Peppermint Schnapps is not worth the deprivation
Ice fishing promotions can lead to prostitution, an Ohio mayor declared. He has just announced his resignation. Others may have tittered about this statement, but they probably have never been ice fishing.
I can understand it.
My ice fishing experience was at a professional meeting in northern Minnesota. I thought we were having a business meeting, and I was the only woman in attendance, having traveled several hours from the Twin Cities. The meeting was called to order, there was no business to discuss, and adjourned within one-half hour. That was enough time to finish our coffee.
Finishing my coffee was my first mistake.
I had driven to the meeting because I heard rumors of post-meeting ice fishing, had never been ice fishing, and well, this was counted as a workday. I was concerned there were no other women in attendance.
Two colleagues with a pick-up truck with two rows of seats assigned me to a back window seat and handed me a pair of ice picks.
I thought they were joking. They weren’t.
I was instructed to roll down my windows, and they explained that in the event the ice cracked and gave way, we would climb out the window. It was best to lie flat on the ice to distribute your weight, and the picks were to help grip the ice and not fall into the very cold water.
The large lake had roads plowed on the ice and the shanties were distributed in rows, like blocks in a small town. It was a small town on ice.
We didn’t have a shanty, we just had an ice auger and fishing poles and tackle box and bait. People who use a shanty might use a tip-up rig, which is essentially a flag that goes up when the line gets pulled from below. The tip-up rig allows for the important business of ice fishing, which is drinking. The booze of choice is something disgusting, like peppermint schnapps.
I had brought my fishing pole but realized most experienced ice fisher people had short poles, and a strainer for keeping the hole cleared of slush which could freeze. The strainer looks like a perforated soup ladle.
So there we were standing around a few holes, two male colleagues and me. I had worn a winter coat and my stylish boots. They wore serious heavy-duty fleece-lined rubber boots and Carhart-style coveralls and parkas.
The conversation went like this: “Got any bites?”
The real trial came when one had to pee. We are in the middle of lake ice, wind-swept and not close to any shanties, the shore on the distant horizon. The guys just turned their backs. I realized I was in for hours of increasing my bladder capacity to the point of pain. I refused all offers of coffee from their thermoses or peppermint schnapps.
I had shanty envy. In a shanty, one could have a gas heater and even beds. Some shanties are like little vacation homes. I bet they had porta-potty-type latrines. You didn’t need a refrigerator, you could just keep food on the ice.
I would have given anything for a heater and a latrine. Anything. Does that count as prostitution, if the goods exchanged are not in cash?
After an unbelievably long time, while one of my colleagues caught and threw back a couple of small fish, we returned to the truck. I vowed I would never go ice fishing again. Some parts of life don’t need gender equality. Garrison Keillor posed that ice fishing was a way for the old guys to escape their women in mid-winter. It can stay that way.