Ice cold, face-numbing, snowflake-whipping wind. Most people look to avoid such misery, but others like to pop a tent right in the middle of it. Down on Lake Superior, the only thing louder than the howling wind is the buzz of ice augers.
After a long cold winter, the great lake has finally frozen over enough to allow a select few hardcore ice fisherman to get out on the ice to do what they enjoy the most.
“The wind comes in burst like this,” said College of Saint Scholastica senior, Mitchel Schramel. “People are kind of sick of this cold and the wind.”
The flat ice of Lake Superior is the perfect place for the wind to pick up speed. Pop-up icehouses sway as they are buffeted by snow-laden gusts. Although fishermen do have to deal with the elements, they are glad that the newly formed ice is relatively snow free.
Many ice fishermen use their vehicles to get out to their preferred fishing spots on inland lakes and harbors. The recent, heavy snowfalls have made access to these areas very tough. Although the Lake Superior ice isn’t thick enough to drive on, fisherman can easily pull their gear out with sleds.
“It only took me five or ten minutes to get out here,” Schramel said.
Although ice fishing is a very common winter activity for many Minnesotans, ice fishing on Lake Superior doesn’t happen very often. Being that it takes the right frigid conditions for ice to form, there are years when the lake doesn’t freeze sufficiently enough to hold ice fishermen.
“It doesn’t happen a whole lot,” said Troy Stafne, a Duluthian. “Finally last week we got the east wind.”
Stafne described how west winds push the ice out and prevent solid ice from forming. East winds push the ice back in from the lake. Although the lake right under Duluth is frozen up now, fishermen do have to be cautious of changing ice conditions.
“You’re never really safe out here,” Stafne said. “ But it’s pretty locked in right now.”
Stafne, who lives within eyesight of the lake, watches the lake every year in hopes that he will be able to get on the ice to fish.
“I was out here last year for a few weeks,” he said. “Sunday was the first day I was out here this year.”
So far this year fishing success has been coming and going on the Lake Superior ice. Different goals and expectations set apart fishermen to fishermen.
“I’m just out here to catch whatever bites,” Schramel said.
Ice fisherman can catch a variety of species of fish when fishing on Lake Superior. Many of the fishermen seemed to be looking for Lake Trout.
“You never know,” Stafne said. “Last year we didn’t catch a lot.”
Even when the fishing is slow, many of these fishermen have a tingling and an urge to keep going back for more.
“You might spend two days without a bite,” Stafne said. “You never know when you’ll catch that 25 pounder.”
As a wise man once said, misery loves company. A level of discomfort usually comes with any outdoors related sport. For reasons unknown, no amount of snow blowing wind or bone chilling temperatures will keep these ice anglers from doing what they love.
“People say I’m crazy too,” Stafne chuckled. “This is what I do.”