”  We peered into the heavens.  The plane flew north of us.  We didn’t get the opportunity to wave wildly from the ground.  I am now 99.9% convinced that it was Mike’s plane. 

Who would have guessed we’d have his photos a few days later?

Looking south in the Huron Bay

Back to my interview with Barry–about Mike and his plane.  He said the boys have been speculating about where the end of the ice might be.  They are all ice fishermen and want to know.  He is convinced Mike flew upwards into the sky just to check on the ice.

You never know.

The ice fishermen are restless with minimal ice cover so far this winter.

Mike opens the window of his plane and sticks his camera out to get the photographs, attempting not to get pictures of the airplane wing.  It’s freezing cold outside the at that speed and altitude.  Brrrr…. 

I really want to thank Mike for allowing me to publish his great photos.  What a wonderful opportunity to see our fair land and lake from the sky in February!

The sound of gunshot at midnight

Ice forms on the Huron Bay

You awake at midnight, heart pounding.  Gunshot!  It resounds through the woods like the crack of a rifle.  Nervously you propel out of your warm flannel sheets to investigate.

Crack!  Again it resounds.  You open the deck door and listen. 

Suddenly you know what it is.

An angel reflected in ice

Down on the bay, on cold December or January nights, the ice cracks like gunshot.  The mystery of its forming and re-forming, its plates building pressure and rubbing against one another, often results in a booming sound.  Sometime it peels sharp like gunshot.  Other times it booms like canons.

A quarter mile away it can wake you from light sleep.  If you’re sleeping deep, you’ll never hear it.  If you happen to be prowling around the property like a night owl you’ll think fireworks crackle in the distance. 

Until you remember.  Ahhh….it’s the ice.


My ice fishing husband tells stories about the sounds ice makes.  He says you can be sitting in the tent, minding your own fishing line, swapping tales with your fishing partner when…whirrrrrr!….crack….like a knife the sound of ice splitting screams from one side of the bay to the other.

He has witnessed a crack split the ice between himself and his fishing partner.  In an instant.  Like rumbling lightning and thunder. 

I’m not kidding.

Some people refuse to ice fish because they know the ice is alive.  And it talks.

The tectonic plates of ice talking to one another

I really don’t know the science of ice.  Why it speaks the language it does.  What that language means.  I know it’s a language of pressure.  Of two plates grinding together, or perhaps separating.  Perhaps it’s the pressure of things forming and pushing apart simultaneously.

The first time I walked on deep clear ice I whimpered.  Real fear almost refused to move the legs.  “I…will…not…do…this,” I repeated through clenched teeth, although I kept moving with my husband’s encouragement.  It wasn’t pleasant. It was downright scary.

Last winter when we fished out on ice over 220 feet of water, surrounded by dozens of other fishermen, no nervousness existed.  Go figure.  We humans, I always repeat, are strange creatures.  As strange as ice.

Stone protrudes from frozen clear ice

I loved the way these stones protruded from the ice a couple mornings ago.  The ice almost looks like water.  Almost like you could place your hand in the freezing silky wetness.  But, no.  Ice covers the end of the Huron Bay, except for fringe edges.  The ice is gaining in speed and intensity and bulk.  Every day it thickens.

As above, so below

The fishermen talk of whitefish and trout and salmon and burbot and smelt.  Green dots of ice tents sprinkle across the head of the Keweenaw Bay.  My husband and our friend Nancy (one of his fishing partners) ask:  “Are you coming ice fishing this year?” 

I don’t know.  Depends on how much the ice is talking.  How many inches forms.  How much I’ve been scared by the sound of ice booming at midnight…