Women-On-Ice Have Fun, Catch Fish, Conquer Fear at Mille Lacs

All Photo Credits ©Stonehouse Photo – Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

• Women Fish Group Leads Way in Minnesota
• Ice Fishing is Giant Thrill for Lady 1st Timers
• Clam, McQuoid’s Inn, Vexilar – Key Sponsors

By Forrest Fisher

Let’s face it, walking on water is fun for everybody, especially first-time ice anglers and especially when very special travel gear is required to get there.  Folks with a physical mobility challenge rarely have a chance to consider ice fishing, but with The Women Ice Angler Project (http://theiceangler.com/) on Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota and chief ice-fishing mentor, Barb Carey, at the helm, impossible is not in the dictionary.  Anything is possible with Carey, a humble expert angler and founder of the Wi-Women-Fish Group (Wisconsin Women Fish, http://wiwomenfish.com/) and Barb Carey Media Productions (http://www.barbcarey.com/).

For special guest team member, Ashlee Lundvall, an author, public speaker and people motivator, someone who is challenged every day to move about, there was special thrill and excitement with the thought of ice fishing.  Lundvall used her Action Track All Terrain Wheelchair (http://www.actiontrackchair.com) to get around on the ice surface and through the snow.  While the wheelchair unit can travel up to 10 miles at 3-4 mph and is electrical battery powered, after watching Lundvall, some said that the unit is powered by the Lundvall positive attitude engine.  This incredible lady angler is not deterred by adversity.

Lundvall had never been ice fishing before, so receiving an invitation from Carey was very special.  She admits that there was apprehension in consideration of her first ever ice fishing adventure and shared, “My goal was to learn everything I could.  I wheeled away with so much more than knowledge.  I gained the feeling of teamwork and empowerment, and a desire to help women everywhere (of any ability) experience the thrill of ice fishing.”

Bonnie Timm, Clam pro staff angler and participant in all three Women Ice Angler Project events said, “There were so many things I felt were ‘too big’ for me: Mille Lacs was too big, towing my snowmobile seven hours by
myself, hauling all my own gear, even leading our group across a huge ice heave.  Not long ago it all would have been ‘too big,’ but the confidence I’ve gained with this group has helped me so much.  My motivation grew even more when I met Ashlee and watched her accomplish so many things.  She lives with no fear.”

The lady icer’s with short rods and sharp hooks enjoyed accommodations in comfort at McQuoid’s Inn (www.mcquoidsinn.com), with winter service on the ice from Mac’s Twin Bay (www.macstwinbay.com).

The lady icers put the new Clam Big Foot XL6000T (http://clamoutdoors.com/) shelter to good use.  The Clam Big Foot is a hub-style, pop-up weather shelter they used for Ashlee and her Action-Track Wheelchair that provides 112 square feet of fishable area.  Access is via one side that hinges open, allowing easy entry and exit for anglers and a powered wheelchair. “Ashlee could drive right in without a barrier,” said Carey.

Carey adding, “Mille Lacs is a fish structure wonderland with so many places to fish, it was hard to choose from so many options, but with all of our shacks we had the mobility to get where we wanted to drill more holes. That’s what makes ice fishing a success.”

Mac’s Twin Bay road system built a special bridge for the group to allow the lady ice anglers access across a large crack.  While on the move to another side of the lake, the group discovered their own ice heave with open water; that put a lump in everyone’s throat—but the fear didn’t stop them.  Each was schooled in ice safety and carried picks and a throw rope.  They also carried a life-saving Nebulus, a compact bag that inflates from a CO2 canister.

The Nebulus Emergency Flotation Device (https://nebulusflotation.com) is a compact, portable life-saving tool engineered for ice and water rescue.  The Nebulus is small and light enough on a snowmobile or ATV, it inflates in seconds, helping a rescuer reach the victim quickly and pull them to safety. Fully inflated, it can support up to three adults and a submerged snowmobile or ATV.

With no mishaps, these lady anglers forged ahead using common sense and safe ice skills to carry on—and they caught big, healthy walleyes and northern pike.  Even a Tullibee, to win the dinosaur booby prize.

The goal of the Women Ice Angler Project is to encourage women to try ice fishing as well as to mentor those who already enjoy it and want to improve their skills. “The other side of what we’re doing is to move the industry forward showing more women ice anglers,” said award-winning outdoor photographer, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson.  “We’re living this incredible dream, pursuing a sport we love.  It’s good to have the stories and the photos to go with women ice fishing.”

Sponsors have access to high-quality photos for use in their social media and marketing efforts. “We’ve seen photos from previous years’ #womenonice events on product packaging, in tourism brochures, product catalogs, store banners and definitely in lots of social media,” said Rikki Pardun, Clam pro staff angler and the gal to claim the biggest fish of the weekend, a nice Mille Lacs walleye. “We didn’t measure or weigh it, just snapped a picture and released it back.”

Two Clam and Vexilar pro staffers, Shelly Holland of Oak Grove, Minn. and Shantel Wittstruck of Sioux Falls, S.D. participated.  It was year three for Holland and first year for Wittstruck.  Also new this year was Cabela’s pro staffer Karen McQuoid.  Karen and her husband Kevin own Mac’s Twin Bay out of Isle.  “We have something truly special here in this world-class fishery and I had a great time sharing my hometown lake with the team,” said McQuiod.

Special additional thanks for support from Mille Lacs Tourism (millelacs.com), Mugg’s of Mille Lacs (www.muggsofmillelacs.com), the kind folks at Vexilar Marine Electronics (http://vexilar.com/) and Hannah Stonehouse Hudson at Stonehouse Photo (http://hannahstonehousehudson.com/).

During this unusual year of warm winter, the special “a-ha” moments occur on the ice and frankly, in part because of the ice.

Lundvall may have said it best for all the women, “I can’t wait for my next time on the ice.”