An Icy Celebration


a photo essay by Hannah Stonehouse Hudson
(text by Mark Strand)

Although it might appear to separate you from the fish, a sheet of ice actually makes them more accessible in many ways, to the adventurous souls who revel in crisp winter air and don’t let the little matter of punching holes matter.

Apologies to those who worship shrines like Lambeau Field and Soldier Field, but the frozen tundra cannot compete with frozen agua if you want to participate, rather than spectate, and you can always listen to the ballgame on the radio. Fingers might struggle, at times, to do what they are asked, but if you want to be the offensive coordinator, modern ice fishing is your canvas and you are a bundled up Vince Lombardi.

Photo: Stonehousephoto
Photo: Stonehousephoto

Some say that fish are sluggish under a layer of ice, pulsing in the grips of water that tops out at 39 degrees above zero, but if you take part in the sport, you know that a red line on a flasher can be moved to excitement by continuing to do what you were doing when it came in, and raising the rod, bit by bit, until the fish ends the dance with a barely detectible tick and your wrist raises enough to snug the line and the tussle feels just as good now as it does on the finest evening in July.

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Although there are rough edges on us and on everything we own, including the windows on the back of our toppers, on most days we manage to grill brats on the ice without needing first aid. Here’s to that. And to the fact that the same fingers currently holding the tongs and flipping brats were doing a respectable job of pounding a jig, Genz-style, a half hour ago.

The fish in one of the buckets were caught by those fingers.

Photo: Stonehousephoto
Photo: Stonehousephoto

Among those who lived almost half the year atop this gnarly surface and reeled fish after fish through a hole in the ice was Jim Hudson, one of our friends who will be forever missed and who is featured in these splendid pictures, taken by one of the best in the business, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson.

As we celebrate the start of another ice-fishing season, here’s to Jim’s spirit, and the genuine camaraderie felt when iceheads gather. Let ‘em make fun of us. If they ever find out how much fun it is, the ice will get so crowded we’ll probably look for something else.