Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Welcome to Wisconsin February 18, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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An ice fisherman photographed at the La Crosse, Wisconsin, rest stop.


I OFTEN WONDER, what do outsiders think? And, by outsiders, I mean those of you unfamiliar with a Midwest winter, specifically with the sport of ice fishing.

I mean, let’s say you’re from Miami or LA or Dallas and you’ve never seen a village of fish houses atop a frozen lake let alone vehicles driving onto and across the ice. For Minnesotans and Wisconsinites, scenes like this are simply part of our winters.

Or let’s say you pull off the interstate, like we did on Saturday along I-90 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and you spot two guys loading fishing equipment onto a sled in a rest area parking lot. Randy and I saw exactly that.

The scene seemed so Midwest Norman Rockwell-like. Bucket and fishing gear atop a simple pull-behind sled. Fisherman layered in warm outdoor outerwear topping a red-and-black buffalo plaid flannel shirt. Paul Bunyan fashion at its finest.

As we exited the parking lot, I managed a photo. Iconic. A guy on his way to ice fish in the backwaters of the Mississippi River on a Saturday morning in mid-February. Love it.

TELL ME: Have you ever been ice fishing, or even observed an angler ice fishing? And, yes, I’ve fished through a hole in the ice on a frozen lake. Just not in recent years.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “Welcome to Wisconsin”

  1. My partner went ice fishing once or twice before the kids came in Northern Ontario. They had a hut they slept in on the ice. One thing he said that surprised him was how loud ice is. I guess if you’re sleeping on ice, and it makes all those sounds, or the water beneath makes the sounds, it could be a little bit nerve-wracking?

    I haven’t experienced ice fishing myself and honestly, I don’t really have any desire. But I do think those huts are really cute!

  2. There is a pond on the west side of I 35 between Moose Lake and Sandstone where each winter on most days there are two hard core ice fishermen. Sitting on 5gallon buckets fishing through the ice. In this time of high tech gear, fish houses, tents and assorted other items these guys have always done it old school in the coldest of weather. I always admire them as I drive pass them and wonder how much longer they will continue in the old ways.
    Nope- I will stick to fly fishing. Which in early Spring can seem like ice fishing with cold openers in April.

  3. Ruth Says:

    I’ve never been ice fishing but have seen photographs of the interiors of the little houses the ice fishers built. Fascinating. Your photo is like a Norman Rockwell for sure. Our winters may have some cold and snowy days but are tame compared to your conditions and temps.

  4. I have never been ice fishing but am well versed in cold sports even if I am not a fan. 🙂 So happy to not be in those elements now. There is a couple in the rental villa close to our house that hails from Minnesota and is here for 3 months. They love to escape here and have done it for years in the winter . But it is great to be ale to embrace the things that you can do when the weather is icy cold and fishing is one of those things, right?

  5. Almost Iowa Says:

    I have friends and relatives who are devoted to ice fishing. My idea of fishing for ice is to visit the refrigerator.

  6. Great Photo – love it! It has been years since I have been ice fishing. I never drove my vehicle or snowmobile onto the ice though – not in my comfort zone, especially when you hear the ice cracking. I remember turning in my MN drivers license to obtain a Nevada drivers license and the DMV representative asked me what a snowmobile permit was. I have hiked before, however; it is a different experience to hike in the mountains like we did out west. Then you have air boats down here, which not everyone is familiar with or have been on. That is why I like traveling to see new places, how people live, the history, the cultures and traditions, etc. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  7. Brenda Says:

    I have been Ice fishing a few times locally on Lake Washington in Le Sueur County. It was quite a few years ago when our children were young. I also went along once to Lake of the Woods. That was over 25 years ago. I am not a fan!! I will gladly wait to catch some yummy fish when we can take our boat out and move around on the lake. The sound of the cracking of the ice is unnerving to say the least! My husband still likes to go sometimes but has not always been able to depending on ice quality issues. Loved the photo though!! Glad you caught the action!

  8. valeriebollinger Says:

    I’ve been in ice houses before out of curisosity, and rode out on a lake in a car but I was younger then…too scary now.

  9. I LOVE this photo!!! You really captured a moment! Did you notice the “do not enter” sign? I have Ice fished when I was a youngster. We even tried some spear fishing (without luck). Our Son Brice takes his Scarlett ice fishing every winter. This year he plans on taking Lewin for the first time…he’s 3!

    • I love that Brice takes his kids fishing.

      The “do not enter” sign is for motorists so they don’t drive the wrong way on the entry road into the rest stop area. But, yeah, it makes for an interesting sign in relation to the ice fisherman.

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