The big news during the past week in the ice fishing world is the Tuesday morning incident in which nearly 30 anglers were rescued from an ice floe on Lake Superior in Duluth after the wind switched and the ice broke loose from the shoreline.

Alerts had been issued in preceding days warning anglers to stay off the ice.

Everyone was rescued, fortunately, but thousands of dollars worth of fishing gear – an honest guess, given the price of fishing equipment – was left behind on the ice. As John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune, a Forum Communications newspaper, reported, some gear was retrieved, but much of it appeared to be sinking into Superior’s icy depths.

A spectacular drone video making the rounds on Facebook put the extent of the loss into perspective.


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Last week, I wrote about the pain of losing a big fish after a friend lost a huge northern pike at the hole on Lake of the Woods. The fish was easily 40 inches and quite likely more.

I’m guessing many anglers know the pain of losing fishing gear, as well, though hopefully not on the scale – or with the drama – of the incident that occurred this week on Lake Superior.

I definitely know that pain.

Easily the most spectacular lost-equipment incident in my experience occurred in April 2012, when I was part of a four-person crew spending a week in the Florida Keys out of Islamorada, Fla.

We were anchored in relatively shallow water near one of the many highway bridges that connect the keys, and the grouper were cooperating; the wait between bites wasn’t very long.

One of my fishing partners had landed a particularly photo-worthy fish, so I set down my rod to snap a couple of shots.

Rather than put my rod in the holder, which was conveniently placed and would have been easy to do, I leaned it against the gunwale beside me and began snapping photos.

Next thing I knew, the rod rocketed over the side of the boat and flew several feet through the air before disappearing into the depths, most likely with a grouper at the end of the line.

That little “oopsie” cost me about $200, as I recall, and was totally preventable, as lost-equipment encounters usually are.

I’ve also been part of a couple of dandies, both of which had unexpected happy endings.

Two years ago, one of the guys on a snowmobile-in ice fishing trip we took to the Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods lost his Vexilar fishing electronics down the hole. Losing a Vexilar down the hole has to take some serious effort, but somehow, he managed.

I was set up in a portable nearby and heard the incident unfold, including the cackling that ensued when the Vexilar somehow was retrieved from the bottom of the lake.

As far as I know, it still works just fine.

Another time, two friends and I were ice fishing in a permanent house near Oak Island on a blustery day when the fish were biting. One of my fishing partners doesn’t ice fish very often and was using a couple of my ice fishing rods.

Actively fishing one line and watching his electronics, he had a bobber set on his second line, a standard practice on Lake of the Woods during the winter, when two lines are allowed.

The bobber rod was lying unattended when it scooted across the floor of the fish house and eluded capture.

Down the hole it went, never to be seen again; or so we figured.

My friend felt bad about the mishap, but I’d long since retired the old rod and reel so I got a good laugh out of it.

Time has dimmed some of the details, but I’m thinking about an hour had passed when my other fishing buddy in the house hooked into a decent fish.

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Up came a 17-inch walleye ... along with the rod and reel that had disappeared down an adjacent hole maybe an hour earlier.

The walleye went in the bucket, and the rod and reel soon were back in commission.

Losing equipment doesn’t always end well, but the mishap makes for a great story when it does.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken