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New angles on Northland ice-fishing traditions

With help from Michelle Malecha, Anthony Teskey, 6, of Duluth jigs a minnow Wednesday while ice fishing on Fish Lake. This was the first time ice fishing for Teskey. Clint Austin/

Ice and anglers; friends and family; new experiences and passing on traditions -- combinations that go well together.

On a recent day, Brian Teskey of Duluth brought his 6-year-old son, Anthony, to Fish Lake.

"This is his first time ice fishing," Brian said between drilling holes through the lake's ice.

The younger Teskey is starting ice fishing at about the same age his father did.

"I've been ice fishing since I was about 5," said the elder Teskey, 43, who grew up in Terrace Bay, Ontario.

Ice fishing then meant snow machine trips 20 miles or more into the bush, his dad breaking trail with his Arctic Cat, his uncles following on their Ski Doos.

"We would make a fire on the ice -- the moms and kids -- and eat good food while the guys filled the lake with holes," Teskey said.

Anthony's introduction to ice fishing was less adventuresome, but perhaps no less fun. A car ride to Fish Lake, a quick stop at Hi Banks Resort, and then a short drive on a plowed road to a fishing spot dotted with permanent fishing shelters. Anthony, watched by personal care attendant Michelle Malecha, played with a snow shovel and a second ice auger as his father set up a portable shelter, drilled two holes and readied a fishing rig for his son. When asked if he was looking forward to fishing, Anthony nodded his head emphatically.

"There's so much for him to take in out in the outdoors," Brian said.

"Catch one yet?" Brian asked later, walking from two outside holes to the ice house.

"No," Anthony replied.

"Keep wiggling it around," his father said, putting the term "jigging" into words a 6-year-old novice angler understands.

Brian, who is active in Christian fellowships, is hoping to bring Anthony fishing regularly.

"Life's a struggle for a lot of people," he said. "You're walking through the darkness. The more we connect with nature and in fellowship with others, the more our torch gets lit and the brighter our path becomes. I'm glad we could be out here today."

On the harbor ice off of Duluth's Park Point, friends Dale Dietzmann and Adam Misiewicz, both of Duluth, could agree. The pair has fished the harbor many mornings since ice formed in December.

"I think we've been out every day for the past six. We usually try to get out here about six," Misiewicz said.

"This is so nice -- it's right in town," Dietzmann said. "We can buzz down here quick and fish a couple hours" before going to work.

Dietzmann began ice fishing this spot years ago with an older brother. Misiewicz -- although a longtime summer angler -- is new to ice fishing. He's loving it.

"It's a great hobby to have. You never know what you're going to catch when you come down here," he said.

"The river is cool -- we've caught northerns, perch, walleyes, sturgeons [which they release]," Dietzmann said. "We even caught a muskie. It seems like everything comes through here."

On this day, however, although fish appeared on their depth finder, none were enticed by baited hooks. But Misiewicz still considered the day worthwhile.

"It's a game," he said of fishing. "You can't win them all."