On ice fishing in America

Icefishing is a strange pastime. Cut a hole in the ice and fish, right? Wrong. There is an entire ethos that surrounds icefishing, and only those who do it understand. It’s about the lake, the shack, the beer, the cold, about having a wood stove or a propane heater. Do you have bunks for your siesta and a stove for making pancakes? Did you choose a good spot for the ice house or not? Your friends all went to Lake Washington, but you like Jefferson, better—more walleyes, you say. There is a great solitary loneliness that engulfs the ice fisherman as he sets up his camp, stakes out his ice, plans for the winter months. A small city has formed around him during these early cold days of December. The nights have been below zero, and the ice is very thick, he thinks, as he parks his SUV near his shack, “This will hold until at least the middle of March.” He throws another stick of wood into his stove, and the temperature goes above freezing inside his little shack. He got a deal on a light blue/green paint years ago, but wonders if he should paint again during the off-season. He removes the floorboards over his holes and breaks the skin of ice that has formed since yesterday. He scoops out the ice with a dipper and hangs the dipper on the wall to dry. He has minnows to fish for the wily walleye, but he will settle for crappies. He opens a beer which he has taken out of his refrigerator and takes a sip. The wind blows outside and a few flakes of snow fall. There are no voices, no traffic, no sounds to bother him. He could worry about his bills, or his wife, or his kids, but for now all of that is very far away, and for a moment he finds peace.