On the icy surface of Lake Simcoe, I went fishing for adventure...
I've often thought that there is no better way to enjoy the splendor of the great outdoors and the beauty of the Canadian winter than from the warmth of a cozy window seat, with a latte and good book in hand. But a girl cannot live on caffeine and Jane Austen alone - sometimes you just need to get outside for a breath of fresh air. I'm sure that this is what was going through my head when I agreed to go ice fishing on rural Ontario's Lake Simcoe. This was going to be as anti-adventurous as it gets!
Ice fishing anti-adventurist style got off to an exciting start. Instead of simply walking across the frozen lake as I had assumed, my 3 friends and I were picked up by a hybrid tank/snow mobile machine from Bonnie Boats (update! This outfitter has now closed but new operators have opened up) and driven across the lake to their tackle shop. There were some serious bumps and ruts in the ice and I have to say my nerves were on edge - this was one wild ride! Once we alighted at the tackle shop, we were outfitted with gear and supplies and we were ready to head back out on the ice.
The tiny ice fishing shacks were surprisingly sung and warm - maybe this anti-adventure wouldn't be so bad after all! With benches on the left and right of the door and one or two holes cut in the floor to access the water, the four of us were comfortably accommodated. A small propane camp stove provided plenty of heat (and a cooking source should we want to heat up some drinks or fry up some lunch). I was glad to have dressed in layers! I soon removed all my outer winter layers and was happily fishing in just my regular clothing.
With good friends, plenty of snacks, a warm hut (and maybe a drink or two), I was settling in quite nicely to life inside an ice fishing hut. I was starting to think I was getting a good handle on this ice fishing thing - but I hadn't actually done any ice fishing! Turns out, the hardest part of the process was reaching into the bucket of bait to grab one of the hundreds of tiny, squirming, live minnows and then having to pierce them - still alive! - on the fish hook. Squeals of "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" filled the hut as we tortured dozens of innocent minnows. Definitely not for the faint hearted!
Despite sacrificing a quantity of minnows worthy of a serial killer, it first appeared that we would have no luck. We thought we were doing everything right - lots of bait, lots of gentle nudging of the fishing lines. We even hushed our voices so we wouldn't scare away the big fish. Maybe the fish just weren't biting that day? But a visit to our neighbors's hut revealed that there were plenty of big fish around. They were just avoiding us! It was time to move to a different, more shallow section of the lake where the biting was good, even for amateurs.
A new location did the trick. The lake was more shallow and we could actually see all the way to the bottom. The water was so clear and it was encouraging to actually SEE the fish, even if they weren't biting. But wait! Was that a tug I feel on my line? It was! To great fanfare and tons of screaming, I firmly reeled in my mighty haul - to reveal a palm-sized fish too little to eat. Fishy wasn't destined for the frying pan, but that didn't stop me from crowing like I had hooked a one ton tuna!
I don't know if I'll ever be one of those people who relaxes by kicking back in a fishing boat all day, content to let the line drift in the water. But going ice fishing with the girls was a ton of fun and was relaxing in its own way. The experience was more about the bonding and chatting than it was about the actual fish (or, at least this is what I assured them, they who caught nothing!) My anti-adventurist radar was on full alert when I had to participate in the Great Minnow Slaughter, but truthfully the experience was more comfortable and less rugged than I had anticipated. I would absolutely recommend this to an open minded first-timer. I had more fun than I expected - even if my great catch was a little on the small side.
What kind of winter adventures (or mis-adventures!) do you participate in when you travel?
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