Well, here we go. Another year is upon us. It’s hard to believe that it has been this long since the big Y2K scare which, of course, turned out to be nonsense.

Here’s a little news tidbit. The Game Commission has decided to begin calling their officers “game wardens.”

I’m sure everyone has noticed the brutally cold weather we have been having lately. As this column is being written, the temperature outside is in the single digits, with a breeze making things even worse. For a summer lover like me, this is at best depressing. For those who can handle the cold, though, there is a bright side to all of this. For one thing, this kind of weather almost guarantees safe ice for ice fishing.

A famous wrestler years ago said “Brutality is the reality.” As far as I’m concerned, that description could be applied to ice fishing.

The misery doesn’t stop with the cold. You have to make a hole in the ice through which you can fish. If you use a hand auger, even a sharp one, it’s easy to work up a sweat drilling holes. Then, when you sit down to fish, the shivering starts. Also, if it is cold enough, the hole wants to freeze over, requiring you to constantly skim it off.

Years ago, I did some ice fishing. I can’t recall of even one instance wherein the experience was what you could call fun, although some were, indeed, worse than others. Nowadays, the only way I would even consider ice fishing would be with a guide in a heated shanty. The guide would, of course, drill the holes.

If, however, you feel compelled to try ice-fishing on your own for the first time, here are a few tips you might find useful. First and foremost, be sure you have a sharp auger. A lot of bait and tackle shops near ice fishing locations have augers for rent, and they normally keep them pretty well maintained. I highly recommend renting an auger until you decide for sure if you want to continue in the sport.

A lot of different baits can be used for hard water angling. A lot of folks use artificials rather than bother with trying to keep live bait from freezing. Now, all of this is assuming that you are fishing right out in the open. The problem is minimized in a shanty.

Many people find ice fishing to be quite enjoyable. I have a brother-in-law in Minnesota who is really into it. He has a shanty with a good heater in it. In fact, he can fish in shirtsleeves (a heavy shirt, of course). He has a little propane slow cooker that he takes along to keep his food warm. On top of all this, he has an alarm bell on the outside of his shanty that alerts him to a bite if he is away from it talking to other anglers. It really is quite a setup.

A lot of charter captains offer ice fishing trips on the Great Lakes, as well as on smaller ones. They provide the shanty and everything else, including tip-ups. Just do a search of ice fishing guides in whatever state you are interested in.

Above all else, be careful. Make sure that the ice is thick enough. Recently, an angler lost his life on nearby Lake Arthur, when he fell through the ice. A real tragedy.

There’s still hunting to be had, too. Check the regulations to see what’s still in season. I have had generally poor luck hunting squirrels in the bitter cold. It seems that they must just den up and ride out the cold snap. A sudden warm spell, though, can really get them moving, even if it only lasts one day.

Well, next up is February. While it is actually the shortest month of the year, it always seems to me like the longest.

Have a great 2018!

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