Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Iced out

Ice fishing can be fun. Right?

By Mark Taylor

“Ice fishing?”

The text popped up the other day, a week into the unusually frigid spell that had gripped much of the continental U.S.

“I don’t think so,” I replied.

I’m usually up for just about any kind of fishing, especially if options are limited. And with local rivers slushy and icy, options the past couple weeks have been limited.

But ice fishing has been frustrating.

Although Western Virginia isn’t traditional ice fishing country, we usually get a short window every few years.

During one of those windows, maybe a dozen years ago, a buddy and I headed out with a couple of my girls’ 2-foot-long Cinderella fishing poles and actually caught a few chain pickerel. It was fun.

The next time we got fishable ice I was eager to give it another shot. Another buddy and I went a few times, trying different small lakes and ponds in the area. We got skunked. And cold.

A few years ago it was more of the same. We got really good ice but our one trip turned into a long, cold day with no fish. I’m fine getting skunked, but I at least want to give myself a chance.

An added challenge with ice fishing in Virginia is that many of the small, public ponds and lakes that tend to offer safe ice are stocked with catchable-sized trout. Legally, anglers are allowed to fish with only a single line in such designated stocked waters.

Ice fishing with a single line is tough. Typically, you are better off drilling a lot of holes and then putting out a bunch of tip-ups.

Not that fishing with tip-ups has proven any better. I actually picked up a few after that first success and tried them on a few non-stocked waters, but with no success.

“So, we give up just because we struggled a few times?” my friend wondered the other day.

He had a point. Fishing is about optimism. We can’t just give up when things get tough.

“Maybe next week,” I relented.

But then the weather warmed up.

And I’m OK with that.

Mark Taylor is Trout Unlimited’s eastern communications director. He lives in Roanoke, Va., in the heart of Appalachian trout country.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.