We have entered the micro-season of “Fish Rise From the Ice”. This is the last micro-season of the mini season of First Spring. Each of the micro-seasons is about five days in length and highlights a slight change in the natural environment. The micro-seasons contained within First Spring are:
- Spring Winds Thaw the Ice (Feb 4.- Feb 8)
- The Nightingale Sings (Feb. 9 – Feb 13)
- Fish Rise From the Ice (Feb 14-Feb 18)
These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai. These micro-seasons are specific to the climate of Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean that it isn’t applicable to others. They can become a starting point for a personal exploration into the world around you.
This micro-season refers to the time when the ice on the rivers, lakes, and ponds, begin to crack and the fish begin to jump. This might be the case for the southern parts of the United States, or in parts of Japan, but for us in the northern parts of the United States the only fish emerging from the lake are a result of ice fishing.
For those who are unfamiliar with ice fishing, it is the term used to described the process of fishing on frozen waterways. The basic scenario is that you would head out to your favorite lake or pond, covered with at least 3.5 or 4 inches of ice, then drill a hole in the ice and drop your line in. Some people bring folding chairs and sit around the hole in the ice. Others build, or buy, ice shanties so they can fish “indoors”.
In Vermont, new regulations went into effect that allow you to fish for salmon and bass between January 1 through March 15. Other fish that are often caught during this season include: northern pike, lake trout, walleye, and panfish.
Panfish is another term for fish that rarely exceed 10 inches in length. Fish in this grouping include bluegill, redbreast sunfish, rock bass and black and white crappie.(1) Because of their relatively small size they are perfect for a 12 inch frying pan.
The tradition of ice fishing started with the indigenous people living in the colder northern climates. The historians at the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre in Ontario, Canada state:
“Ice fishing was first employed by First Nations and other subarctic/arctic cultures around the globe. The Ojibwa used ice chisels to chip holes in the ice. Early on they employed the spear fishing technique.”(2)
Although the use of fishing poles can be traced back 4,000 years, it wasn’t until late 1700s, or early 1800s, that the rod and reel became a common tool.(3)
In the 1900s, the tip-up jig became widely available. This jig, along with the shortened ice fishing pole, helped make ice fishing a common winter activity. This shortened pole is important because it allows the fisherman to reel in the fish and look into the hole in the ice at the same time.(2)
The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources reports a steady increase in the number of people interested in fishing over the past several years.(3) For those looking for more information about how to get involved with ice fishing, Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department created a Virtual Ice Fishing Clinic that has information on topics ranging from ice safety to how cooking your catch.
Your location may have its own rules and guidelines around ice fishing, so make sure you check in with you local fishing experts before heading out on the ice.
Poems about Fishing
In my research I wasn’t able to find any poems about ice fishing. However, William Butler Yeats did write this wonderful poem about fishing that seemed relevant.
“The Fish” By William Butler Yeats
Although you hide in the ebb and flow Of the pale tide when the moon has set, The people of coming days will know About the casting out of my net, And how you have leaped times out of mind Over the little silver cords, And think that you were hard and unkind, And blame you with many bitter words.
Then there is this short poem by an anonymous author called “No Seeking, No Losing”.
“No Seeking, No Losing” by Anonymous
An old philosopher in China Spent all his life in angling; He thought that there was nothing finer Than having his line dangling; He used no bait, he caught no fish Early or late — 't was not his wish.
This second poem seems to be closer to the reality of all my fishing experiences.
If you have any favorite ice fishing or fishing poems feel free to share them below.
- Vermont Fish and Wildlife: Ice Fishing Opportunities
- Red Lake Museum: Fish Stories: Ice Fishing
- Boulder County Open Space: A Brief History of Fishing
- Vermont Fish and Wildlife: Fishing Report January 29, 2021
- Vermont Fish and Wildlife: Ice Fishing Basics
- William Butler Yeats; “The Fish”: Poetry Foundation
- Anonymous; “No Seeking, No Losing”: Found in The Humbler Poets (Second Series): A Collection of Newspaper and Periodical Verse 1885 to 1910 by David Wallace
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I grew up in Wisconsin where plenty of men seemed to love ice fishing. Didn’t appeal to me so never tried it. “No Seeking, No Losing” made me smile.
Hi Tracy, I been ice fishing 3 times in my life. All before I turned 18. I really enjoyed “No Seeking, No Losing” too. It comes from a really interesting book that contains a bunch of anonymous poems published in newspapers. Kind of fascinating!
That book sounds cool…what’s the title?
The Humbler Poets (Second Series): A Collection of Newspaper and Periodical Verse 1885 to 1910. I found this version through Google books. I wasn’t able to find the exact same version at any booksellers.
Mark, I have many poems about fly-fishing but know of none that deal with sitting on the hard water & tending a line. Not sure why that is… Ice fishing seems to have a certain Zen-like appeal, poetically speaking, but I’ve tried it only once. Thanks for bringing another interesting “angle” to the table.
Hi Walt, thanks for your comment. Interestingly, yesterday I came across a Jack Kerouac haiku that feels very much aligned with ice fishing:
America: fishing licenses
Perhaps it is a good haiku for most fishing activities?
Congratulations on the book! Talk soon,
Never tried ice fishing and I’m not even sure if it’s a thing around these parts. Lots of fly fishing, however, and the West Fork of the Dolores River (not too far from where I live) is actually a pretty good spot (tried fly fishing once there, loved it, caught nothing, almost slipped in the river and drowned…all in all, a good day!). I’m not sure if I’m cut out for ice fishing, to be honest–I dislike cold weather with a passion, and I figure if I were going to be spending hours on a frozen lake, I’d rather try playing hockey instead. 😀 I tried searching for ice fishing poetry and had no luck, either. I thought for sure Robert Frost would have something since he was a New Englander, but no luck. At any rate, this was an interesting and informative article. Nice work as always, Mark. 🙂
Hi Mike, I also thought I could find something from Frost about ice fishing. I was surprised when I couldn’t. I bet there is some reference somewhere, it is just buried in some other poem. I hope all is well. Talk soon,