In a warm tent in the middle of a snowscape on a frozen Manitoba lake, Lee Nolden says there’s something about ice fishing that renews the soul.
“I’m not a big churchgoer, because typically in the winter I’m fishing on Sunday morning,” he said.
“But for me, just being out in that environment … I would say it’s a spiritual thing for me, watching the sun come up over the lake, being one with nature, experiencing the elements.”
The former fishing and hunting guide, nicknamed “the godfather of Lake Winnipeg” in the ice fishing community, got into the sport in 1970s Minnesota, at a time when ice fishing meant trekking on foot through snow onto the ice, chewing a hole through it by hand with a manual auger and spending the next few hours sitting on an upside-down bucket.
Since transplanting to Manitoba 35 years ago, he’s watched the sport evolve, so that today’s ice fishers are armed with sonar fish finders, power augers, heaters, pop-up tents and more.
“It’s more accessible for people. The equipment has changed so drastically now, with some of our fish finders and depth finders that we use, the rods and reels that we use, the line that we use,” he said.
“An average family can go out and have a reasonable expectation of catching fish.”
He’s also seen it grow alongside summer fishing, expanding to include young people, kids and women throughout the province.
“Not that many years ago, it was mostly grumpy old men.… Now it’s young people, families. I see kids that are in high school out on their own, doing their own thing, because they like to fish,” he said.
“It’s a great thing for the sport, I think.… It kind of validates what I like, that…