Posts Tagged ‘ice fishing’

January Fun

Today while driving to the mechanic to get studded snow tires installed on my car, I passed Kewaydin Lake, summer home of my kayaking, swimming and fishing adventures.  The lake is frozen solid now, and people are starting to put shacks onto the lake for ice fishing.

It’s been bitterly cold:  last night it was near 0 degrees but with windchill our home weather station measured a -43 F reading and during the daytime it’s been in the low single digits.  Tomorrow it’s supposed to be -13 F without windchill.  So I was very impressed as I looked out onto Kewaydin Lake and saw that someone had laboriously removed about 1′ of accumulated snow to create his own 70′ x 15′ personal ice rink.  This fellow and his dog were having the time of their lives, the man skating up and down the cleared icy area and shooting a puck with his hockey stick, and the dog slipping and sliding and racing ahead to retrieve his master’s shot.  Pure joy!

A Mainer and his dog making the most of a cold winter day

A Mainer and his dog making the most of a cold winter day (click to enlarge)




Am I The Only One Who Loves Winter?


View of the wood shed and generator during a short lull in the storm

(Disclaimer:  Unlike most people, I am not in any way inconvenienced by snow.  I don’t have to worry about a power loss.  I don’t have to commute to work or drive kids in a carpool to school in the snow or ice; deal with traffic; idiotic drivers who go too fast or too slow; or be at risk for a driving accident due to inclement weather.  I don’t have a  job outdoors like a utility worker who must risk his or her life during a terrible ice storm in -40F to help restore heat or power; or a logger who must hoist tens of tons of felled trees into a logging truck and then drive the logs on icy, narrow, snow-laden back roads to the mill.  I don’t, thank G-d, have to worry about how I can visit a loved one in the hospital in inclement weather, and I am most assuredly not 9 months pregnant in the middle of the blizzard of the century.)

Our ground-mounted solar panels during the storm.  This is why it's ridiculous to install solar panels on your roof:  Are you really going to wait for the snow and ice to melt after the storm so they can start collecting light?

Our ground-mounted solar panels during the storm, easily cleaned off with a broom after the storm stops. This is why it’s ridiculous to install solar panels on your roof: Are you really going to wait for the snow and ice to melt after the storm so they can start collecting light?  Or even worse, are you going to climb a ladder to reach them all the way up on the roof so you can clean them off?

Yesterday I was grocery shopping in No. Conway NH and I overheard a conversation by some workers taking a break.

“I am ready for summer!” said one.

“I am sooo tired of winter,” the other agreed.

Meanwhile my Zumba teacher said that class is cancelled for next week – she is “going to Florida for a break from winter.”

(I could not get over the fact that they were having this discussion on a brilliantly sunny, clear day witih temps in the mid-20s, when visibility from Mt. Washington was 100 miles and it was gorgeous everywhere you looked!  Besides… would they be truly be happier in Spring, aka Mud Season and Blackfly Season?)

It might be wishful thinking, but all the stores in town have started putting out their Spring merchandise, and winter garments are on clearance.  This, despite the fact that realistically we have another one to two months of winter weather ahead of us.  Still, there is something different in the air – – a feeling that winter (despite today’s mammoth snow storm!) is winding down.  Am I nuts?  I miss winter already!  I simply love winter  in Maine.  There are so many wonderful things about it:

  • I love the heat from our wood stove.  It’s a heat that penetrates to your bones, and makes you feel cozy all over.
  • I love the fact the wood we use is from our own land.  We had to clear quite a bit of woods to make way for the driveway and our house.  None of that wood is going to waste!  We also had to clear a large area beneath the house so the solar panels would be unobstructed from the sun.  I have since planted semi-dwarf apple trees in that area so we don’t feel the loss of trees from our woods.  I worked really, really hard over the summer stacking logs in the wood shed.  It’s nice to see all that work being put to good use!
  • I love my MICROspikes, my hiking boots, and my Muck Boots in winter.  They keep my feet warm and dry and allow me to go anywhere outside, even when it’s icy.
  • I love walking outside.  It’s astoundingly beautiful and you rarely see another human being on a trail.  It’s not just black and white – there are thousands of shades of grey in between. With the absence of foliage the views are even more expansive.  And it’s so good to keep moving in cold weather!  You just feel wonderful, and your cheeks get an apple red color that make them positively pinch-able!  When I go for walks in winter, I feel like I’m glowing from both inside and outside.
  • I love the quiet.  Everything is muffled in the snow, the world is at rest, yet when there is sound, it is heightened and your senses feel sharpened.
  • I love the secret world of animals, revealed.  Evidence of life is everywhere in the tracks in the snow.  Raccoons, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, coyotes, mice, skunks, deer – – it’s amazing to know what traverses our property when we’re not looking, and this is something we may otherwise miss any other time of year.
  • I love shoveling snow.  Yes, I know, people die of heart attacks from shoveling snow all the time.  But ever since we bought our snow pusher, it’s not a chore; it’s a joyous exercise in efficiency and fun.
  • I love the exuberance.  Even though I don’t go snowmobiling, I love watching snowmobilers having their fun.  I love watching kids building snow forts.  I love watching ice fisherman drive with their pickup trucks right onto a frozen lake and settle in to their ice shacks.
  • I love the clothes.  Down vests, down jackets, Peruvian wool hats, leggings, fleece – – they’re all incredibly cozy and comfortable.  If you know how to dress for the weather, you simply Will. Not. Be. Cold.  Even outside in -5F.  Really!!!
  • I love the food.  Freshly made thick soup on a cold day — what could be more divine?
  • I love bird-watching in winter.  Is there anything funnier than a blue jay that looks like he’s wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler suit, all puffed up to protect himself from the cold?  Our bird feeder attracts nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, woodpeckers and turkeys, plus squirrels and chipmunks and the occasional annoying raccoon.  We don’t keep a bird feeder out any other time of year except winter, due to marauding bears.
  • I love not being afraid of winter, and feeling prepared to take on challenges.  We have a well-insulated house with a good heat source; we have plenty of food and emergency supplies stocked and rotated for freshness; our AWD cars are always filled with gas and we have studded snow tires. We have backup power for our solar system and a backup to our backup (generator).  Our propane tank is filled before winter starts. Our cellphones are kept charged.  We have a huge library.  My husband is a licensed ham radio operator.  Even in an emergency,  if we couldn’t get out, we are good for several weeks by ourselves.
  • I love the sunny days.  Winter in Maine has a surprising number of sunny days.  It would be unusual to go for more than 3 or 4 days without clear, brilliant blue skies.  And when it’s sunny it feels much warmer than the actual temperature thanks to the rays reflecting on the snow.  I have been outside on a windless day for a sun bath in my shirtsleeves in 20F and I was not cold.
  • I love passive solar in winter.  When it’s sunny on a winter day, our south- and west-facing windows heat up the house so well that I don’t even need to use our wood stove to keep the indoor temperature at 65F.  Yesterday our porch, which has acrylic panels instead of screens in winter, heated up to 80F just from the sun, when it was 30F outside.
  • I love the sight and sound of snow and ice crashing off the roof.  It’s very dramatic, thrilling, and scary.
  • I love the fact that one is never too old to make a snow angel!
The birdfeeder

The birdfeeder

“Sukkot” in Maine

An ice shack on a frozen lake January 2011 (click to enlarge)

Maine is known for its fishing; the fact that the lakes and ponds freeze over does not stop anyone.  Ice fishing is a very popular sport and hobby; several towns and ice fishing clubs hold “ice fishing derbies” and people compete for the most and largest fish caught.  Depending on the lake, the varieties of fish caught include trout, salmon, perch, largemouth bass, pike, pickerel, togue and splake.  Personally I don’t know much about ice fishing because I have yet to venture out on the ice and ask a devotee to explain the whole concept to me.

For one thing, there are few women into ice fishing.  That’s because it tends to be one of those “male bonding” things (which usually involve lots of beer and televised sports).  So you can kind of understand what’s been keeping your Intrepid Reporter from knocking on the door of an ice shack and peeping inside.  That, and the below-zero temperatures.

First you chop a hole in the ice.  It’s not that easy when the ice is 3″ – 12″ thick. This link on youtube shows someone drilling with an augur: Fishing lines are laid in the hole, in the water, and then it’s a matter of waiting until the fish bite.  This requires checking of the lines every few hours.  You can’t just let the lines sit for a day or two; the ice must continually be broken up so the hole won’t freeze over.

I spoke to one woman whose son and husband go ice fishing.  (“I’m not into it,” she told me, “I think it’s boring.”)  Obviously it’s not real interesting twiddling one’s mittened thumbs in zero-degree temperatures for several hours waiting for the fish to bite.  To combat the boredom and the cold, many people build or buy ice shacks.

If it weren’t for the flat roof, ice shacks look identical to the sukkah that Jews use in October.  It almost makes me think that Mainers must have been one of the 10 lost tribes, and somehow their ice shacks evolved from this tradition.  From what I’ve been told of the fancier ice shacks, their interiors sport a sofa, propane stove, and a satellite-enabled television, where men sit drinking beer and watching football, ice hockey and basketball games and talking about whatever men talk about as they bond, warmed by portable heaters.  The shacks are unloaded on the ice via pickup trucks or snowmobiles, who tow them with ski runners on the shacks, whose weight is amazingly supported by the thick ice as they drive out on the lake in search of the perfect spot.    Here is a youtube video of an ice shack being hauled out onto a frozen lake: Of course every year there are always stories of pickup trucks and shacks that venture out a little too early in the season when the ice isn’t quite thick enough, or wait a little too long at the end of the season when the ice starts to melt, and they fall through the ice.

Most of the shacks are pretty basic, just a simple door and four walls of plywood banged together.  The more luxurious ones are larger, have windows, and may be decorated or painted on the outside.

This is a nice report on one Mainer’s ice shack:

From the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, comes the following information about ice safety:

“Thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky.”

The ice traveler should look for bluish ice that is at least 4 to 6 inches thick, in order to support people and their gear. Even if the weather has been below freezing for several days, don’t guess about ice thickness. Check ice in several places. Use an auger, spud, or axe to make a test hole, beginning at shore and continuing as you go out.

If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Don’t go on the ice during thaws. Watch out for thin, clear or honeycomb-shaped ice. Dark snow and dark ice are other signs of weak spots.

Choose small bodies of water. Rivers and lakes are prone to wind and wave action, which can break up ice quickly. Avoid areas with currents, around bridges and pressure ridges.

In the wintertime, outdoor enthusiasts frequently need to know how thick the ice is and whether it is safe to walk across it.The American Pulpwood Association has published a handy reference chart that gives a good rule-of-thumb for ponds and lake ice thickness.

The chart below is for clear, blue ice on lakes. Reduce the strength values by 15% for clear blue river ice. Slush ice is only one-half the strength of blue ice. This table does not apply for parked loads.

“Wait for a long cold spell, then test the ice thoroughly.

Ice Thickness Chart

Ice Thickness
(in inches)

Permissible Load – Clear, Blue Lake Ice
(Reduce strength values for other types of ice)


One person on foot


Group of people walking single file

7 1/2

Passenger car (2 ton gross)


Light truck (2 1/2 ton gross)


Medium truck (3 1/2 ton gross)


Heavy truck ( 7 – 8 ton gross)


Heavy truck ( 10 ton gross)


25 tons


45 tons


70 tons


110 tons

What if I break through the ice?

If you break through the ice, don’t panic.

  • Don’t try to climb out – you’ll probably break the ice again.
  • Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. Roll to safety.
  • To help someone who has fallen in, lie down flat and reach with a branch, plank, or rope; or form a human chain. Don’t stand. After securing the victim, wiggle backwards to the solid ice.
  • The victim may need treatment for hypothermia (cold exposure), artificial respiration or CPR

“If your feet are cold, put on your hat.”

  • That may seem odd, but it’s good advice. Most of our body heat is lost through your head and neck. So wear a hat and cover your face and neck.
  • Dress in layers. Wool, silk and certain synthetics are best; they’ll keep you warm even if they’re wet.
  • Insulated, waterproof boots, gloves and a windbreaker are very important. Take extra clothing.