SOME ICEMEN are ALL WET!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: March 25, 2024

Whenever I write or present seminars on ice fishing, I brag about what great sports Icemen are. They are sharing, friendly, and helpful. No other group of fishermen are better sports. That’s a great thing in case something goes wrong.

In some of my recent Ice Fishing articles, a few readers would rather debate the thickness of ice or tease others about being naive or inexperienced. They often belittle a guy that is trying to find out where they might safely ice fish. If they ask how thick the ice is they respond, “go there, and use a ruler”, or “you can drive a car on 3 inches of ice”, or “North is not South”, or “we had to figure it out on our own, do the same”. It’s like a challenge to see who can fish on the thinnest ice, leave their shanty out the longest, or put down others that ask for help and information. These are not the kind of fishermen that make great Icemen. Fortunately, they are not in the majority of fishermen. 

Montana is a BIG state and ice lakes are not always a close drive. Having safe and recent info helps Icemen plan a safe trip. Sharing info is not a crime. Every fisherman is at a different point in their fishing evolution. Just because you name a lake, lure, bait, depth, or place does not mean they will catch anything. 

Years ago, we were ice fishing at Ennis Lake. Conditions that year were like this year. On this day, we were catching trout near the lake’s open channel. I remember looking at my line angling down the hole as the stronger current pulled it. The ice was 10 inches thick where we were but was getting thinner as you got closer to the open water. The lake’s edge required a long 2×6 to bridge the melted edge.

One guy was maybe 10 yards off the ice edge. We yelled howdy from a safe distance and he made no response other than a dirty look. He had drilled a cluster of 3 holes that would fit into a 4×4 foot area. His Vexilar was in the middle hole. He had a couple fish on the ice and was into another. As he leaned forward, the ice in front of him gave way and he was gone. 

My buddy and I saw him disappear and then pop up in the cold open water channel. He had to travel several yards under the ice to reach the open channel and was screaming for help and gasping for air. If you have ever done a Polar Bear Plunge, you know how he felt. Not only was he soaked, freezing, and weighted down with gear, the river current was taking him down river. 

We did not want to get close to the ice edge so instead, I threw my safety rope, attached to a jug. My first toss led him perfectly and he grabbed the orange jug with both hands. My buddy and I began to pull him to the edge of the ice. Once on the edge, we had him kick his legs and get parallel to the ice. Several feet of the ice edge broke until it was thick enough to support his weight. 

The wet Iceman was named Cody. We put him onto my ice sled and dragged him to my truck. I started the truck and cranked up the heat. Next, I gave Cody a towel. As he stood on my truck floor mat, he stripped down and dried off. He put on a pair of old Sears coveralls that I had in my truck for emergencies. After 30 minutes in the heated truck, Cody was getting his senses back. He bragged about liking to fish alone when the ice was just starting to form or about to melt off. “That’s the best fishing of the season!”

I gave Cody my contact information and he asked us to retrieve his gear. He jumped into an old Chevy truck and was on his way home. None of his gear was left on the ice. The Madison River took it all. I never heard from Cody again. 

What if Cody was completely alone? Who would have pulled him out? Was fishing sketchy ice worth the risk? Are there any fish in Montana worth dying over? Would Cody have helped another fisherman at risk? Fortunately a couple Icemen were close by to pull in the biggest lunker of the season. 

I miss my old Sears coveralls. 

Montana Grant

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