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Why Would Someone Even Think of Going Ice Fishing?

“Ice fishing is an experience you can’t live from the couch,” Kyle Kovnesky, hardcore ice fisherman from Abrams, WI.

Why do normally stable people go out in extremely cold weather to venture onto a frozen snow and windswept body of water to freeze their tails off and stare down through a hole in the ice to catch a fish?

Your blogger is staring down a drilled hole ice fishing on a southeastern Nebraska lake in winter with the anticipation of catching a fish. Photo by Rich Berggren/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Think about the scenario in that question. It would seem that this is not a logical or sane thing to do. Or, is it?

Not joking, why do people go ice fishing? What are their reasons for enjoyment of the hard water angling scene?

I display a nice-sized largemouth bass caught and released through the ice of a southeastern Nebraska lake. Photo by Cole Housley of Elkhorn, NE.

Let’s go deep to find out. In fact, let’s look beyond the ranks of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to the ice fishing public for some answers.

Here are what some of the more avid ice anglers in the Midwest and what they had to say about why they love to drill holes in the ice of densely frozen water bodies and try to catch fish:

Kyle Kovnesky, Forester, arborist and hardcore ice fisherman from Abrams, WI. Ice fishing a great break from regular fishing. It requires a totally different approach with totally different equipment and a totally different set up. There are also certain lakes that produce better results with desired game fish species in winter. For example, I have a few lakes where it’s near impossible to catch walleyes during open water season but come early ice you can really catch them because they are putting on bulk for winter. Another reason I like to ice fish is that it can offer fishing opportunities that do not exist in summer. We have a lot of lakes up here (in the northern U.S.) that have no boat launch sites. So, if you want to get out and fish the productive areas, you must wait for a hard freeze over so you can get to them. The light tackle aspect of ice fishing is awesome as well. There is no better experience than reeling in a 25+inch walleye or a big 10-inch bluegill on a 2-foot pole with 4 lbs. test line through the ice! Probably one of the best things about ice fishing is the camaraderie. Nothing beats getting a group of good chums together on the ice catching some fish, teasing each other and cooking up some brats/burgers, having a beer and sharing time on the ice. It is hard to do that on a boat.

This is your blogger getting a little ribbing and some assistance and direction landing a largemouth bass through the ice from experienced ice angler Cole Housley of Elkhorn, NE. Photo by Randy Housley of Elkhorn, NE.

In addition, there aren’t many other forms of fishing out there where you can see on the underwater camera how to finesse fish and understand what they like and don’t like. You can learn so much from that way of ice fishing and it applies all year long. Another thing: There’s not much better eating of wild fare than panfish caught fresh from icy waters. They are amazing!

Your blogger catches a good bluegill through the ice of a southeastern Nebraska lake. Photo by Randy Housley of Elkhorn, NE.

Personally, I really like cold weather, too! Ice fishing is not for everyone and some people call us crazy but I love throwing the old raccoon skin cap, strapping on some pack boots, jumping into my heaviest wool bibs and having icicles hanging from my nose and eyebrows while getting a little red in the face as I make my way across a frozen lake.

Nebraska Conservation Officer Rich Berggren of Waterloo, NE follows test holes drilled in the ice for safety while pulling a plastic sled filled with ice fishing gear to another location across a southeastern Nebraska lake. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Ice fishing is an experience you can’t live from the couch.

Marissa Jensen of Omaha, NE, conservation professional with Pheasants Forever, all-around outdoor enthusiast and ice angler. I think part of what makes ice fishing so enjoyable is that it gives me another reason to get outside when it’s cold. I also find it appealing that I can get out to the middle of the lake without a boat! That, and I think fish taste better caught through the ice! Let me add that my son, Caiden, thought the small, lightweight depth/fish finder in ice fishing was fun. He was fascinated by the sonar imaging.

This is a portable Vexilar-brand sonar depth/fish finder used in ice fishing. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Chris Sell, Scheels Store Fishing Manager in Omaha, NE and devoted, well-traveled ice angler. For me winter is a long off season (I don’t hunt), so ice fishing, along with fishing for trout in moving water, gets me through that time. I also think the quality of the meat on legally harvested fish through the ice is superior to summer-caught fish. Plus, ice fishing is fun! I love catching big ‘gills (bluegills) and they are abundant and available in the winter.

A freshly caught bluegill on the ice of a frozen southeastern Nebraska lake. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Zac Hickle of Omaha, NE, die-hard ice angler and tournament ice fisherman. It’s fishing on a micro level, that’s what ice fishing is. It’s fishing one 8-inch hole at time. It’s a challenge to break down a body of water to successfully fish one hole at a time. It’s really satisfying when everything comes to together and you pull a nice fish top side. Ice fishing is also a very social activity for me, rarely do I go alone. Sitting in ice houses or outside on nice days and visiting with friends and family is a great time. We bring the grill, cook lunch, tell stories and give each other a hard time. Hopefully, we land a few fish.

Ty Stromquist of Norfolk, NE, veteran outdoorsman and passionate ice fisherman. I started ice fishing in Nebraska because at the end of January and into February, there wasn’t much to do. I used to go sit on a bucket and freeze my buns off and maybe catch a few fish. However, about 15 years ago, I decided to get seriously into it. I bought a Vexilar sonar depth/fish finder, ice fishing hut, and underwater camera unit. All this equipment changed everything! Now instead of something to just pass the time, ice fishing has turned into one of my top passions. To me, ice fishing is almost like playing a video game in a heated hut on a frozen lake. It is extremely visual. You can see the fish and your jig on the depth/fish finder or camera. The technology just makes it so interactive. My kids absolutely love ice fishing and it makes for a wonderful family affair.

A youth proudly shows off a skillet-sized rainbow trout that he caught at Mahoney State Park’s Century Link Lake near Ashland, NE during a Game and Parks Commissioned-sponsored ice fishing event. Photo courtesy of Daryl Bauer/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Loren Katt of Gretna, NE., longtime mentor in Nebraska’s Mentored-Youth Archery Deer Hunting program and dedicated ice fisherman. Ice fishing offers a good time of the year to be outdoors with fresh air and no bugs. The fish reeled up through the cold water of an ice fishing hole are excellent table fare. For me, ice fishing bridges the gap from the end of the archery deer hunting season to the beginning of open water fishing in the spring. And, my grand kids love to ice fish.

A happy youth ice fishes at Mahoney State Park’s Century Link Lake near Ashland, NE during a Game and Parks Commission-sponsored ice fishing event. Photo courtesy of Daryl Bauer/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

If you love the great outdoors, the snow, the crisp, clean air, the surreal aspect of being on ice, and the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets — the lifestyle of ice fishing may very well surprise you with one of the best days you’ve had all winter. And, if done properly, it can be one of the best outdoor experiences ever!

A beautiful winter sunset is experienced across frozen Lake Maloney State Recreation Area near North Platte, NE with ice fishing activity occurring. Photo courtesy of Daryl Bauer/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Truth be known, ice fishing is much safer than other winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.

Remember, safety is paramount with ice fishing though, so here are some useful ice fishing safety tips with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Daryl Bauer:

Get more information about fishing Nebraska waters at OutdoorNebraska.org

An ice fishing tip-up is shown at ice level on a southeastern Nebraska lake. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Public Information Officer and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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