A Day of Ice Fishing

Finally! We finally spent a day ice fishing. The ice was too thin, it was dangerously cold or we had something else we had to do well into the month of January. I was eager to get out. Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live.” I needed to get out there and live to have something to write about but the weather wasn’t cooperating.

I paid attention to things Steve looked at when we visited sporting goods stores. I probably looked like a stalker to a few people when they saw me watching him. He looked at popup ice shelters so I went online and did a little research. He got an Eskimo Quick Fish 6 Person Ice Shelter for his birthday a couple of weeks ago. His birthday fell around the time the temperature rose to 54*. Great timing.

Eskimo Quick Fish 6 Person Ice Shelter

American bald eagle

American bald eagle

We packed up everything needed for the day, loaded it and the snowmobile into the truck and drove to a pond. With the shelter set up, Steve drilled holes. I’d scanned the treeline looking for the eagles but hadn’t looked right behind me. This eagle screamed when the auger started and in less than 30 seconds a second eagle appeared above the tree line. It didn’t stay.

I’ll be holding a Hooked On Fishing Not On Drugs event soon and like this basic set up when I turn a tip up over to a child. I out these out first to make sure they’re ready to go.

Ice fishing tip up

A great choice for kids who are learning to ice fish.

The first flags were up before the last hole was drilled. Steve caught and kept a 16″ small mouth bass and released a smaller bass. The daily limit is one 10″ or longer small mouth. My first fish of the day was a 14″ bass that I released in hopes of keeping a larger fish. We returned to the shelter to get in out of the -20* wind chill. We set up camp chairs and talked for a few minutes before the next flag went up. I went to get it while Steve worked on lighting his new heater for the first time. By the time I got to the first tip up there was another flag up.

small mouth bass

14″ small mouth bass

I pulled the first tip up to find a 14″ smallie that swallowed the bait. I knew I wasn’t going to get this fish off the hook without killing it. Good enough, I’d keep that one. It wasn’t what I wanted but why release a fish with a hook in its belly when I can keep and eat it instead. With the fish on the ice far enough away from the hole to prevent it from flopping back into the water and still on the line, I headed for the second line.

It hurt a little to take the 18″ bass (they’re all small mouth so no need to repeat that every time) and slide it back into the water. I stood up just in time to see the eagle swoop down to ice in an attempt to steal my bass. This fish, remember, is still on the line. I waved my arms and yelled at the eagle. “Hey! No!” It swooped in again as I ran over the snowy ice toward the fish, eagle and tip up I imaged were going to be airborne any second now. Running in 4″ of grainy, crusty snow while wearing Woody Max Muck boots is like running in sand.

I yelled to Steve. Nothing. That third flag had to be tended. I yelled again, waving my arms like a 5′ 4″ windmill dressed in fleece pants, a winter coat, those boots and a hat. Go ahead and laugh, Steve did. My hands were cold. “Steve,” I yelled again, now imitating the short windmill that swallowed a Mexican jumping bean. I was frustrated. The eagle flew by again, and I admit to yelling unrepeatable things at the bird. American symbol or not, there was a hook in the fish and I didn’t want the eagle hurt.

Steve emerged from the shelter so I turned to get the third flag. The line was wrapped around weeds and broke. I pulled the limp line up, put the mess on the ice and marched to Steve. Keep laughing, he did. “Didn’t you see me,” I demanded. Let me tell you, I’m a barrel of freaking laughs sometimes.

It would have been fine if the eagle had minded its own business and left the fish alone. Nobody wants to call the warden service to tell them there’s a bald eagle flying around with a tip up swinging in the air. You know he or she is going to ask “why didn’t you just cut the line,” and I’d have to admit to not have any sort of sharp object on me. Oops.

So back to Steve. “I was trying to get the heater going.”

“You couldn’t hear me?”

“I got it going,” he said. “It’s loud.”

“You sat in there laughing at me, didn’t you?”

“I thought you were telling me you were having a good time.” He was grinning and he wouldn’t make eye contact.

“Liar.” I tried not to laugh. The eagle was gone.

moose burgers

Moose burgers in the shelter. They were good even when they were cold.

“I came out, didn’t I?” He cut the line on my now snowy bass. I re-baited the second tip up while he took care of the first. The third one wasn’t an easy fix so Steve replaced it with another tip up. We went in to make moose burgers for lunch.

The flaps were open on the shelter for good air circulation. It took almost an hour to cook and eat the burgers in between flags. We caught more pickerel than we counted. The second half of my burger was cold when I finished eating.

chain pickerel

Chain pickerel


I wouldn’t have minded if the eagle came back and helped itself to a pickerel or yellow perch. We didn’t see it again that day. I’m sure it will be back next time. We caught nine bass, three yellow perch and a lot of pickerel. We kept two bass, the perch and threw all but four pickerel back. It was a good day.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.