If you’ve ever spoken to me in person or on the phone, it’s immediately apparent from my accent that I hail from someplace cold and snowy. Though I live in South Carolina now, I’m from Wisconsin, where the cows are not nearly as cheerful as those goofy California cows in the commercials. Who can blame them when temperatures in the Dairy State can dip below freezing in September and after that, well, things can get really ugly.
I can tell you, though; Wisconsin anglers don’t let a little chilly weather deter them from having a good time. Usually by late December, little towns start popping up on the thick ice of Lake Wausau, and the local ice fishermen take their rightful place in ice shanties of all shapes and sizes. This time honored tradition takes place across the northern climes and perhaps nowhere more enthusiastically than Baudette, Minnesota.
Baudette’s claim to fame, besides being so far north that you could spit across the border into Canada, is it’s the Walleye Capital of the World. Lake of the Woods is a stunning body of water that is bordered by Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba as well as Minnesota.
And according to Denelle Cauble, Executive Director of Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau, it’s game on for the ice fishing faithful from the second week of December to the end of March.
Denelle is no stranger to the allure of quality ice shack time. Her dad taught her the art and science of ice fishing 20 years ago. His advice about being patient and “working at it” paid off for Denelle, as she pulled a 45” inch sturgeon out of the ice last December.
Her favorite species to fish for, though, is walleye because it puts up a good fight and its reputation as yummy table fare is legendary. But what she really loves about ice fishing is the chance to connect with the people who are important in her life.
“No matter what the weather is doing, you can ice fish. The ice house protects you even in a blizzard. You just jump on your snowmobile and you’re there,” Denelle said. “I love sitting on the ice, BS’ing with friends and family, eating venison jerky and just relaxing. There’s nothing distracting. Even if the bite isn’t going strong, it’s fun to visit. I’ve had some good quality talks with my kids and my dad.”
Denelle has a simple two-person black igloo style house, while her dad’s digs are a bit bigger with a radio and a fan to keep the moisture in check. Both ice houses are hooked up with propane heaters so there’s no chance of getting cold. However, Denelle said an ice shack is not mandatory for getting started ice fishing.
“Ice fishing can be as basic as you want it to be. First, you’ll need an ice auger. An electric auger is preferable, but you can do it with a hand auger. In addition to that, you’ll need a bucket to sit on. You don’t need a fancy rod and reel either. You can do it by cutting a willow stick and wrapping some line at the end of it.”
Denelle said she often uses a jig tipped with a frozen shiner and relies on presentation to fool the big boys under the ice. But what works depends on where and when you’re fishing. She recommends that you rely on the advice at local bait and tackle shops on where to go and what baits and lures to use. Or you can make it really easy on yourself and book a room at one of the area’s fabulous lodges or resorts.
“All you need then is warm clothes and yourself. The resort areas will provide equipment, great places to fish and transportation to the holes,” Denelle said.
If you’re looking for a great winter adventure, check out the Lake of the Woods Web site for fishing reports, information on lodging, local attractions, events and more at: http://www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com/index.asp