Here come the ice houses

Published 6:48 am Monday, December 21, 2009

To area fishermen, ice fishing isn’t a hobby. It’s a way of life.

“I fish all summer. I don’t want to hang it up in the winter,” said Racine resident Larry Ravenhorst.

Austin resident Willie Granholm also said he loves to fish no matter the season. He even keeps his boat out during the winter and will fish the open water on the Mississippi on warm winter days.

“Fishing is my passion. I fish all year round,” Granholm said.

“It’s nice to be out on the water whether it’s frozen or not,” he added.

Granholm, who’s ice fished since he was 4, has already fished on Mill Pond a few times this season. While he grew up fishing on East Side Lake after school, he now makes frequent trips to Mill Lacs, where he has a permanent ice house equipped with satellite television. He made his first trip there this weekend.

Ravenhorst travels to the Mississippi River when he ice fishes in the area, but he prefers to fish on his trips to Walker, a town located in northern Minnesota. Ravenhorst uses a portable ice house that he can easily move with his all terrain vehicle, so he can go to the fish.

“Some people put a house out with a TV and all this good stuff in it, but they’re hard to move,” Ravenhorst said. “Really, the fish move around in the winter, and if you want to be on them more, you have to be a little portable.”

Ice fishing poses different challenges than fishing with a boat, and Ravenhorst said mobility is his key to successful ice fishing.

“It’s not so much the catching them, it’s the finding them,” he said. “Once you’ve found them, you’re parked on top of them.”

Mobility isn’t the only trick of the trade. Ravenhorst uses a Vexilar depth finder to spot the fish. Along with spotting fish, he said he can see his fishing line on the depth finder and tell by it’s thickness and movement when a fish is close to the line.

“I’ve caught a lot of fish I would have never caught without the depth finder,” he said.

“I won’t go out fishing without it,” he added.

Like Ravenhorst, Granholm hasn’t gone out on the ice without a Vexilar depth finder since he got his first one in the fifth-grade.

“I will not go out on the ice without it. I feel lost,” he said.

He’ll often drill holes with his auger to use his depth finder to locate the fish. The depth finder will work through certain ice that isn’t covered in snow, Ravenhorst said.

Ravenhorst suggested look for the edge of a weed bed or rocks, and he said he often finds fish in such areas.

Granholm is known to some area residents as a “fishing fanatic.” In fact, former Minnesota Twins first baseman and Kent Hrbek, who hosts “Kent Hrbek Outdoors,” has called Granholm seeking fishing advice.

For ice fishing Granholm said ice fisherman need to be sure to have the right bait. If you’re fishing for walleye, he recommended using a jig and spoon with half a minnow. For croppies and smaller fish, he recommended using and jig and spoon with wax worms.

Ravenhorst recommended that people look at where other ice fisherman are fishing. While he joked that they may lie some if the fish are biting well, he said you can probably tell if they’re having good luck.

“Etiquette’s important. Don’t sit on top of them. Give your fellow man a little room,” he said.

Despite the heavy snow and cold temperatures, people should be cautious with ice early in the season.

Granholm said to put safety first and be sure the ice is safe before walking on it or driving a vehicle on the ice. Just because some else is driving on the ice, doesn’t mean it’s thick enough.

Generally, Ravenhorst said he’ll walk on about four inches of ice, and he’ll drive a snowmobile on six to eight inches. Ravenhorst drives an all terrain vehicle when he ice fishes, and he said he’ll drive that and a car on the ice if there’s a foot or more of good ice.