(Lake Mille Lacs, Minn.) Feb. 16, 2017 — This week marks the successful conclusion of the third year of #womenonice with The Women Ice Angler Project on Lake Mille Lacs. With event accommodations at McQuoid’s Inn and on-the-ice roads and service from Mac’s Twin Bay, this media event hit all the goals. This year, a focus on access to those with physical challenges brought special guest team member Ashlee Lundvall on board (@crownandcamo and #aredefinedlife). Author and public speaker, Lundvall used her Action Track all-terrain wheelchair to get around on the ice and snow, though she admitted to apprehension for her first-ever ice fishing adventure.
My goal was to learn everything I could, and I wheeled away with so much more than knowledge,” Lundvall said. “I gained the feeling of teamwork and empowerment, and a desire to help women everywhere (of any ability) experience the thrill of ice fishing. I can’t wait for my next time on the ice.
The “a-ha” moments occur on the ice and frankly, in part because of the ice.
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,” said Bonnie Timm, Clam pro staff angler and participant for all three Women Ice Angler Project media events. “Not long ago it all would have been ‘too big,’ but the confidence I’ve gained has helped me so much. And my motivation grew even more when I met Ashlee and watched her accomplish so many things. She lives with no fear.
A Barb Carey Media Production under the umbrella of the organization Carey founded, Wisconsin Women Fish, #womenonice utilized the new Big Foot Clam XL6000T hub-style shelter they called “the garage” for Ashlee and her all-terrain wheelchair. With 112 sq. ft. of fishable area, the garage shack panel unzips on the top and one side to hinge open. Access for a wheelchair worked great. “Ashlee could drive right in without a barrier, so then the question became ‘where are we going?’” said Carey. “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 and drill more holes. That’s what makes ice fishing a success.”
Mac’s Twin Bay road system worked great and they built a special bridge this year to cover 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. Several had a Nebulus, a compact bag that inflates from a CO2 canister. The lifeboat provides something to hold on to and makes crawling out possible in a worst-case scenario of breaking through. 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 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.”