Take time to bridge the seasons
The time between open-water and safe ice formation and vice-versa is known as transition time along the Ice Belt.
In northern Minnesota, hunting sometimes bridges the gap between using boats and walking on water.
In the southern states, there is no such thing as ice fishing. Does that make our situation fortunate, anticipated opportunity?
For me and many other anglers, it's the latter. Ice fishing is something passed down through the generations. It's our heritage, a thrill and one of the reasons we put up with so many consecutive sub-zero days. "It's making good ice today", we pronounce, similar to commenting on a beautiful sunset, a grand-slam by the home team or a perfectly prepared steak. We embrace cold.
Yet snow prevents safe travel while towing a boat over roads, the public accesses are "shut tight" because of a sheet of ice (you'll break your trailer lights, trust me) and there's not a strong enough cap on the lakes to support foot travel for ice fishing.
What to do, what to do?
The answer is simple - plenty!
First off, you need to pay attention to your boat as you put it away for winter. Clean it, perform the regular late season maintenance (or have a professional do this if you're not completely sure how to successfully protect your investment) and place a few dryer sheets in each compartment to repel rodents.
Then, go out and buy a fish house. Yes, I'm giving you permission. Seriously, if you're in the market for a new fish house, now is a good time to do so for several reasons. First if you purchase a portable shanty, such as one of the highly popular Clam portable fish houses, the time between seasons is the perfect opportunity to assemble your new purchase.
If you choose to do so after the ice has formed, you're more likely to make mistakes while moving so quickly through the instructions. Instead, purchase now when you can still find the precise model that suites you, turn on the radio in the garage and take your time with assembly. If you procrastinate buying a fish house until early spring in hope of a clearance deal, you're likely to be disappointed with the post-season selection.
Wheel-style fish houses are another popular item to buy. Because they are able to be constructed with some custom amenities, you may have to wait a couple weeks to receive your new ice lodge.
Another good option to bridge the seasons is to attend the Park Rapids Dark House and Angling Associations annual decoy carvers show, taking place today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the American Legion in Park Rapids.
Attendees will see decoys that range from realistic to bizarre and can test the wooden wares' performance in a massive water tank.
In addition a raffle will reward drawn guests with some wonderful prizes and a silent auction will benefit the Park Rapids Area Community fish house. The event is free.