Ice Fishing and Black Ash Baskets

One of my favorite things to do during the long winters here in northern Wisconsin is fishing on ice.  This winter started pretty mild, with temps in the 30-40 f / 0-5c and with very little snow.  This past week has brought us -10-20f / -20-30c....this is skin freezing cold! and ice making cold.  Lake Superior is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world and in normal winters it does freeze partially or sometimes totally.  I live near Chequamegon bay. If you look at this photo of Lake Superior and scroll down to the big lake and look along the lower coast. There is a small pennisula with a bunch of islands off of it, this is the Bayfield penninsula and the Apostle islands and inside it is Chequamegon Bay. This is the place I bay and the islands...I like to try to follow the fresh ice. You can see in the photo were the ice is, this photo is from over a week ago. Here is the photo from yesterday  Of coarse the ice has to be thick enough to travel. I won't drive my snow machine on anything under 5" but prefer more like 6-8" of clear "black ice" this type of ice is very strong compared to the white creamy ice. There is a bit to traveling  out on the have to pay attention and not travel too fast. Until you know how thick it is. You need to see the thickness as you go, and also get off and check the thickness by chopping a small hole to see just how thick it is.  A lot can be known just by having experience and knowing what good ice looks like but it's also very important to talk to folks at the landing where everyone is loading up to go out. Asking "how's the ice where you were?" Many of you have not traveled on ice so this all might be strange, but if you use caution it's pretty safe. In my mind there are a few different types of folks out there...the really cautious folks and they fish where they know is safe, folks like me who travel cautiously but do venture out farther, and then there are the guys who drag boats along with them...never pass those guys out on the ice...they are REALLY on the EDGE and there is a reason they have boats along with them! Every year folks from out of town come up to fish and they show up at the landing unload and go....they don't talk to anyone just head out at break neck speed flying past the guys with the boats and........they break through the ice. They usually loose everything but themselves and have to walk back to shore.... people have perished. That's no lie. But mostly it's due to inexperience or the like. If you refer to the map again on good winters we will travel out to some of the farthest islands...some 20-25 miles out. The water can get very deep.... over 300'.  Yesterday we left my home town of Ashland and traveled out about 3-4 miles within the bay. Most of the bay was open water last week so we proceeded with caution. Remember we had 3-4 nights of very cold weather. I had talked to some folks who had been out this far and got reports of good ice, so we were not to concerned, but still traveled with caution. We stopped at a very active pressure ridge. This is where the ice has cracked and is expanding and contracting with the freeze thaw cycles. By the end of the season there will be a almost mountain like ridge pushed up sometimes over 5' tall. Yesterday pressure ridge was growing as the ice was and was sounding constantly, cracking and crunching, it let loose once and shook free so hard it moved the ice we were on over at least 6", this happens with a very loud CRACK. Exciting. I caught a small Brown trout but overall it was a very slow day. I'll be going out farther next time. Give the cold time to make thicker ice. I'll be traveling out to the tip of long island which is the long thin island coming off the mainland in a northwest direction. Out there it's possible to catch Lake Trout, Brown Trout, Salmaon, Whitefish, and Lake Herring.....Last year almost every trip out I brought home 3-5 ,2-5# fish.
As close to an arctic adventure I'll every get.
my snow machine with custom rack for ice travel

My good friend and fishing partner Joe

Beautiful sunrise out on the ice, those are clouds above a dark treeline on long island over 10 miles away.

small pressure crack....caution

pressure crack had about 1 foot wide crack covered over by thin ice

Me looking out over the ice

My shelter for keeping warm

looking down the hole

inside my tent with heater going -20f with wind chill ouside

April has been weaving a few baskets. these are made form hand pounded Black Ash splints. I'll write more on that process some other time...I spent all my typing patience on the ice fishing writing. These are really nice baskets. Although April is very humble about her work, she weaves some of the finest baskets around.

jarrod3 Comments