Living On the Ice
By Mike Bliss

In the old days of the 50s and 60s, we used to almost live on the ice in the winter time. Things have changed so much since then, that those days are all but forgotten. I can remember waiting for the weekend to come to be able to go ice fishing as if I were waiting for Christmas. My father and I would spend all week long getting our tackle, shanty and other trappings ready for the big week end. Saturday morning started with a good breakfast, bacon, toast and eggs that were cooked in the bacon drippings, (yum-yum). We then loaded all of the tackle and ourselves into the car and readied ourselves for a one hour ride to Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron, now designated as the Walleye Capital of the world. But, at that time in my life we were concentrating on the Yellow Perch, and lots of them. There was no size or creel limit at that time.

One of the most entertaining parts of the trip was when we arrived at the parking lot on the ice. We would get all of our tackle and home made shanty out of the trunk of the car and pile it out on the ice. We would then wait for the 36 Chevy doodle bug pulling a set of bob sleighs with a flat rack on top to pick us up. Believe it or not the guy had the nerve to charge us 25 cents per person to take us to the fishing grounds located about 4 miles out on the bay. I jest about the charge for the ride we would have paid twice that amount for the experience. The chance to talk to other fishermen and exchange tactics was invaluable and I always made new friends during the trip.

It seems that times were more laid back in those days and a day of relaxing on the ice was very enjoyable. Our parents always made sure that we were enjoying ourselves while we were on the ice. We took a pair of ice skates with us and could always find a friend to skate with. In fact, the area Chamber of Commerce would flood a large area, on the ice for the kids to skate on while their parents fished. I remember fishing more than ice skating. I almost forgot, one of the best things that were made available to us out in the middle of the Saginaw Bay ice town was hot food. Thatís right; there was a trailer that someone converted into a food wagon. They had chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and the best coffee and hot chocolate that you have ever tasted.

After a day on the ice, usually from daylight to dark we were exhausted. I, now, feel sorry for my Dad, having to get in the car and make that long drive home after being on the ice all day long. If we werenít too tired we would always stop at a certain restaurant and get a quart of the best buttermilk you have ever tasted, and by the time we were home it was gone. It was so rich; there were large pieces of butter floating in the milk. I can only wish that things were as they were way back then. The advent of snowmobiles and ATVs has taken the fun out of the bob sleigh ride and no one seems to want to set up food trailers on the ice, probably because everyone scatters to all corners of the lakes.

If any of you find a place like I described in this article, please let me know. Iíd love to take just one more sleigh ride.

Mike Bliss is the advertising manager at the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He has been a licensed charter Captain since 1980 on all five Great Lakes and has guided elk, deer, and ice fishing trips in Michigan for over 30 years. Any comments or questions can be e-mailed to Mike at or by calling the journal office at 207-732-4880.

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