A cold snap can make ice fishing extra brutal

Most of the Midwest got hammered by cold over the last couple of weeks. My friends in North Dakota said it was so cold, it disrupted their ice fishing. Knowing those guys, that’s quite a statement.

Ice fishing isn’t for sissies. Even if you fish in an ice hut, or one of those crazy campers they use in the Midwest, it’s still cold.

Quite a few of the folks I met when I was up in North Dakota took ice fishing to a whole new level. Some of them had those ice houses, as they’re called. These are full-scale camping trailers, complete with stoves, heaters, bunks and bathrooms. The fancier versions have TVs, couches and recliners. They differ from normal campers by having articulating suspensions, and when the anglers get out to where they want to fish, they lower the ice house down onto the ice. They then pull up a piece of the floor, which is now sitting right on the ice, and drill their holes.

You have to have pretty thick ice to use those ice houses. That isn’t much of a problem in North Dakota, though. Most fishing holes up there have to be drilled using an extension on the auger this time of year. But it’s still a bit nerve-wracking to pull a full-sized camper out onto the ice using a four-ton pickup.

Not all the North Dakota ice anglers use those fish houses. Most of my friends up there like to be more mobile, so they just sit out in the elements on an upside-down bucket, much like my ice-fishing friends here in Wyoming do. A bucket’s a lot easier to move to a different spot if the fish aren’t biting. But when a record-breaking cold front moves in, like it did in the Midwest over the last couple weeks, that ice house starts to look pretty good. My friend Ron said he actually had to break out the portable ice hut for his most recent trip, along with the propane heater. He wanted to fish the whole weekend, but even he couldn’t take the 35 below temperatures without the shelter. You know it’s cold when Ron breaks down and uses a hut. I’m glad it’s not that cold here. Yet.