Who, What, Where, Now!
Between the Fishing
Photography by Hailey Tucker and Mark Oliver
Few sports require the patience that goes into ice fishing. Even just the word “sport” generally evokes the expectation of urgency and action. However with fishing, the sportsman is not racing against time or concerned with how quickly the other fishermen fish. Instead he is intentionally spending a day or afternoon taking his time.
Each ice fisherman performs something of a ritual to setup for the day. Every choice, ranging from the spot on the lake to drill to the type of bait to put on the end of each hook, is deliberate. But once the lines are in place, deep below the lake’s frozen surface, there is little else required of the fisherman—other than patience.
The First Annual Magic Reservoir Ice Fishing Tournament was my first time being exposed to the world of ice fishing. I knew there was certainly some action to the sport; that when a trout took to the bait on a hook, things needed to shift and happen rapidly. There would be no waiting for the once-lounging fisherman to hop to his feet and grab whichever pole was bowing and bobbing violently toward the water.
But between those moments, which both begin and end in a matter of seconds, I knew there was a great deal of waiting, and I wasn’t sure why people chose to endure the wait—sometimes in harsh winds and snows—to occasionally catch a fish.
However, after spending Sunday morning and afternoon at the tournament, strolling with my friend Mark Oliver from camp to camp across Magic Reservoir, I began to realize I had the mindset for ice fishing all wrong. The rush of catching fish is part of why over 200 people drove from all over Southern Idaho to fish at Magic, but it is by no means all of it.
Ice fishing seems to have a series of dualities built into it that make the draw to the sport more complex than I imagined. Even though almost every group we approached along our walk would tell us it was a slow day and that the fish weren’t biting, the comment was always followed by someone in the group smiling and saying their own version of, “But that’s really not the point anyway.”
And although everyone we talked to on the lake Sunday was enrolled in the tournament and meant by all means to win it, most of the people weren’t sure what the prizes were and didn’t seem to care much either way. Much like their fishing that wasn’t really about catching fish, from what I could gather, winning was a factor, but that wasn’t really why they were there either.
In my failure to understand the dichotomy of the sport, I turned to Don Hartman, owner of West Magic Resort and organizer of the competition. His explanation for what the draw is made me realize the sport is unique in that the reasons people have for being out there are deeply personalized. Whether someone wants to find time to get away from everything and everyone, or do the opposite and spend quality time with their family or friends, ice fishing can offer both.
“Ice fishing can provide a lot of solidarity if that’s what you want…there’s no pressure. There’s no hype. You’ve got time to kick back and relax if that’s what you want to do,” Hartman said. “But there’s also a lot of camaraderie in ice fishing…You’ll never find an ice fisherman who won’t help you out if you need a hand.”
This helped me understand that for many of the people who spent their weekend on Magic, being there was about having an excuse to do something important to them. Whether it was taking a break from work, spending time outside or just cracking a beer and catching up with old pals, the time spent in between catching fish was something just as valuable as hooking the winning trout.
“Even if you aren’t catching fish, you’ll always catch something—it may just be a buzz,” fisherman Milton Brooks joked.
Sunday’s tournament ended with a fish fry of the trout and perch that had been caught over the weekend and an award ceremony for the winning fisherman. And, as I had come to expect by the end of the day, none of the fisherman looked disappointed when their fish didn’t win. Instead they’d give a hurrah for the winner and then carry on eating and telling each other stories of their day. Some lamented over fishing poles that had been sucked straight down the icy holes, while others laughed about getting their ATVs stuck in the ice. Occasionally I’d hear someone ask how big the winning fish were, but not often. After all—it wasn’t really about winning anyway.
For more information about ice fishing at Magic Reservoir, read The Lure of Ice at http://www.sunvalleymag.com/Sun-Valley-Magazine/Winter-2010/The-Lure-of-Ice/ or visit the West Magic Resort site at http://www.westmagicresort.com/.
Things to Buzz about:
Fourth Annual Kite Soldiers Competition--Thursday, Feb. 24-Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
Take a drive down to Fairfield and see snowkiters from around the world compete in the largest snowkiting event in North America. Competitions over the four days will include poker runs, the North American Snowkite Tour Championship, course racing and freestyle competitions.
Ninth Annual Share Your Heart Ball--Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
The Share Your Heart Ball helps benefit Camp Rainbow Gold. The ball will be held in Sun Valley’s Limelight Room. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The evening will include drinks, hors d’oeuvres, a silent and live auction and dancing to Grooveline, an LA 70s and 80s disco cover band. For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.shareyourheartball.org or call 422-0176.
511 Building Downtown Rail Jam--Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
From 7-10 p.m., swing by the 511 Building parking lot in Ketchum and see local and travleing skiers and snowboarders compete in rail jam. The jam will use a street rail as well as a new feature built by Sun Valley’s Terrain Park crew. DJ Train and fire pits will keep the atmosphere lively, and food and drinks will be for sale on site. The rail jam winners will receive some portion of $1000. The registration deadline for contestants is 6:30 p.m. To register, contact Andy Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org. For viewers, there will be a $10 entry fee.