Everyday Adventure: Ice Fishing

This month we are excited to introduce “Everyday Adventure” a new column on the Minnetonka blog.  Celebrating small ways to incorporate adventure into every day life – from trying a new recipe with seasonal ingredients to hiking Mount Rainier. 

After a twenty-plus year hiatus, Molly got back to her Minnesota roots and went ice fishing. Turns out, the men aren’t so grumpy, the technology is top notch and the fish taste delicious.

I first attempted ice fishing at age ten. My uncle Whitey (a nickname he earned as a kid for having white-blonde hair… or at least I think that’s how the story goes) and I drove nearly two hours to Mille Lacs, one of Minnesota’s largest lakes, blasting “Radar Love” by Golden Earring nearly the entire way.

Mille Lacs is so wide across, that if you didn’t know better, you’d think you were looking at the sea. It’s a haven for ice fishermen, with little communities popping up all over the place once frozen over. Whitey had a great set up; really, more of a condominium than a shanty. Once we pulled up to the place, he’d get the generator roaring and we’d be toasty warm, sitting on a nice recliner, watching old episodes of Leave it to Beaver. We caught no more than five tullibees on that trip—a junk fish nobody wants to eat. But it was still fun.

I don’t think I’ve been ice fishing “for real” since. In college, I went fake ice fishing, which basically means sitting in some rickety shack on a lake where the only thing you’re fishing is another beer out of a cooler. Anyhow, a full twenty years after that initial excursion, Whitey invited me out again. I agreed.

I love fishing. The thing is, I hate fish. If I could somehow go straight from reeling them into the boat to chowing down a huge plate fried walleye, I’d be the happiest gal on the planet. That part in the middle where you have to touch the fish and remove the hook, then hold it by the gills for a photo op and clean it… well, I’d prefer to outsource those tasks. However, I’ve signed on for a full year of living outside my comfort zone, so I decided it was time to get back to the frozen lake. I’m a Minnesotan. I was born to do this, right?

I met Whitey out on Prior Lake, just south of Minneapolis. It was an overcast, 30-degree day, which in this polar vortex of a winter felt absolutely amazing. He’s since ditched the fancy digs, opting for a simple ice shelter—basically a mobile tent. We hunkered down, Whitey on an upside down five-gallon bucket, me on a comfy chair, with a propane heater keeping us warm.

Whitey rigged up his Aqua-Vu, an underwater camera that shows you what’s going on under the nearly two feet of ice. We saw tons of sunnies, those amazing little pan fish that are pain in the butt to clean because their filets are only a little bigger than your thumb. Whitey assured me they were good eatin’, so we caught and kept anything that was roughly the size of our hand or larger.

 

By the end of the day, we’d scored a whole bucket of sunnies. I even took one off the hook myself, which nearly gave me a panic attack, but I managed to get through it (you can watch a video of that here). Next, we headed back to his buddy’s man cave to clean and fry up the goods. I learned how to filet the fish with an electric filet knife, an excellent skill to have in my culinary tool belt.

We fried up a bunch, then made a few sunfish cookies—a new delicacy in my world. Simply salt and pepper a few filets, then stick them in the microwave for 45 seconds, then flip the filets and nuke them for another 45 seconds. I know, microwaving fish literally is one of the most disgusting things you can do in your kitchen, but I promise it did not stink up the place.  Then, we took Ritz crackers, smeared them with cream cheese and topped it all with a bit of fish. It sounds absolutely disgusting, but they were phenomenal. So good, in fact, that I’ll never go another 20 years without ice fishing.

About Molly Mogren:
The daughter of a flight attendant and a hippy-turned-real estate developer who toured Europe in a Volkswagen bus, Molly Mogren came into this world with an undeniable sense of adventure. From hiking the Antarctic Peninsula, to outrunning a hyena in South Africa and even driving a street-legal monster truck through Des Moines, Iowa—she never turns down an opportunity to do something crazy. She’s worked as Andrew Zimmern’s right-hand lady since 2007; they’ve co-written three books together and  co-host a weekly podcast called “Go Fork Yourself.” Her latest project, Hey Eleanor!, chronicles her year-long journey of tackling one thing that scares her every day.  She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her fiancé, dog (Patsy) and kitty, Bogart. She likes to drink coffee, do crossword puzzles and is very good at parallel parking. 

 

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