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Fishing Lines: Ice fishing out of the van brings back memories

In following up with the last couple of weeks' articles, I have another date for you to put on your calendar. The Osage Sportsman Club will be having their annual fishing derby on Straight Lake (on the Millpond right off hwy 34) on Feb. 24. They have been hosting this derby for 40 years, and this is one that focuses on being extremely kid friendly. Tickets are only $2 and the first 100 kids will receive a goody bag of hooks, bobbers and other assorted tackle. One registered youth under 16 will win a lifetime fishing license!

Register at the cook shack on the ice for the derby. Fishing will start at 1 p.m. and finish at 3 p.m. Al Belt is the contact person and can be reached at 218-732-0978. The weather at the end of February is usually very pleasant and is a great way to help get the kids "hooked" on fishing.

As you have probably noticed, we received a significant snowfall this week. This will make traveling to some spots on of area lakes more challenging. Many roads have already been plowed to some of the community fishing spots on several area lakes.

Areas that are crowded with fish houses can flood with the additional weight of this snow on the ice. If you are in a crowded area and have not been out to your house for several days you will want to check to make sure you are not flooding. If you are, block up higher so you don't freeze in, or better yet, move and spread out so the ice is sagging in on you. Even with the 30 inches of ice we have, this snow can make a difference in crowded areas.

One other aspect of this snowfall is some of the risk of traveling off plowed roads. We already had some extremely hard-pack drifting in some areas of each of the lakes, and after the freezing rain, and now the snow cover, these hidden drifts can be hazardous bumps and jumps when traveling "off trail."

Before this latest winter storm, I was exploring multiple spots on several lakes with my wife's all-wheel drive van, and taking advantage off the ease of travel. I would park broadside to the wind, open up the side of the van, drill a couple holes, and fish out of the side of the van. It reminded me of my youth, when we would go out and fish off the tailgate of the pickup with the topper. We would park into the wind, set up the highly dangerous propane heater (they were more dangerous then, they are all much safer now!) in the back of the truck, bank snow up under the tailgate to reduce the amount of wind icing on the holes, and fish our custom portable!

We didn't have the convenience or efficiency of GPS then. We would triangulate with shoreline features (houses, trees, rocks, towers, etc.) and guestimations of distances. Hand auguring in late winter was a workout! You had to strip down and then get re-dressed after getting your holes done, otherwise you would sweat in your winter gear and then get chilled. Winter weather gear was very different then also -- many layers! When the gas augers started to get more popular, affordable, and available, they didn't start, run, and cut like the new ones. You sometimes had to talk sweet to them, and each one seemed to have it's own needed ritual to start and run for you.

It brought back some great memories, it also made me grateful for how far we have come in making ice-fishing more accessible to all. The kids we get exposed to ice fishing now will look back on these times with fond memories, and I am sure feel like they were "roughing it". Can you imagine what ice-fishing will be like in 20 or 30 years!

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)