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Get Off My Ice Hole: The Shanty Wars

Updated on April 9, 2015

It’s February, and in South Central Wisconsin, the weather this time of year is usually very cold, and very snowy. We have been fortunate this year in that our winter has been mild. With the exception of a few minor winter storm systems, we have remained relatively snow-less with mild temperatures. A week ago, I was visiting with my boyfriends mother, as she had recently had surgery and returned home just a few days prior. On that particular day, it was sunny, and in the 30s. I looked out the back window which overlooks her lawn, trees, and beautiful Lake Kegonsa; beautiful for its scenery, although the water leaves something to the imagination. It’s kind of green and murky- and smelly in the summer. As I was admiring the scenery a movement caught my eye. I stood up and walked to the back door to get a closer look. Out on the semi-frozen lake was a man on a three-wheeler, with a long rope tied to the back and dragging an ice shanty behind him. I chuckled to myself. It was quite a sight. For a girl who grew up in Wisconsin, I am used to seeing such things, but for some reason, on this day, it struck my funny bone.

I started laughing and asked my boyfriend “Do you suppose they ever argue and fight over territory out there on the ice?”

He shook his head, he didn't know, and neither did his mother.

Hmm… I thought to myself – Like in the movie Grumpy Old Men, do they fight?

I was so curious. I could just picture it. These grizzly, old men, sitting hunched over on their turned-over ice buckets and makeshift chairs, pole dangling in the water, cup of brandy and coffee in one hand, waiting to catch the “big one”. Then suddenly, the line jerks, and a fishing pole gets sucked down into that tiny hole, barely big enough to fit a decent sized fish. The neighbor, 5 feet away, in his own shanty, begins to curse as he yanks his pole up and reels in…. wait for it …his neighbors pole which was sucked down the hole moments ago. A shouting match ensues. “What the @#%?! Keep your %&@$ pole in your own blanket y-blank-blank-blank!”

What about in the beginning of the season, when the men are out “pitching” their shanties. Where to go? This is a strategic thought process you see. As in the business of real estate; location is everything, so the same goes for the placement of the ice fishing shanty. It’s important not to be too far out in the middle of the lake. When it's time to walk back to the truck at lunch time, you don’t want to have to walk for more than 20 minutes. And what about the winter winds? Do the fish bite more in shallow or deep water? Does that pattern remain the same from season to season?

When the perfect spot is found, the men have to rush back to their trucks and bring on the ice shanties. Being quick about this is important because if LeRoy sees Norman eying up his prime spot, then it becomes a race. Men have to have it first you know. Not only first, but it has to be the best…the best truck, the best fishing pole, the best three-wheeler, the best ice get the point.

Can you picture it? LeRoy and Norman both sliding and trying to run across the ice back to their trucks to get the shanties. They both push each other, grumbling along the way. They both get the shanties out on the ice at the same time, hence it becomes a game of who can out-wit the other.

Do you remember the scene from the movie Grumpy Old Men? John is sitting peacefully in his shanty, listening to some music, and chilling in his prime space. Something bumps his shanty so he looks down and notices, his ice hole is moving, then suddenly the ice shanty starts speeding across the ice. He swings open the shanty door and looks out to find his best “frenemy” is pushing the shanty with his truck. His buddy runs the shanty onto thin ice where it begins to sink. Fortunately, John gets out in time. And his friend was mad at him over a woman, and not territory. Well actually, that was sort of a territory issue.

I asked a local ice-fisherman about problems with “neighbors” while out fishing. He said most guys are laid back, except when one man puts his shanty too close to another one. Then it becomes an issue of getting lines tangled up (like my previous example) and just being too close in general. Apparently, comments can fly at that point, but they tend to be along the lines of “hey, you wanna tip up your pole here too while you’re at it?”

Noise level is something to also be considered. Scaring the fish is off limits, although I surmise that things get a little noisy when the beer starts getting passed around.

Seriously though, ice fishing is a fun sport. I have not been for years, but from what I remember, it is fun. I wish the best of luck to all of you out there who enjoy fishing, and in honor of all fisherman, I’d like to share some quotes that I found.

“Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming.” ~John Steinbeck

“All fishermen are liars; it's an occupational disease with them like housemaid's knee or editor's ulcers. “ ~Beatrice Cook, Till Fish Do Us Part, 1949

“There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.” ~Paul O'Neil, 1965

“There's a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” ~Steven Wright

(Quotes in this hub found at


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    • collegedad profile image

      collegedad 5 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      When we moved back to the Upper Peninsula I told my daughter that I'd take her ice fishing. Her response "Why do we have to go catch ice? It's right there in the freezer".

    • smarter4ever profile image

      smarter4ever 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Hi moonlake, thank you for reading my hub! You can appreciate the humor in this article, from what you indicated. Too funny about your husband and son not getting their favorite spot. I remember when I went ice fishing, it was a long time ago, and it did get really cold. That's why I prefer to fish in late spring through early fall. Temps are good then. :-)

    • smarter4ever profile image

      smarter4ever 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Hi Kristin! Good to hear from you and I hope all is well! I live about 20 minutes south of Madison, so we actually live fairly close. Maybe sometime we can meet for coffee. If you're interested send me an email:-)

      I have been shocked at the number of ice shanties out on the ice on our lake the past few weeks with the mild temperatures! And I did not see the three-wheeler fall through, but we usually get at least one person per year who does fall through the ice. I'm glad you found it humorous. I had fun writing it. I'm actually in the early chapters of writing my first novel, and just finished a short childrens story (working on illustrations now). Quite a learning experience, and very enjoyable.

      I plan to read more of your hubs this week/weekend, and am looking forward to it! Keep in touch! Melinda

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      My husband and sons went to an ice fishing jamboree on Saturday just down the road from our house. My husband talked all week about how they had to get a good spot on the ice for the shanty. Well, when my husband came back from the jamboree he complained that our son hadn't found their spot soon enough and someone had taken their good spot where the cribs are.

      Believe me when they talk about this stuff my eyes start to cross, I get so sick of listening to it. I hate ice fishing! I use to go when I was young and I hated it than I would crawl in the truck and go to sleep.

      They take food on the ice and have grills setup and lots of drinks. It's a fun day for them. The ice is good here yet but won't be for long.

      Voted UP

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      I have always been very curious about the allure of ice-fishing; it seems crazy too me. I'm probably not too far from you (north of Chicago) and it has seriously been a very mild winter. The ice fishermen are probably going crazy, sort of golfers during rain-soaked summers. You painted a funny picture and hopefully the guy on the three-wheeler didn't fall through.