Ice fishing season coming to a close on Upper Peninsula

A good set of windshield wipers was as important as a rod and reel on a recent ice fishing trip in the U.P. (Photo by Tom Pink)
I was amused at the Department of Natural Resources’ annual reminder that ice shanties – or “shacks,” as we call them here in the Upper Peninsula – need to come off the ice at the end of the month.
For those in the southern Lower Peninsula, the deadline is March 1 (Feb. 26 in Lake St. Clair). In the northern Lower Peninsula, the deadline is March 15, and for the U.P. it is March 31.
As I write this, during the winter that wasn’t, I’m pretty sure there are no shacks out on Lake St. Clair; in fact, I’ve heard fishermen are launching boats. Farther north, the ice still holds on inland lakes, but we’ve had a week of rain and above-freezing temperatures that have been making ice surfaces slushy and ice anglers skeptical.
Coming off the ice of the St. Mary’s River last week here in the U.P., I had to use my windshield wipers because the slush and water were splashing up over the hood. Since I usually drive on ice with my windows open, that means I was getting splashed inside the truck, too.
This week wasn’t the first time I was forced to use the wipers while driving on the ice. It’s been that way for the past couple of years. This year, we’ve had an abundance of snow in the U.P., but overall the temperature has been warmer than normal.
I was a bit nervous driving out on the river this week, but I saw several other trucks out ahead of me and they were much farther out than I planned to go. I stopped a little way out to drill a hole and found about 15 inches of ice, and most of it was in pretty good shape. So, I kept going.
Two miles out, I found my spot and just as much ice as I’d found closer to shore, so I set up for perch and walleye. I had my portable shack in the back of the truck, but the 40-degree air made shelter unnecessary, even with 15 mph winds. During warm weather, I’d much rather drill a dozen holes and go prospecting from hole to hole to find the fish, rather than sit in one spot.
A couple hours later, I had iced three walleye and a half-dozen perch. Two of the walleye weren’t big enough to keep, and I lost a couple more nice perch, but I had enough for dinner for my wife. Perch and walleye are her favorites, so I figure I earned double brownie points that day.
That was the last time I’ll be driving the truck on the ice this year, though, unless we get another prolonged period of cold weather. Double brownie points aren’t worth calling the insurance adjuster when your truck joins the perch and walleye on the bottom of the river.

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