What’s better than spending a day ice fishing on a great lake, in a heated hut, with a group of women anglers? It turns out, not much!
This year the excellent Fishing 101 for Women program expanded into ice fishing and the first ever Ice Fishing 101 for Women event took place on Saturday, January 24th. There’s nowhere better to launch a new event like this than on Lake Simcoe, and an eager group of women gathered in Lefroy early in the morning to meet with our hut operator, Love To Fish Simcoe Ice Hut Rentals.
Although I was at the event as one of the instructors (along with Yvonne Brown, Amy Nesbitt, and Corinne Lane), I was getting the chance to experience a few things for the first time, like getting a ride out to the hut! Having never used a hut operator before, and not having a snowmobile or ATV, it was a nice feeling to sit down and get transported to my fishing area, instead of hoofing it out there while panting away. Another new experience: being extremely overdressed. I was wearing my floater suit and the usual number of layers I don for a day on the ice. With a propane stove easily heating the hut, I was warmer than necessary.
Ice Fishing 101 is different than the regular Fishing 101 for Women seminars in that the morning “in-class” portion was skipped due to us being spread over three huts. To make sure everyone knew the essentials about licenses, regulations, and expectations for the day, Yvonne had previously sent out a video to the participants. This worked well and I found that pretty much everyone had actually watched it.
One of the great things about ice fishing is that it takes very little instruction to be able to drop a line down a hole and catch a fish. Most of the women at the event seemed to have previous fishing experience, though some had never been on the ice before. It made for an easy day for me from the instruction standpoint. Most of my instruction was limited to “here’s how to grab a minnow out of the bucket”, “here’s how to rig a minnow on a hook”, “here’s how to unhook your perch”, and “here’s how to untangle the lines”. If someone was uncomfortable handling the minnows I would do it for them, or we’d switch up to some plastics, but I ended up with a bunch of go-getters and it wasn’t long before they did everything for themselves.
The goal of Ice Fishing 101 for Women (in my opinion) is to introduce women to ice fishing in a laid back environment and enable them to enjoy a day on the ice so they look forward to going back out. If we’re really successful, the participants will not only take themselves back out, but take friends and family members out as well. My only concern was that everyone in my hut was having fun, but I didn’t realize how much fun I was going to have.
In previous articles about the Fishing 101 program, I’ve stated that I always learn something new, even though I attend as an instructor. What I learned this time was that spending a day in the hut with a group of women anglers was some of the most fun I could have on the ice.
Between catching fish and hooking minnows, we patiently untangled lines, shared stories ranging from the adventurous and inspiring, to the sad and heartfelt, we took pictures, encouraged each other, offered fishing tips in a supportive manner, talked about tackle and tried different lures, celebrated every fish that came through the ice, and laughed so much that I felt like I had a permanent smile. More than once our hut was told that we could be heard laughing in all the other huts. The hut operator came out to check on us and ended up having so much fun he stayed for 40 minutes. The ladies I fished with that day were really wonderful people.
The fish even decided to cooperate. We didn’t ice any jumbos, but the bite was pretty steady and everyone in our hut managed to bring in several fish. We were lucky to be in just the right spot to have perch hanging around all day.
I watched as some anglers went from tentative and unsure, to old-pros in the matter of hours. Some anglers went from not feeling the bites initially, to never missing the slightest bite by the end of the day. Others learned to slow down and be more gentle with the hookset. There was no teaching required, just the experience one gets from being in a pressure-free environment where you can learn at your own pace and enjoy the process.
Our hut was having such a good day that we lost track of time and were the last ones to pack up. The laughter and chatter continued on the ride back to the parking lot, and each participant went home with some new fishing swag.
While the perch may have been tiny, the smiles were big, and that was all that mattered.
There will be another Ice Fishing 101 for Women event on February 15th, 2015. Check out the website for more information, or visit the Facebook page. Space is limited so don’t delay! While you’re on the Facebook page, have a look at the great pictures from this event.
Special thanks to Love To Fish Simcoe Ice Hut Rentals for nice huts and a great day. Check out their website for more details or to to book your next trip.
Thanks to HT Enterprises for donating rod and reel combos to the program. It was nice to have equipment for all the participants!