As the temperature drops in the winter and the lakes and ponds freeze over, many can be found ice fishing in order to survive as a means of sustenance. It was a way to get through the long, cold winter months where other food was more difficult to harvest.
The origin of ice fishing is not certain, but it is believed that people began in the late 1600’s with history books telling us stories of natives from North America, Canada, and Northern Asia.
Fisherman chipped away at the thick layers of ice in the frigid temperatures using whatever sturdy tools they had or could find in order to make an opening.
Natives would spread out leaves and then cover themselves with tents. Tents were made of many different materials and different sizes, depending on what environment they were located in. There were usually two types. One was seven foot tall and one was prone. Tents were usually set up a day in advance in order for stakes to freeze into the ice. Frames and branches were covered with canvas and blankets.
European and colonial travelers learned the use of decoys as tools for fishing through the ice from the Great Lakes natives. These decoys were made from resident wood and were carved into replicas of the types of fish found in the lakes. Some natives if talented enough would also carve frogs, muskrats, and birds that the local fish were known to eat. Amazingly, there has been documentation of early examples of decoys from the Eskimos believed to be more than 1,000 years old.
Spears were used through the opening in order to secure those that would swim around the decoys. Fishing spears would vary in size and length depending on what the size of the tent they were using and the scope of fish the Natives were hoping to catch.
The ancient migration patterns of earliest North Americans suggest a southern, perhaps Great Lakes-area of origin for various details that have been borrowed and adapted from elsewhere to the north. Tribal people frequently borrowed ideas from other places and groups they contacted and may even produce innovations, which are borrowed back by the very groups where the original idea originated.
Many people today use the same techniques and skills that were used after 1650.