It’s hard to explain what makes our annual ice fishing trip so magical.
It could be the quiet North Michigan Reservoir landscape — one unlike any other over-crowded Colorado corner — which gives us some of the most stunningly beautiful sunsets and an overwhelming feeling of peace amid an otherwise crazy New Year.
It could be the thrill of augering a hole through the ice for the first time, an activity that [without fail] simultaneously produces a squeal of elation and a sense of confidence as you realize you just drove a giant corkscrew through the two-foot tundra below.
It could be the daily trudge out to the ice, a ritual that proves to be both challenging and rewarding as you snowshoe out to a remote spot on the lake in search of the holes you drilled out the day before.
It could be the exuberance of shouting “FISH ON!” more often than usual because the dozens of rainbow trout and single brown trout you caught just felt like being greedy this year.
It could be the camaraderie within the shanty, where beers are slung, Doritos are king, waxies and mealies are debated, and the smell of fish prevails.
It could be the sense of being in the middle of nowhere, where the stars are brighter than you ever thought possible and where you’re more likely to see a moose than another human being.
Speaking of…It could be the surreal sensation of following a moose as it leads you down the snowy pass, or witnessing a mama moose and her calf lick the salt off your Subaru in the middle of the night — the most “Colorado” sight any of us have ever seen.
It could be the overwhelming simplicity of staying in a cabin without running water, electricity, and cell phone service, and the freedom it allows you to go without the usual makeup and mandatory social media checks in favor of more time together.
It could be the old fashioned furnaces which warmed our bread, warmed our toes, and warmed the dog after hours on the ice and served as the place for many a cozy afternoon nap.
It could be the lilting laughter echoing around the game table, where victories don’t really matter and celebrities like “Texas” make us cry until our sides hurt.
It could be the luxury of not having to worry about what to eat, as every cup of coffee, snack, and meal has been planned, prepped, and perfected in your honor. All you have to do is catch a fish and show up to the table for a warm bowl of Corn Chowder, a serving of homemade pasta, or a plate of perfectly cooked rainbow trout caught just moments ago out on the ice.
But if we’re being really honest, ice fishing — while an amazing amalgamation of all of these things — would be nothing without the people who share it all with us. These are the folks who are game for the adventure, whose snores reverberate throughout the cabin, who lend their hands and hearts to helping ensuring it all happens, and who make each ice fishing weekend one to remember for years to come.
We had many faces we missed dearly this year, but we also had just as many new faces experiencing the joy of ice fishing for the very first time. It is these newbies and veterans who helped perpetuate the magic that is ice fishing.
Because for every new hole augered, fish caught, game played, and meal shared, the sense of wonder prevails and the legend of ice fishing lives on. No wonder it remains our most anticipated outing of the year… and one we can’t wait to do again in 2018.
Ice Fishing Corn Chowder
Soup is an essential for ice fishing. Last year, it was chicken noodle and this year, it was corn chowder — the perfect remedy after a day our on the ice. Most everything was prepped and quadrupled ahead of time, which made feeding 10 people a cinch. We used vegetable broth and add-your-own ham, as we had a vegetarian in the mix, but you can also use chicken broth or a combination of water and ham bone for added flavor. The cream is essential.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cans corn
- 4-5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 lb. ham, chunked
- 4 oz. heavy cream
- Chicken or Vegetable Stock [Alternate: Water with hambone]
- 3 Tbs. flour
- 3 Tbs. butter
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and Pepper to taste