How about Olympic ice fishing?


Mar 11, 2001
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Start your augers, time for Olympic ice fishing.

Mark Henckel, Billings Gazette


Alas, watching the Winter Olympics on television has been a bit of a letdown – especially the new, so-called extreme sports.

Where do they come up with this stuff?

It looks like the TV folks got together with the International Olympic Committee and tried to morph “Survivor – The Snow” into “Fear Factor – The Ice” with a heavy dose of “ER – the Orthopedic Surgeon Runs Amok.”

They came up with events like skeleton (hurtling headfirst down a chute of ice on a teeny, tiny sled at what viewers only pray is not neck-breaking speed) and halfpipe (snowboarding up and down the sides of a half-cylinder amid leaps, twists, turns and crashes) and mogul skiing (where each athlete’s introduction began with how many knee surgeries they’d survived and how, yes, they really could still walk).

These are simply not things that normal people do or that parents watch and tell their children, “Hey, kids, go out there and become an Olympian – but let me make sure my medical insurance is paid up first.”
A good addition to the games
Yet despite all these new additions to the Winter Games, there’s still no Olympic ice fishing. Why not?

Ice fishing is a winter sport. It’s likely older than any of the other so-called sports in the Winter Games. It has more participants in real life anywhere there’s hard-water winters. And in the true spirit of the Olympics, it’s an equal opportunity sport for men, women, young, old, big, small, all races, colors and creeds – even grumpy old men.

In the interest of promoting auto racing – as the TV networks seem so wont to do these days – the Games could even hire an auto race starter to get the event going, intoning in a slow, deep, drawl: "Gennnulmen......Staaaaart your augers!"

There could be team competitions for hole-drilling, frozen fish tossing, bait bucket relays and bonus points could be awarded by weight for fish that are caught.
A view from the sidelines
For expert commentators, they could dress up those legendary Minnesooota ice fishing experts, Sven and Ole, in new snowmobile suits. The dialog would be as crisp as the winter air on a frozen lake:

“The ice chips are really flying now, Ole. The U.S. coaches were out on the ice early this morning checking out the surface. You know how critical that is in deciding what kind of an edge to put on the augers for the best bite on this fast-changing ice...”

“Sven, did you see the fancy footwork, spins and twists on that ‘Triple Klutz’ when the Canadian hit that slick spot and lost his footing...”

“Ole, the Finns are really looking sharp today and should get some high style points with those matching gold-sparkle chopper mitts and earflaps...”

“Sven, those Austrians have been steady as a rock with that bait bucket, keeping their shoulders square to the hole and never sloshing a single minnow...”

“We’ve got a little controversy with the Japanese team, Ole. Officials are deciding now on whether sushi qualifies as lunch or bait...”

“Yumpin yiminy, Sven! That German team is really getting some great amplitude and belching big air after all those beers...”

“Ole, we’re awaiting an official measurement here to see if that Switzerland perch cracks the 6-inch minimum size. No fish-stretching is allowed in Olympic competition, ya know...”

“Just look at that big Soviet sit on that five-gallon bucket. What a form! That’s no skeleton there, Sven. You couldn’t blow that guy off his bucket in a Siberian blizzard...”

“Oh no, tragedy struck the French, Ole. That walleye came off the hook right in the hole. Even with the old one-hand-stab-down-the-hole-to-the-shoulder, he couldn’t grab it. That’s bad news for their hopes for the bronze...”

“Watch out for the Norwegians, Sven. They’re changing strategy and putting out tip-ups. No little perch fry for those boys. It’s big pike for pickling...”

And so Olympic Ice Fishing would go.
Ways to spice it up
Perhaps that’s not life-threatening enough for the TV networks – nothing too extreme. Nobody would require surgery to repair broken limbs. And, I suppose, unless you do it on thin ice – in which you could add a midwinter swim category – perhaps it wouldn’t be as thrill-packed as some of the other made-for-TV Olympic events.

On the other hand, it’s at least as exciting as ice dancing. And after they award the medals, everybody could enjoy a fish fry with what the anglers caught that day.

As long as you’ve got a good cook on board, everybody ends their Olympic experience healthy, happy and with a full meal under their belts, basking in the warm glow of international peace and tranquility.

What could be more Olympic than that.
Mark Henckel is the outdoor editor of The Billings Gazette. His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be contacted by phone at: (406) 657-1395, or by e-mail at:

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