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Human Kind-North by Northwest (or the Ice Fisherman Cometh)

This is not just some obscure film-noir reference but legitimate information on who and where to find the best fishing this season when the lake freezes. Ice fishing is a wonderful time of the year, and an unofficial winter holiday when it arrives. It is our bonus second season of tourism, albeit a frozen one. All summer as the tourists came and went the “real” second season tourists were preparing themselves for the big winter expedition to PIB. They come by plane, airboat, perhaps even in a car or ATV.

As a matter of fact last year I was getting milk at the Island General Store when two guys in Float Coat suits waddled in. They had just come over from Pelee Island on their ATV’s. These ATV’s were decked out with twin plastic float barrels tied on the “bow and stern” as emergency floatation with a tall VHF antenna strapped to the side as well. As the one fellow mentioned to me about his custom ATV, “When I go through the ice (not if!) I stay afloat and can keep on going”. And he went on, “But we do have the (vhf) radios, just in case”.

Three years ago when I first came here in January the water was not frozen, nor was it frozen in February, March or even April. Everyone said “But you should have seen it in December!” In fact all I wanted to see that winter was some frozen water. Local ice guide John Hageman promised me good fishing once the ice froze. We joked all through that winter well into May that it still might not be too late for ice, if we just wait another week….

But last winter spoiled me. It turned out to be several weeks of pure winter joy. As a matter of fact, the other day I overheard this comment on last winter’s fishing season. “It was the perfect winter. The ferries ran till mid January, the last ferry ran on a Friday and the fishing started on a Monday. Six weeks of good fishing and then it was time to go to Key West and wait until the ferries started running again.”

Now our second season tourists love to come here. They come from as far away as Minnesota, Wisconsin and as far south as Tennessee. These fellows, and they are mostly guys, come to fish, not go to a Cotillion Ball. They bring just the minimum essentials with them. Some really warm “walk to the shanty” insulated overalls, boots, a toothbrush and a spare change of clothes (or not), some fishing tackle and large coolers for “fish” (or so they said that what they were used for!).

Any way, they don’t need much except a hot breakfast at 5am and a few pointers on which way to the ice. They’re gone all day and when they get back all they want is a hearty steak dinner at a local restaurant and a bed. Heck most of them didn’t even need a shower or a fancy place to sleep. Why some of these guys went to bed ready to fish the next day, still in their insulated hunting clothes. One fellow mentioned that It was “like camping at the Ritz” when they come to PIB and stay at a local B&B.

These guys are the perfect guests. So this season keep an eye out for these fellows and point them in the right direction when asked which way to go to find some good fishin’. But most importantly for all of you who love winter ice fishing, please stay off the ice that moves, keep warm when possible and enjoy.

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