Ice Fishing is the practice of catching fish with lines and fish hooks or spears through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water. Ice anglers may sit on the stool in the open on a frozen lake.
Many anglers will go out with 2.5 inches of good ice for walking, but the recommended is 4 inches, 5-6 inches for Snowmobiles, 7-12 for light cars and 14-16 inches for full-sized vehicles. Care must be taken, because sometimes ice will not form in areas with swift currents, leaving open areas which freeze with much thinner ice.
Many cars, trucks, SUVs, snowmobiles and fish houses fall through the ice each year.
I know that a lot of folks reading this won't comprehend it, because you were born and raised north of the Illinois border and this is just what you do. So try to understand...those of us down south cannot wrap our heads around walking five feet out onto a frozen lake, let alone playing on it, skating out there, driving a snowmobile or (Heaven Forbid!) an expensive automobile. For the next five minutes, pretend that you were raised on a tropical island, and winter lake activities contradict the common sense of a human being.
Friday night found us at yet another watering hole, asking the locals for a nighttime snowshoeing destination. While warming up with some adult beverages, I chatted up the patrons next to us to find that - behold! They planned on ice fishing the very next day on a nearby lake. They cordially invited us to join them, provided me with a description of their fishing site, and I promised we'd meet them out there the next morning.
Michele morphed into our designated driver for the weekend. Over breakfast I casually asked if she was opposed to driving her car out onto the lake - something I have never done. We've heard enough horror stories about cars breaking through the ice and I literally have nightmares about it (something I didn't tell the girls). My question certainly caused her to pause.
"Well? Hmmmm. Can't say I've ever been asked that before. I'll have to think about it. Can we just drive over there, check it out, and then decide?"
"Of course. And if you're not down with it, we'll find another way."
So off we went to Pitlik's, a nearby resort where cars drive onto the ice and the following weekend would find hundreds of vehicles on the frozen lake for the annual Sugar Camp fishing jamboree. In the back of my mind, I knew there would be open water near the entrance to the lake. What surprised me though was just HOW close the open water between Sand and Dam is to the driveway. As in, within ten feet of where we'd make our way onto the ice.
"I'm not worried about my car."
"Nope. Cars can be replaced. People can't."
Sentiments in the backseat ranged from 'Wahoo! Let's ride 'em, Cowboy!" to "I don't like this, I don't like this!" to Dead Silence.
But...the water. It taunted us menacingly, daring us to defy the logic and rationale that five intelligent, successful, beautiful, talented women possess any other minute of their multi-tasked, over-extended lives. It cried to us like a siren, teasing us with the thrill and adventure of something risky and dangerous.
"If I could just see someone else drive out there, I'd be okay." I sensed our joy driver was unraveling at the seams, and I honestly couldn't blame her. If Mr. Musky knew I was about to drive his Tahoe onto a questionable amount of ice, he'd throw me into that open water and hold me under it until I stopped squirming.
But then...someone all jacked up on nerves and caffeine in the backseat hollered, "Here comes...a thing! Yes! Here comes a thing!" And what, exactly, is a thing? That which is only seen in the Northwoods.
I give you, the "DUCK YOU" mobile.
Michele glanced back, and encouraged Hollie to get into the middle row of seating for a better escape route, should she need to bust out of the sunroof and swim to safety. From that point onward, I don't think a single one of us spoke. We squawked. And screamed. And flapped wildly. Animation reached an all time high in her Ford Flex, which weighs in at a hefty 5130 pounds. Not to mention five grown women (shut it), snowshoes, extra winter clothing, boots, well...you get the idea. We were pushing 6000 pounds.
"SAFETY FIRST!" she gesticulated wildly, thrusting her hands downward in a stabbing motion. "WE NEED SHARP OBJECTS TO BREAK THE WINDOWS OUT!"
"YES. GREAT THINKING. WINDOWS DOWN AND SEATBELTS OFF!"
With the rest of us screeching like nails-on-a-chalkboard, Michele made her way to the edge of the ice. Our rant jumped at least 50 decibels. Certainly to an intolerable level for anyone on their morning stroll around the resort.
"LET'S DO IT! LET'S PUT THELMA AND LOUISE TO SHAME!"
"HAIL MARY, FULL OF GRACE..."
"OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD...WE'RE DOING IT...WE'RE DOING IT...WE'RE DOING IT."
"EEEEEEKKKKK! WE'RE DOOOOOINGGGG IT!"
"DON'T LISTEN TO THE CRACKING OF THE ICE! DON'T LISTEN TO THE CRACKEN!"
"DRIVE FASTER! WE WON'T FALL THROUGH IF YOU DRIVE FASTER!"
"LOOK!!! THERE'S A SNOWMOBILE IN THE PASSING LANE!"
"WHEN WE STOP I WANT YOU TO ALL EXIT QUICKLY AND RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN, AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE!"
"...HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD, PRAY FOR US SINNERS NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH!"
"WHERE DO I GO? WHERE DO I GO? WHERE DO I PARK? SHOULD I STOP HERE? IF I GET TOO CLOSE TO THEIR RV WILL WE CRASH THROUGH TO THE BOTTOM?"
"WE DID IT! WE'RE HERE! WE MADE IT! WHOOP WHOOP!"
We descended upon our friends' quiet, solitude-filled outdoor winter haven like a bunch of cackling hyenas. Nervous energy had us whooping and running around their fishing holes, falling over ourselves, pulling on coats and hats and gloves, high-fiving each other and spinning in circles. They all smiled and warmly welcomed us, probably secretly wishing this pack of crackheads would go back to Crazytown so they could fish in reverent peace.
In all honesty, Dan, Pat, Dan and the rest were extremely patient and kind with us. Their newest group member even taught Hollie the ropes...
I was busy recording evidence for Michele to prove her bravery to her husband later on...
...when I heard the squealing ascend at least two more octaves.
"SOMETHING'S HAPPENING! I THINK I HAVE SOMETHING!
I...THE FLORIDA GIRL...
By then, Michele's frayed nerves risked snapping. "WE'RE OUTTA HERE! PEOPLE! GET BACK IN THE CAR!"
With some quick thank yous and hugs all around, we were off. She sped along the frozen lake, and finally breathed a sigh of relief and nearly shed a tear upon reaching solid earth, ensuring our thirteen offspring would continue to have matronly influences in their lives.
We survived. After that stunt, we felt we could conquer the world. Instead, we settled for dog sled races and snowshoeing.
Thanks for your patience with my ridiculous rants on our nonsense. It was just so much fun and we all wanted to share it with the world. The horse is dead now though. No more Girls Weekend posts.
I'll be back next week to share a much more serious story about a recent intervention with a family member.