Dave Bouck sets up an underwat...
Like everything else in life, ice fishing sure has come a long way since I was a kid. At the risk of sounding like my dad when he told the old story about walking three miles, uphill in a blinding snowstorm to school, my thoughts about ice fishing have a familiar ring to them.
When I was originally introduced to ice fishing at age 7, we would unload the Plymouth station wagon with all our stuff, pile our gear onto a rusty old two-runner sled, and pull it through what seemed to be record book amounts of snow to the awaiting lake. With four excited kids, once again, Dad had opted for a fanatical fishing experience.
After finally agreeing on a good spot, we each used a little “elbow grease” to manually drill our holes through the ice with an ice auger. In doing so, we worked up a good sweat, eliminating the necessity for a warm ice shanty. We then found the correct fishing depth by snapping a standard sounder onto our lines, then lowering them to the weedy bottom of the lake. We baited our teardrop hooks with wax worms and there we sat waiting for a fish to bite. Sometimes it could be a long wait. Finding the “right spot” meant trial and error. Going to all that effort with four easily-distracted kids and getting everyone set for a non-guaranteed fishing expedition seems awfully brave to me these days!
Today, ice fishing is much easier and more predictable. I’m reminded of a time a year or so ago that we went ice fishing with my brother, Dave.
Pulling up to the lake in our full-sized truck, we first unloaded the ATV and the ice shanty. Next went our gear onto the sled-portion of the ice shanty, and we attached the whole set-up to the rear end of the ATV. Off we went pulling nearly 100 pounds of gear, including a battery-operated underwater video camera and monitor out onto the ice. My gosh, how times have changed!
Finding the correct spot, Dave and I quickly raised his three-man ice shanty. It’s a far cry from the homemade outhouse-style ice shanties of yesterday. Back then, ice fishing enthusiasts like my Uncle Howard built their own ice shanties and dragged the heavy wooden structures to permanent positions on the ice.
Using a gas-powered ice auger and without a drop of sweat, we drilled four holes in record time. Three of the holes would be housed inside of the ice shanty, while the fourth hole was located outside of the structure and would service the underwater video camera set-up. I can only imagine what my Dad would be thinking.
Dave was able to use the weighted underwater camera much like a sounder and find the bottom of the lake. With a flip of the switch, he enabled the camera and raised it a foot or so above the lake’s weedy bottom. Using the direction keys on the monitor, Dave rotated the camera 360 degrees for a good look around. We rigged our poles so that we could jig for pike, and then lowered our lines through the holes inside the shanty. No need for a sounder when you can just watch what you’re doing on the monitor.
“Can you see both baits?” I asked Dave as he carefully viewed the screen.
“Yeah, there they are. I see them,” he replied. So much for trial and error; we knew exactly where we were.
Soon a pike swam into the camera’s view. In the lower left corner of the screen, the pike sat among the weeds, merely watching our baits. Because of our own technological advancements, are fish now more “techy”, too? Are underwater video systems so common that he was already camera-conditioned? He sure wasn’t biting.
As we sat there in the warm darkness of the shanty, staring at our unbitten baits through the small video monitor, I looked at Dave and said, “You know, Dave, the only way they could improve this system is to put a “No Biting” button on the monitor that would allow us to flip over to the football game.” As funny as it seems, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that idea becomes a reality.
While the techniques and equipment used for ice fishing as a youth greatly contrast with my present day ice fishing set-up, thank goodness the most important thing remains the same. It’s still fun!