A frozen lake warms the Canadian spirit. Brave the barren hard water flats and auger a hole. Refresh in wide open winter air and escape in the idle concentration of bottom bouncing a jig head and minnow in the depths below. That’s ice fishing. It doesn’t earn celebrity attention for the technical tinkering or athletic agility that other outdoor sports demand; yet there is accomplishment of the Olympic-degree, as in the personal challenge, and I suppose, the physical and mental stamina that Canadians take for granted in expressing their fascination for hard water angling. Ice fishing is a culture. It’s a community. It is a conservation connection. Ice fishing makes us a student of winter landscapes and ecology. The understanding of lake depth contours, shoals and structure, the movement of bait fish and the elements of food chains. Anglers contemplate an under water world of aquatic life in lakes locked down tight with a winter hard top. Walking on water isn’t as humbling as perhaps walking in the footsteps of our frozen past. Ice fishing makes us think about the harsh and lonely winters of early settlement. Fish pulled from icy waters fed hungry children but also gave Canadians, and their nation, character and strength. Today, the icy grip of winter can lead to isolation. In a society that is finally talking about the dangers of being on thin ice in a mental health sense, ice fishing inspires a much-needed social occasion. There’s comfort food and conversation being served in those ice shanties with hours of undivided attention on topics that go deeper than bait and hooks below. Family fishing — on the rocks or in a boat — is real life promotion of the rural virtues of our past. It welcomes a new generation to trek across frozen lakes in pursuit of fish, in need of nature and in search of self.