The Call of the Wild
Walleye and sauger weren’t the only fish out of water during this one-of-a-kind ice-fishing excursion.
By Elizabeth Ginns Britten — March 2005
Let’s clear a few things up, right off the bat.
Number one: I’m an urban dweller. I live in New York City, and I like crowds and noise. Number two: I hate being cold. Number three: I have an incredibly vivid imagination, which often gets the best of me. So when I was in PMY editor-in-chief Richard Thiel’s office, kicking around ideas with coworkers about where my annual fishing trip for the sportfishing issue would take place, I surprised even myself.
“What about Mexico?” one editor asked; “Hawaii?” queried another. “Nah,” I retorted. “I’ve never been ice fishing. That’d be fun.” Which brings me to number four: I often have ideas that sound great at first but end up going awry. More on this later.
Moments after that meeting, I was on the phone with PMY Midwest sales rep and ice fisherman Tim Schmitt. We immediately began organizing our trip to the Sportsman’s Lodge, located on Lake of the Woods in Baudette, Minnesota, just south of the Canadian border and 70 miles northwest of International Falls, the coldest city in the United States. Then Schmitt bailed, leaving me—a 5'1" city girl—to fend for myself in the wilds of northern Minnesota.
My adventure really began at the Minneapolis airport, where I met pilot Taylor Huether of Cirrus Design (see “Fancy Dancy Avionics,” this story). The original plan was to fly me into Baudette’s municipal airport, where I’d meet up with Sportsman’s Lodge’s owner, Gregg Hennum. But an ice storm the previous night in Baudette made it impossible to land there, so Huether said we’d fly into Warroad airport, where I’d pick up a car and drive to the Sportsman’s Lodge myself. Sounded great.
We took off, no problem. Yet, as the sun set, I began to notice the utter lack of street lights, cars, houses, and other signs of urban life on the ground below. We landed, and Bruce Thompson (better known as The Airport Guy), took my luggage out to the car. And that’s when the terror set in.
The car was a rusted, dented, circa-1981 Oldsmobile with rinky-dink tires and a plug dangling out from the hood. The interior was even less promising: wiring falling out of places it generally shouldn’t (the door and dashboard), 181,000 miles on the odometer, and burn marks in the seats. Although the ride was free (go figure) and, as such, quite gracious of Thompson, this was officially the least road-worthy car I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Worse, I had to drive the thing alone, through the ice and dark, with no cellphone reception—and nobody seemed bothered by this except me. “Someone just filled ‘er up, I think. The gauges inside don’t work, but you’ll be fine,” Thompson assured me with a genuine smile. Though I appreciated the hospitality, I was sure this tin can was going to be my death sentence.
Next page > Part 2: I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked into the welcoming lobby, with people gathered around the fireplace laughing and relaxing to the gentle hum of Christmas carols on the stereo. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4
This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.