As a native San Diegan who isn’t familiar with cold weather activities, I felt compelled to share this unique outdoor winter activity with you all so that you might want to try it too!
Back in October, my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go with him to his hometown of Hutchinson, MN to meet his family for Christmas. I said definitely, and we started planning and preparing for our week long trip to “Minnesota’s Hometown” of Hutchinson.
When I asked Brady what we could do there, one of his first suggestions was to go ice fishing. (What is that????) As soon as I heard that phrase, literally all I could picture was an Eskimo in a fur-lined parka holding a fishing pole on the ice waiting for a bite. I had never heard of ice fishing before and never knew something so unique could exist in the US! (I am a born and raised San Diegan, so bear with me.) He explained that his uncle and best friend owned “fish houses.” (Whaaaa?) For those of you who have seen Grumpy Old Men (unlike me), you already have a good idea of what a fish house is. This was all 100% foreign to me, and so intriguing! Even though I don’t go very often, I love to fish, and begged him to make sure we could go ice fishing while we were there.
Fast-forward three months later to December 22nd. Brady, his family and I were parked at the edge of Lake Washington, near Hutchinson, bundled up in near zero degree weather, waiting for his uncle to pick us up. On the horizon I could see clusters of “neighborhoods” of little sheds on the massive frozen lake. His uncle picked us up in his Ford F150, which I had no clue could be driven on the ice without cracking through. I was pretty scared/paranoid (borderline hyper-ventilating) knowing that a thin layer of ice, with visible cracks, was separating us from an icy body of water down below. I later found out that the ice was 18 inches thick, which was more than thick enough to be safe, which made me feel a lot better. I had never been on a frozen lake before, so it was truly a new experience!
We pulled up to a cluster of four fish houses, said hello to everyone, joked about the frigid weather and stepped into the house closest to us. I was greeted by a blast of warm air and an ice-cold can of Schmidt’s beer (a Minnesota thing). The ice house had an open porthole in each corner of the floor, where below a large hole was drilled into the bright blue ice. With a heater on one side, some folding chairs and a bench inside, it was a pretty cozy little place. I was surprised to see no fishing poles, but instead fishing lines dropped in each of the four holes, that were connected to reels nailed to the beams in the ceiling of the house. They explained to me that when a fish (most likely a famous Minnesota Walleye) would bite, one would pull up the line with their hands until the fish reached the surface and flopped into the house. This was some interesting stuff!!!
We then made our way to the other fish houses, which each had a pack of beer outside the door, which was kept cold by the below freezing weather- imagine that!! Each house had its own unique feel. One even had a flat screen, with a football game playing, and a pizza in the oven. Every house had at least 3-4 people inside chatting, playing cards or drinking. I could instantly see why this is such a popular thing to do during Minnesota winters. It was a giant party! People passed around blackberry brandy and peppermint Schnapps to keep warm. It was a great way to spend time with family and friends. No fish were caught, but we had a great time that afternoon. I was relieved we didn’t fall through the ice and was definitely sad to head home.
Minnesota was a beautiful place and I couldn’t help but imagine how beautiful the trees and lakes would be during the summer and fall months. There is so much to see, including the famous Mall of America, the Twin Cities (I preferred St. Paul because it had an old-time, classic American feel) and the University of Minnesota, to name a few. We even made it to a Famous Daves! I have to hand it to the Minnesotans, they definitely know how to make the most out of the coldest of situations. San Diego is a beautiful place, but every city has it’s own charming attributes, and I loved meeting Brady’s family and discovering a new place. Ice fishing was a really fun experience which made me appreciate Minnesota culture much more. If you ever come across the opportunity to go ice fishing, or visit Minnesota for that matter, take it! Let me know of your thoughts on the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes and your experiences ice fishing!
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