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Why Canadians are so passionate about hitting the hardwater

Credit: Sandra Cheung

An homage to ice fishing

In the dead of winter, there’s still plenty of life below the ice

Credit: Sandra Cheung
Credit: Sandra Cheung

It’s coming. The bitter north wind is clattering in the barren trees. The ground is hard, the sky ominous. As the last ragged skeins of geese head south, a line from “Urge for Going,” that old Joni Mitchell autumn dirge, comes to mind: “All that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out.” Well, not everything.

On that bright morning after the first snowstorm, the chickadees are active in the withered oaks and the backyard is dotted with rabbit tracks, proving that some critters don’t bail out just because the ground has turned white. And some anglers aren’t putting away their gear just because the water has turned a little stiff. True, it’s a long haul until the sunny, warm days and sparkling blue lakes of spring. But there is zesty adventure to be had in the meantime.

Ice anglers are forever trying to explain their sport to stay-at-homes. The fact is, it’s one of those adventures that has to be experienced to be understood. Yes, you can freeze your butt if you don’t dress properly, but insulated snow boots, a good parka and thick mitts will soon remind you of what you used to know when you were a kid—that winter is fun.

Crisp cold and eerie silence are part of ice fishing’s perennial appeal. For some anglers, ice fishing is a chance to connect with old pals. For others, it’s an opportunity to connect with themselves. Trudging across a frozen lake, you can feel utterly alone. And once you’re sitting by your ice hole, the silence is so vast you can hear the thump of your own heart. You could even imagine you’re the last living creature on earth. But be patient. The fish haven’t headed south either. And if you wait for just a while, you’ll soon feel something magical—the tug of life.

Winnipeg’s Jake MacDonald is a long-time Outdoor Canada contributor.

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