Thankful Outdoors: Ice Fishing on the Big Eau Pleine

Submitted to OnFocus – The Big Eau Pleine Flowage supports a scene from an ice-fishing romantic comedy watched by many called “Grumpy Old Men.” The shacks filmed in the movie-based out of Wabasha, MN, are relatively simple compared to today’s modern materials.

I find that ice fishermen are often friendly and willing to talk about the bite and “secret” location a bit more than your avid open water fisherman. Will they give up all their intel? Heck no, but they sure are not as tight-lipped about information as the open water guy.

The ice shack city clears off the lake at dusk as fast as the downtown streets of Marshfield empty after 6 p.m., you will have a few loner shacks, and occasionally you will find a glow from a portable shack early into the morning. That shack very well could be yours truly, who is not willing to call it quits just yet.

Listening to the hum of an LP heater, the howl of coyote late at night, along with the cracking sound of ice throughout the night, just kind of puts me in a trance and staring at the screen of my Garmin Striker 4 as I hope to see a big red mark blow up on my lure. I tend to lose track of time, the shack’s warmth. I would instead fall asleep out on the ice than pack up the gear in the cold. It is times like this where silence is almost considered loud. Have you ever heard silence to the point that your ears buzz? When I find that moment in time, I know that I have lost all care in the world, and I am just a speck taking up a little space in the great big outdoors.

The fishing report that I share is not exciting at all. The bite has been slow in two outings; the total fish caught has been two. The locator shows lots of fish chase activity and following the presentation, but they will not commit to a bite of any sort.

The last two outings, though, were still special. One was a trip where Bryce, Connor, and I were able to take the father and son team, Josh, and Landry out fishing. Landry wanted to give it a try, and Josh had not iced fish in about 20 years.

The only fish caught that day was a little perch that showed up on Connor’s underwater camera. We had a few fish show up on camera that day. That technology is pretty neat, and it keeps the kids entertained by having something to watch. Ice fishing with today’s technology is like playing a video game; you have graphs and TV screens that you can watch now.

Even though we did not catch much that day, Landry said he would like to get into the sport, so I will consider the outing a success. Anytime that I can share the outdoors with a rookie and their take away is that this sport is fun, it is always a win in my book.

The next outing is a repeat adventure from last year. Due to the lack of snow, we would not have to wear snowshoes to hike back into the walk-in lake. This outing is beautiful just for the walk itself. Hiking in on horse trail and ice age trail, you find a little lake. Earlier this summer, we took canoe and kayaks into this area and had a great afternoon catching crappie.

We had high hopes of repeating that success on the ice. Dad, Craig, myself, and family friend Brent loaded up packs and a sled with gear. We soon found ourselves on the ice and punched several holes. Brent had never really ice fished, so this was a new adventure for him.

I showed him how to use the Garmin, and his hole was reading all kinds of fish; before Dad even had his line in the water, Brent had caught bluegill. That fish was the only one that was brought to the surface that day.

We started a fire right on the ice for lunch.

Boone enjoyed the afternoon chasing sticks thrown for him. I had to bring my EZ Kut Saw to make firewood; we started a fire on the ice, cooked hotdogs, and enjoyed a couple of cold Keystones. It was a peaceful and relaxing afternoon on the ice. The frost tipped trees that surrounded us gave some gorgeous scenery to look at for the afternoon.

Many of my outdoor adventures end up with little to no harvest to bring home, but I sure do come home with great memories and some of the best looking scenes that you often find in paintings from Terry Redlin.

This weekend of January is the free fishing weekend; here is a link to read about that information. Hopefully, you can get out and enjoy the mild winter weather we have been having before the cold blast hits us. Please be safe on the ice; those conditions will be changing as we had warmer weather this week along with snow cover hitting them again.

Shot Size Diagram

Just a reminder to anyone that is out coyote hunting and that activity will be increasing as we are entering coyote breeding season. The minimum caliber requirements did change. Here is a link to that part of the regulations. What does this mean? In years past, it was common to use buckshot size #4 as a coyote hunter. That shot size is currently illegal to use in Wisconsin when hunting.

In closing, I hope you find a way to get into the outdoors, create your adventure and memories, but most importantly, find a way to “Celebrate the Experience.” Go check out for more content and share your “Celebrate the Experience” moment with us!

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Scott Hopperdietzel
Author: Scott Hopperdietzel

Scott Hopperdietzel is the creator of an outdoor blog named Thankful Outdoors. He shares his passion for the outdoors with readers. The focus of the blog is to “Celebrate the Experience” in his stories; you feel what the connection to the outdoors means to him. His goal is to inspire others to get into the outdoors and create their own experience. Along with writing, he is a father to three boys who are often part of the adventures along with the family Weimaraner, Boone. You can find his writings on the website or follow his social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.