I suppose most of you have no idea about this, but the world ice-fishing championship is being held in the Ukraine even as I type! How in the world do I know that? Well, I know because we have one of our own, a Nebraska angler, on the USA team, Rob Greer! Rob stopped by my office early last week, he was getting some errands done before he and the rest of the USA team headed overseas. I can tell you Rob was excited to be part of the team, excited to GO FISH! Rob is a great stick, on the ice and open water, and he has been looking forward to this experience.
I know a few things about this world ice-fishing event, but I do not have a lot of details. Believe it or not, they have been experiencing a thaw over in eastern Europe as well as here. In fact, before Rob left, he said there had been some question whether there would be safe ice to hold the event. From what I have been able to gather, there was not safe ice on the original venue, but they found enough to hold the event on an alternate site. Even then, they moved the competition ahead a few days, so all of the teams are dealing with less practice and had to plunge right into the competition. Maybe I should not have used the word “plunge” in that last sentence; I think the ice conditions are such that they have safety gear standing by just in case someone breaks through.
I have no idea which body of water they are fishing, but I am fairly sure that Ternopil, Ukraine is hosting the event. From what I can find on the inter-webby, it appears there are teams from Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Latvia, Finland, Poland, Sweden, Mongolia, and Norway as well as the USA. After the first day of competition, Belarus was leading with our team sitting in seventh place.
Most of the information I can find on the event is on USA Ice Team FaceBook page. Check it out for yourself! If you understand Russian, at least I would guess it was Russian, there is a media video update on the first day of fishing.
Here is a team photo from FaceBook, big Rob right in front.
You can get results and updates on that FaceBook page. Scroll down and check out the pictures and more videos as well. There is a cool video of a very impressive opening ceremony for all the teams! They had drums, flags, flag girls, escorts, honor guards and Cossack dancers!
International fishing competitions are unlike anything we are familiar with here in the US. If you know anything about European match-style fishing, that is what this is on ice. No power augers are allowed, and no electronics. I am sure everyone uses high-quality 4-inch hand augers and I am betting those augers are razor sharp. Again, I have to tell you that I do not know all the details, but anglers fish assigned areas and I believe they fish for anything they can catch. The competitions very much are a matter of catching as many fish as possible as fast as possible, and big fish are not necessarily desirable because they keep a competitor from catching more fish. Chumming with ground baits are part of the strategy and then for ice-fishing, competitors use palm rods, “spider web” lines and very small hooks.
Rob is a big guy and you can see what one of those palm rods looks like in his hands.
Those palm rods might look like “toys”, but I have heard that they are very fine, technical pieces of equipment. The strike indicators you see on the end of those rods are very delicate and very finely-tuned.
Over in Europe, I believe most of the fish being caught during the competition are what they call “bream” and “tench”. They are actually minnow species. Looking through the photos on the USA Ice Team FaceBook page, I believe I saw a team member holding an European Perch, a fish closely-related to our Yellow Perch, but actually a different species capable of growing larger. A small fish in another photo might have been what I would guess was a small Zander, the European “version” of our Walleye. I am betting during the competition, Perch and Zander would not necessarily be desirable catches?
I can hear some of you scoffing at the idea of this competition even as you read this. I will readily admit that I am not planning to take up ice-fishing for minnows anytime soon. However, I will always tell you to be careful to dismiss someone else’s style of fishing or fishing for species that you do not necessarily prefer. Fish and fishing are such interesting pursuits because the learning never stops!
One of the keys to being consistently successful on the water is versatility. Even though that versatility may not necessarily mean fishing with techniques or for species that you might not prefer yourself, there can be a lot to learn from those different experiences. I have discovered that many of the things I learn fishing for one species of fish can be applied in other situations and for other species. I know what I learn on the ice very much applies and helps me catch fish in open water. I know that the techniques employed in an international match fishing competition may be foreign to most of us, but those techniques will very much work here too, and might teach us a lot about fishing in certain conditions. I especially believe that the match fishing techniques can teach us a lot about fishing when “the bite” is tough, the fish are inactive, and “finesse” is needed to catch any fish.
I will be following updates on the internet, you can too. I cannot wait to hear what Rob has learned and the stories he brings back home with him. I just hope he is not going to expect drums and Cossack dancers every time he walks onto the ice!