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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 3-20-2013

by Mark Walters

Life on the Ice

Hello friends,

Each winter several of my family members, friends, my kids, and myself pick a spot and go ice fishing and winter camping. This years experience took place on the Mississippi River near Trempealeau, there were 12 of us and as usual we caught fish, survived a winter challenge, and most importantly had a positive experience.

Friday, March 1st
High 27, low 12

To sum it up, four graduates of Poynette High School came here with eight of their kids and endured 50 hours of fun and games. The first thing that we did today was put out about 25 tip ups for northern pike, build camp, and then cut a couple of sled loads of firewood.

Twenty inches of quality ice allowed us to drive our trucks on the ice, which made camp building a whole lot easier. A brand new 4-wheeler (Polaris “Sportsman 500”) that I recently purchased insured that we would have fun even if the fish were not hungry and it also came in pretty handy when hauling firewood.

We slept in two structures, both were the pop up style, six-man ice shacks. Today the fish simply were not hungry, with my daughter Selina catching two northern pike on tip ups and a few small to mid-size pan fish being caught on the jig poles.

Saturday, March 2nd
High 33, low 16

I went to my cot about 2:00 this morning, in a tent on the ice that has no floor. I woke up at 4:00, and Selina was sitting up in her cot, wide-awake. I had her climb in mine and I tried to sleep until shortly before first light, such is life growing up to be the kid of an outdoor adventures writer.

This morning all twelve of us experienced what I call a non bite, thank God for creativity which came in the form of a game the kids made where they shoveled the snow off the ice and drilled three holes in the ice on each end of their little hockey rink. Thus a virtual shuffleboard was created. Joey Dushek, who is 19, used a chainsaw and made six hockey pucks out of a tree limb and this game entertained the gang until the fish became hungry this afternoon, actually entertained the gang until we left the following day.

Our first real action came when my 21-year-old stepson, Travis, caught a very fat 27- inch northern pike. From that point on the flags were popping and everyone was into the game. This game is best described as hoping a big fat gator swallows up your minnow and you win the big fish bet, which at $5:00 apiece, is a pretty hefty prize.

At dark, the campfire was blazing, everyone was in an excellent mood and my brother Mike was winning the big fish bet with a 30.5-inch gator. What was pretty cool was that the young kids really got into the fishing and by dark, some of them had caught some beautiful gators.

Sunday, March 3rd
High 37, low 20

You rarely see anyone sleeping on the ice! Last year it was difficult to drive a truck on the ice and last year in early March the temperature hit 80 degrees and deer ticks were an issue. This March is different than last and I was proud to see that our gang had put another annual trip together and happy to see there was ice. Not once, the entire weekend, did I see a kid that was bored. Give a kid an ice chopper and they can entertain themselves for hours.

Give the adults a campfire and it is the best TV on the ice.

This morning the bite was steady but we did not hook into any ten-pound plus fish that we had hoped to. I have traveled with my brother Mike, Brother-in law Dick Schuster, and good pals Doug Cibulka and Jeff Moll for a lifetime. We have always taken our kids and now some of the kids are adults, they are our outdoor travel partners and friends. I have been a parent that supports every sport that a kid gets into while growing up. In my opinion, there is nothing that keeps adults and their children hanging out together more, after they graduate from high school, like hunting, fishing and camping.

Soon the snow will melt, the walleye will spawn and the turkeys will strut! Sunset