Ice fisherman hope for hard winter-J. Martino

Ice fishermen hope for hard water By John Martino We have all heard more than our fair share of fish stories, where the truth may be slightly exaggerated to make the story more exciting. But one of the biggest myths is that good fishing stops during our winter months. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The majority of people consider fishing a warm weather pastime. But believe it or not there are those whose lives revolve around the simple pleasure of ice fishing. Although this might not sound like fun to those who prefer the comforts of being indoors during our coldest season, others love it. But this winter has come at a price for the avid ice angler. To date, ice has not formed safely on Indiana waters. Still sales of ice fishing equipment remain strong. “We have sold a lot of ice tackle and equipment over the past several weeks,” said Aaron Hochstedler, one of the owners of Soremouth Tackle. “Everyone still remains hopeful they will get a chance to use it.” For a brief period last month area waters began forming skim ice and many thought it wouldn’t be long before we could walk safely over our areas lakes and reservoirs. Then Mother Nature had a change of plans and before long it was gone. Years back ice fishing was only undertaken by hardy souls sporting long beards and bunny boots, looking like mountain men of years gone by. But that has now changed. The popularity of the winter sport has grown dramatically, now including large numbers of women and children. Huge advances in clothing, tackle and electronics have made hard water angling more enjoyable. The biggest concern of staying warm is not an issue either. Modern clothing, lightweight shanties and heaters have changed that. Sure, taking up ice fishing can come at a price. But the price can be what you make of it. A person can spend hundreds of dollars in advanced equipment, especially when you throw in electronics, shanties, gas or electric powered augers, specialized clothing made for ice fishing and high-end tackle. But that is not a necessity. A person can easily get started with their normal winter wear and a couple inexpensive ice rods. A few weeks back several friends and I travelled to the northern reaches of the state in hopes of finding a safely frozen lake. It was a feeble attempt and maybe some wishful thinking. Upon arrival we were joined by a few other hopeful anglers from the Fort Wayne area. Standing on shore we dejectedly looked across fast melting ice and open expanses of water near the lake’s center. “Looks like this isn’t happening,” said one guy, already dressed in an Ice Armor ice fishing suit. “This blows,” said another guy as he turned to head back to his truck after surveying the lake, while a third wiped away tears. Although the tears were fake, his depressed attitude wasn’t. Some winters we are fortunate to have safe ice fishing opportunities for months. This year isn’t one of them but we can still hope for a few short weeks. Why do some prefer ice fishing over any other outdoor activity? There are several reasons. To an angler, it’s preposterous to consider lasting the winter months without feeling a tug on the end of your line. And if you like eating fish, nothing beats freshly caught pan fish hoisted from icy cold waters. Ice fishing, unlike other consumptive outdoor activities, can be social in nature. Groups can come together on a frozen body of water and when the catching turns slow it can be time to swap stories about anything imaginable. All of our country’s problems are usually solved in a few short hours while standing on the ice crouched over small holes. So is ice fishing over for this year? This is anyone’s guess but it is Indiana. Regardless of how bad you may want to be on the ice there are two things to remember. First, there are bold ice fishermen and there are old ice fishermen, but there are no bold, old ice fishermen. Secondly, the only ice that is completely safe is what’s in your glass. And even that may depend on what you pour over it. Regardless of what old man winter has in store for us, the best advice is to take it all in stride and be thankful for each sunrise. Getting an early start on open water fishing, where we can make long casts and cover vast expanses of water isn’t such a bad thing either. "Although safe ice has been non-existent in Indiana this winter, some hard water anglers remain hopeful."