By Nick Simonson
It’s hard to believe that first ice is upon us already, and even I have set about readying my gear for a Thanksgiving trip up north for first-ice walleyes and crappies. Many friends have relayed that they plan to head out this weekend, with a solid four inches of ice in place throughout the upper Midwest. It’s an exciting time, but that excitement needs to be tempered with discretion. What follows are tips for first ice – and the entire ice season – for a safe and enjoyable time on hardwater.
10. Carry basic survival tools with you. A knife, a lighter, a whistle and ice picks are the bare bones basics you’ll need in case of trouble. A small first aid kit, a GPS unit, duct tape and a Ziploc bag are great to have too. Much of what you need to survive can be packed in a tacklebox or in an Altoids tin. Use the Ziploc bag to keep it all waterproofed.
9. Be a “half-full” angler. Keep fuel levels on your truck, snowmobile and ATV at half or better when you’re headed to the lake. That way you’re guaranteed not to get stranded in the cold for lack of gasoline.
8. Keep it on the rocks, not on the ice. Save the celebration for after the outing. Alcohol impairs judgment, hinders mobility, results in faster body-heat loss and has been a contributing factor in many ice-related incidents in recent years.
7. Stay clear. A lesson passed on to me by a brother of mine, who will remain nameless, was learned the hard way. The drawstrings of his hooded sweatshirt tangled in the gears of his power auger and the motor pulled his face flush with the housing. Thankfully, he was able to hit the kill switch and cut himself free. Lesson learned - keep loose clothing and limbs away from motorized ice equipment such as augers.
6. Layer up and pack an extra set of clothes. You can’t put on what you don’t bring with. Wear multiple layers of clothes and keep an extra set packed in your truck or sled, just in case a boot – or your whole body – breaks through.
5. Be thick-headed. Know what thicknesses of good, clear ice can support you. Four inches will hold a person. Eight inches will hold an ATV or snowmobile. 12 Inches will hold a small automobile and 16 inches of clear ice will generally hold a pickup. These are just guidelines, so adjust as needed based on ice conditions and formation in your area; gray, chunky or honeycombed ice is significantly weaker.
4. Watch the weather and the water. Warming trends and rain can have quick negative effects on ice quality. Monitor what’s coming on the next front and what has happened recently in the areas you plan to fish, as recent rains or prolonged temperatures above freezing can weaken ice. Additionally, late-departing waterfowl such as Canada geese and schooling fish like tullibee can impact areas of ice. Where these birds spent their last day will have thinner ice than the surrounding area, and large schools of whitefish near the surface have been known to keep ice from forming too.
3. Know your water body. Have a good understanding – and a map – of areas on your fishing waters which are known to have questionable ice. Note areas of currents, springs, aerators, bridges, culverts or vegetation which make ice unstable and avoid traveling or fishing near them.
2. Let ‘em know before you go. Provide information to a non-angler back home as to what lake you’ll be on, what areas you’ll be fishing and when you’ll check in and return. Leave detailed directions on how to find you along with your contact information and that of the anglers you will be with.
1. No ice is safe ice. It’s not terra firma, there’s no safety net, and it just can’t be trusted. No matter what month of the hardwater season, no matter how cold it has been, no ice is 100 percent safe. Remember that with every step and have a plan in place if you break through. Don’t drive on ice if you don’t have to. If you fall in, go back the way you came, using ice picks to pull yourself up.
Follow these tips as you venture out this month on the first few inches of safe ice. Being cautious and prepared is the first step toward a successful outing, whether you pursue pike, perch or other popular early-ice species…in our outdoors.
By Nick Simonson, LCPF President
It’s easy for me to remember when I moved to Marshall – pheasant opener weekend, 2009. In my five years here, I’ve made a good number of friends through my involvement in Lyon County Pheasants Forever (LCPF) both from the immediate area and those that look the chapter up on the web and contact me or other members with questions. Most of them generally run along the usual lines pertaining to hunting in Lyon County such as: “how do bird numbers look this year,” “what are the best WMAs to hunt,” or “are the hotels dog-friendly?” (Answers for this year: “better” “the bigger ones” and “absolutely, every one of them”). But there’s one interrogatory that leaves me with so many answers, I have to pause and think about it. That question is: “Where should we eat?”
Hunting hungry is no way to hunt at all, especially when the city of Marshall offers flavors and foods you won’t find anywhere else, from one-of-a-kind craft brews to the now legendary Panino sandwich, visiting hunters come away from this buzzing autumn community with memories from the field and their time at the table after the hunt. If you can fit them all in, these restaurants are the top spots for sportsmen hunting Lyon County and calling Marshall their home base during pheasant season.
5. Shay’s Restaurant & Lounge. Conveniently located in the Ramada on Marshall’s east end, Shay’s has arguably the best hot wings in town. Big meaty portions justify the price, and their spicy buffalo sauce will stick to your fingers and the corners of your mouth leaving you wanting more. The variety and size of burgers are good as well and the staff very friendly; a full-service bar helps you quench your thirst at the end of the day (1500 E. College Drive – 507-532-3224).
4. Mariachi Fiesta. Warning, this is authentic Mexican food, if you’re like my grandpa who thought ketchup was “too spicy,” you may want to move on down the list. But if you’re a veteran of Mexican cuisine and enjoy a little spice, Rosa and her staff have you covered with fajitas, tacos and enchiladas along with other less-mainstream Mexican dishes packed with so much flavor that you’ll feel like you’re dining at that incredible hole-in-the-wall joint that most of the tourists miss in Cancun. I highly recommend the mixed fajitas and a big blue tarantula margarita to wash it all down. Free chips and their homemade salsa hit the table as soon as you do, making for warm south-of-the-border hospitality right in the middle of pheasant country. (www.mariachifiesta.net – 329 W. Main Street – 507-532-2122)
3. The Wooden Nickel Burgers & Brew. Recently under new ownership, the bar food menu was gutted and replaced by an assortment of craft hamburgers so amazing, you’ll say you’re coming back to hunt, but it’s really just to try them all! Plus, with your choice of beef, chicken, bison or portabello mushroom (for you vegetarians out there) as your base, the options are limitless. Where to start? Order up the “Big Q;” it’s a quarter-pound burger topped with another quarter-pound of barbecued pulled pork (the best smell in Marshall when this is cooking in their backyard smoker), a massive onion ring and the Nickel’s secret barbecue sauce. Feeling a little sluggish from last night’s in-town adventures? Give the “Hangover” a try; it’s the staple quarter-pound burger adorned with bacon, a triangle hashbrown, a fried egg and a dollop of hollandaise mayo. Kiss your headache goodbye! (http://marshallmenus.com/woodennickel.html – 448 W. Main Street – 507-532-3875).
2. Brau Bros. Taproom. A new addition to Marshall in 2013, the Brau Bros. Taproom is an ideal post-hunt destination. Their unique sandwiches and burgers incorporate the flavors of their craft brews into each recipe. I highly recommend “The Classic,” a smoked pastrami sandwich that will fill you up, but leave you with a mouthful of rich flavor which will make you think you could easily take down another one (hey, just get it to go: win-win). The best feature of the Taproom is the microbrewery and all the fun brew-ha-ha going on just behind the glass separating those big brewing tanks from your seat – a great deal of that locally-brewed goodness ends up flowing freely from the taps in the signature big red fire engine, brought over from the Brau Bros. home in nearby Lucan. Pick from over 10 staple, seasonal and one-off beers one at a time or in a sampler flight and grab a growler to go filled with your favorite. Bring it back for a refill the next time you visit. (http://braubeer.com/tap-room/ – 910 E. Main Street – 507-929-BEER).
1. Varsity Pub & Extra Innings. Besides being a perennial fundraising partner and sponsor of LCPF, Varsity Pub and Extra Innings help you unwind (or get excited) after a day in the field with their full-service bar and over 17 varieties of beer on tap in a college crowd-meets-sports bar-meets-best damn sandwich no one’s ever heard of restaurant. While visitors might not be familiar with the locally legendary Panino, they’ll leave thinking they’d come back just for another one. These grilled wrap sandwiches stuffed with meats, cheeses, veggies and secret sauces in so many varieties your head will spin are what have made “The Pub” a favorite among SMSU college students, corporate execs, visiting sportsmen, and the rest of the Marshall crowd. Their wings are great too! Combine both and order my favorite Panino – the Buffalo Chicken – a side of their tater tots along with a cold Leinie’s Oktoberfest and a college football game on one of their many screens for a perfect after-hunt dinner. (www.extrainningsmarshall.com – 507-532-4714 – Corner of Main & College).
There you have it; you may want to start your hunting trip on Wednesday night just to get in on all the good eats that Marshall has to offer. For more great tips on where to hunt and where to go when you’re not in the field, bookmark the chapter website, like LCPF on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!