Sarah GowerIn the northern reaches of the USA and Canada, and perhaps a few other places nutty enough to join in, people partake in an activity many of us could never understand. In a climate where November easily freezes every lake, and March could only dream of melting a hockey rink, there is a revered pastime that can only be enjoyed in the most desolate of places: In the middle of those frozen lakes. Hundreds of yards, or even miles out, onto a sheet of ice people go, to drill a hole and fish. There is no foliage, no terrain, no barrier of any kind to protect against the frigid cruelty, aside from what you bring along.
While most of us wonder what could possibly possess a person to even try that ‘sport’, rest assured there are scores of people who absolutely love it. They spend their summers on boats fishing… how could they live without it all winter? The off-season is spent sprucing up the fish house—a portable ice-fishing shack that is towed or sledded to the sweet spot for a winter of frosty bliss. It is a hobby. It’s an escape. It’s dinner. And it can actually be a cozy experience for those who come well-equipped.
However… it’s also a hazardous place for the digestively-challenged. It is a long way to shore for a bathroom. Especially when nature calls 911. I went on my one and only ice fishing adventure one night while under the influence of ulcerative colitis. I was in a period of reduced bowel distress so I got a little overconfident and, well, the full story is chronicled in my book, but let’s just say I had to find a lonely hole for myself. It was pitch dark and -12 degrees with a wind-chill I can hardly ‘bare’ to remember.
But my thoughts changed on the matter recently. While browsing a friend’s holiday vacation photos, I saw something that I’d never heard of. Sure I’d seen a bewildering array of fish houses in my day (hey, a town in Minnesota even has a fish house parade), but I’d never seen one like this. Trailed off to the side of a much larger hut was what looked like its shrunken twin—or miniature offspring, complete with matching door, siding, and trim. It had a remarkably familiar shape… about four feet square, seven feet tall, and out by itself. Could it be? Was it really? Yep, it was an ice-house out-house.
Etched in my mind will always remain the feeling of absolute desperation I experienced that cold night out on Lake Osakis. But could that now be a worry of the past? Wow, I could actually go ice fishing again. And maybe even enjoy it. (And for that matter, what variety of other fun things could I go with better restroom access?) Oh, but wait… there’s one minor complication… While I can engineer a toilet out of just about anything I find, I couldn’t catch a fish to save my life.
Strangely appropriate for the topic, what’s one of the more common breeds of fish highly sought by fish-house dwellers far and wide? Crappies. I kid you not.
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