We decided to head three hours north to escape this year’s mild Sapporo winter and try out some ice fishing on Lake Shumarinai. This was unknown territory for everyone in our group, so we had the facilities at the lake set us up with a rental tent, simple rods, and bait. Our main objective would be just staying warm enough to keep our fingers and toes from falling off. Of course, when we departed Sapporo at 3:00 AM, mother nature decided to make up for a month long snow drought by dumping about two feet of snow just as we were escaping the metro area. It was slow going. Temperatures by the early morning were hovering around -22 C, and I was already pretty cold before we even got all our gear from the staff at the lake.
Around 7:00 we had our sled loaded up with a simple bottomless popup tent, three incredibly short reel-less rods, a few bait boxes filled with maggoty grubs, and all the rest of our personal gear. We chose some pre-drilled holes just a short hike away, and quickly set up our tent, got a small gas stove burning, and tried to settle in for some frigid fishing.
Unfortunately our river fishing skills didn’t seem to translate out on the ice. After about 3 hours, with some assistance from a wandering staff member from the rental center, our friend managed to haul in 6 wakasagi, my wife 1, and me – nothing. That’s not a good day, especially when groups often bring in over 100+ of the tiny tempura dish fish. The rental staff took pity on us and gave us a ziplock of about 30 fish as we dejectedly returned our gear.
Despite our skunking, the day was still young and we took advantage of the blue skies to get the blood flowing with a snowshoe trek across the lake. The ride home was made more bearable with a stop for soft ice cream and a quick dip in an onsen. Better luck next time! (Which there will be, ice fishing poles are in our Amazon cart as I write this!)