Ice fisherman can't complain about cold

Joe Morgan and his 3-year-old daughter Samantha on an ice-fishing outing. "She loved it," Morgan said. "She's already asking to go again."


OUTDOORS

Joe Morgan keeps his mouth shut when someone starts complaining about the winter weather and the seemingly endless wait for spring.

He can't agree. He's wishing for the exact opposite.

"I want to see it get colder," he said.

Freezing weather brings good ice fishing, something Morgan has loved to do for the past 10 years.

It's quiet on the ice without the summer crowds, he stays plenty warm with his heater and hut, and best of all, there are no bugs.

"I also personally think the fish taste better when they come out of the cold water as well," he said.

Morgan lives in Gretna and works for the Nebraska Department of Roads. He has a degree in fish and wildlife management.

He'll pack up his equipment to go fishing after work at least once a week and is on the ice most weekends. Three-year-old daughter Samantha has cut down on his outings. But that's OK.

"I actually took her out about a week and a half ago," Morgan said. "She loved it. She's already asking to go again. I'll have to get her out before the end of the season."

Morgan's favorite target is catfish, because he loves their fight and aggressiveness as he reels them in. He'll also go for crappie, bluegill and the occasional walleye. He's a believer in catch and release — unless he's in the mood for a fish dinner.

His favorite destination is Lake Wanahoo near Wahoo, but he's also tried nearly all the lakes in the Omaha area. The best weather is 20 to 35 degrees if he has his hut.

Morgan pulls in his equipment on a waterfowl equipment sled, available at any outdoor retailer. He's got his fishing poles, his sonar, his auger, a small cooler for lunch and snacks, the heater for his ice hut and a few chairs for sitting on the ice. There's a 5-gallon bucket filled with odds and ends like the slush spoon he uses to clean out a hole.

"People call me crazy, but when it's super cold outside and I have my heater on, it's pretty comfortable inside," he said.

He's never without crucial safety equipment.

He wears ice picks around his neck, which he can use if he falls through the ice. He'll put on a life jacket when he's on a newer lake or it's the first ice of the season, and he carries 50 to 100 feet of rope in case he needs to throw it to someone or vice versa. He also has Yaktrax cleats so he doesn't slip on the ice.

"I'm always about safety when it comes to anything and everything," he said.

He's never put himself in a dangerous position. If the weather warms and he hears the ice crack, he turns back. He can always find a different route or another lake.

Sometimes when it's cold, he'll hear a zinging sound from the ice. That means it's building, and it's music to his ears.

Morgan figures he has only two or three weeks before he has to put his ice fishing equipment away for the year. In the summer, he usually makes a couple of trips a month to places like Two Rivers State Recreation Area and Lewis and Clark Lake.

His wife, Shawna, doesn't complain, because he tries to support what she likes to do, too. But while she'd rather go on a Caribbean cruise, his choice would be one in the cold waters of Alaska.

Morgan said it doesn't cost a lot to try ice fishing. You just need a decent ice fishing rod and reel, a hand auger, some bait and a bucket to sit on. You can connect with a community of other anglers on social media. Nebraska Ice Fishermen on Facebook is one of his favorites.

"If someone has the itch to do it," he said, "I'm more than willing to take them out to show them the ropes."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1034, marjie.ducey@owh.com

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