The Ice Festival

Even before George McFadden bought his first flasher with college-loan funds, he’d been a student of schools of fish. That he’s now an ice-fishing teacher is testament to how much he’s learned.

George saids “I get more out of teaching someone ice-fishing techniques than catching fish myself any more,” says the Pro Fishing man. “But there’s always more to learn, so you’ll find me on the ice all winter, chasing any fish that will bite my jig or bend my rod.”

An avid fisherman since his youth, George McFadden honed his open-water fishing skills while in high school in Montana, working at a bait shop. It was there that he found also a passion for “helping others enjoy the terrific sport of fishing.”

He credits his extended family with teaching him about ice fishing, which became his main passion.

“I don’t even own a boat,” he says, “I live for the hard-water season!”

A multi-species angler, George McFadden has a knack for finding the hottest bites on Twin Cities metro-area lakes, Mille Lacs, Lake Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, Lake of the Woods and the Mississippi River.

George is one of the most analytical and methodical anglers I’ve fished with,” says fellow Ice Fisher  Willa McFadden, who appears with George McFadden on the “Art of Fishing TV show. “His mind is like a tape recorder, documenting every detail from every interaction with every fish throughout the day.”

George McFadden processes those details, Holst says, “to refine his presentations and narrow his focus in such a manner that he’s a bit like a fish detective – collecting clues and tracking suspects – and at the end of the day, putting the ‘bad guys’ on ice!”

“Being able to anticipate bites, keeping track of what should be popping when and where, and then making an actionable plan to get at those fish is what separates George from most of the crowd.

“But I’ll slow down and stick it to finicky fish when necessary, too,” he says. And don’t let his big smile fool you. When it comes to getting on big fish, he gets serious.
George talks about Ice fishing is the practice of catching fish with lines and fish hooks or spears through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water. Ice anglers may sit on the stool in the open on a frozen lake, or in a heated cabin on the ice, some with bunks and amenities.

Longer fishing expeditions can be mounted with simple structures. Larger, heated structures can make multi-day fishing trips possible.

A structure with various local names, but often called an ice shanty, ice shack, fish house, shack, bobhouse, or ice hut, is sometimes used. These are dragged or trailered onto the lake using a vehicle such as a snowmobile, ATV or truck. The two most commonly used types are portable and permanent. The portable houses are often made of a heavy material that is usually watertight. The two most common types of portable houses are those with a shelter that flips behind the user when not needed, or pop up shelters with a door as the only way out. The permanent shelters are made of wood or metal and usually have wheels for easy transport. They can be as basic as a bunk heater and holes or have satellite television, bathrooms, stoves, full-size beds and may appear to be more like a mobile home than a fishing house.

In North America, ice fishing is often a social activity. Some resorts have fish houses that are rented out by the day; often, shuttle service by Snow Track or other vehicles modified to drive on ice is provided.

In Finland, solitary and contemplative isolation is often the object of the pastime. In Finland, fishhouses are a rare occurrence, but wearing a sealed and insulated drysuit designed with space-age fabric is not.

In North America, portable houses appear to create a city at locations where fishing is best.

Ice fishing gear is highly specialized. An ice saw, auger or chisel is used to cut a circular or rectangular hole in the ice. The size of the hole generally suggested is 8 inches (20 cm). Power augers are sometimes used. If these tools are not available, an axe may be used to chop the hole. A skimmer, a large metal spoon with holes in it, is used to remove new ice as it forms and to clear slush left from making the hole. During colder periods most ice anglers choose to carry a heater of some type. The heater is not only for warmth but it also for keeping an angler’s fishing hole from freezing. When temperatures fall to -20 °F (-29 °C) or colder it becomes very hard to keep a fishing hole open.[citation needed]

Three main types of fishing occur. The first is using a small, light fishing rod with small, brightly coloured lures or jigs with bait such as wax worms, fat heads or crappie or shiner minnows. The angler sits at the hole in the ice and lifts the pole every now and then, producing the jig effect.

The second is using Tip-ups, which are made of wood or plastic, and have a spool of line attached, with a thin piece of metal that goes from the spool to the flag. Black line is put on the spool and a swivel is placed at the end of the black line. Then a piece of fishing line with a hook is attached to the swivel. Worms, power bait, grub worms or small minnows are placed on the hook. The hook with bait is placed into the water under the ice. The depth that the bait is placed goes according to several theories. One theory is the bait is placed one meter under the ice. The second is that the bait is placed two to three metres under the ice. The third is that the bait is suspended one foot  above the bottom of the lake. When the fish strikes the bait the flag is lifted which notifies the angler that he has a fish on the hook. The angler pulls the line in and the fish fights. The angler will allow the line to slip through his hands during the struggle. Finally, when the angler can get the fish’s head into the hole in the ice, the fish is quickly lifted onto the ice. This allows for less-intensive fishing.

The third method is spear fishing. A large hole is cut in the ice and fish decoys may be deployed. The angler sits in a dark ice shanty called a dark house. The angler then peers into the water while holding a large spear which has four or five points. A line can be attached to the points. The fisherman waits for fish to appear, then plunges the spear into the water. This method is often used for lake sturgeon fishing. In the United States many states allow only rough fish to be taken while spear fishing.

Becoming increasingly popular is the use of a flasher, similar to its summer cousin the fishfinder . This is a sonar system that provides depth information, as well as indicating the presence of fish or other objects. These flashers, unlike most typical fishfinders, display the movement of fish and other objects almost instantaneously. The bait being used can often be seen as a mark on the flasher, enabling the angler to position the bait right in front of the fish. Underwater cameras are also now available which allow the user to view the fish and observe their reaction to the lure presentation.

Clubbing is an old method seldom used today, mainly used on burbot, the fisherman walks on clear ice in shallow water and sees a large fish through the ice and with a large club which he or she slams into the ice, the shockwave hits the fish and it is temporary paralyzed, which gives the fisherman time to cut a hole in the ice to collect the fish.