Interview with Minnesota Ice Fisherman, James Glaser Image

Interview with Minnesota Ice Fisherman, James Glaser

Dream Sporting Trips

Updated: April 19th 2016 @ 6:32pm


James Glaser was raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. After high school, he took a trip to Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps which ended with a full-ride, disabled veteran scholarship at Arizona State University where he studied Fine Arts.

With 45 years of sculpture and woodworking under his belt, the successful raising of three children, and spending most of his life deep in the woods of Northern Minnesota, Jim now lives in the woods of North Florida with the woodworking workshop of his dreams, the love of his life, and a beautiful, sprawling tree house to sit in, where he can watch the wildlife, think, and write.

Jim is author of "A Veteran's Garden" Chicken Soup for the Soul; author of continuous commentaries since 2001 on, commentator on, and woodworker and sculptor whose works are exhibited on


Largest charitable ice fishing contest in the world, Minnesota
Video shared with permission by Jukin Media


Dream Sporting Trips

Welcome, Jim, and thank you for talking to us today about your experience fishing in Minnesota, particularly ice fishing. We understand you're a Florida resident now, but how long did you live in Minnesota?

James Glaser

I lived there about fifty years, but then I don’t remember much of the first five.

Dream Sporting Trips

When did you start ice fishing?

James Glaser

I can remember ice fishing on Crosby Lake in Saint Paul in grade school. Probably I was ten. My cousin and I would walk down there, a couple of miles from home through Moncalm Woods with everything we needed, the heaviest thing being the chisel for making our hole. Now that I think about it, it was only about a mile, but the snow was 4 feet deep.... at least that is how I remember it. That ice chisel was about 4 feet long and my cousin and I would trade off carrying it. We fished there for years, winter and summer. When we were in high school they had ice races on the lake and the cars had studded snow tires and raced on a pretty tight circle. There were also motorcycle races with studded tires. In the summer we fished from shore.

Later on in high school my Dad would take me out to White Bear Lake for ice fishing tournaments where there might be five hundred people fishing. As I grew older, the ice fishing contests grew to thousands of people fishing. Some group, whoever sponsored the tournament, would have to spend the night before drilling thousands of holes through the ice. Ah yes, they had gas powered drills.

When my dad and I went, we won a filet knife one year and some fishing tackle another year. First prize back then might have been a small fishing boat. Later on, first prize could be a new Ford pickup or a very nice pontoon boat.

Dream Sporting Trips

What kind of fish did you catch?

James Glaser

We typically caught perch, small perch, but every once in a while a nice northern or a walleye. Crappies were what we wanted most, because that is what my mom liked best. Sunfish and bluegills, too. 

Dream Sporting Trips

What did you typically use for bait?

James Glaser

It’s hard to remember when I was little. I bet we used little jigs, minnows if we had them. Sometimes, just the head of the minnow so that if you got a bite, the hook was probably in the fish’s mouth, where with a whole minnow, they might just be taking a bite out of the minnow's body and when you jerked the line to set the hook you would just be jerking that minnow out of the fish's mouth. We didn’t carry a lot of tackle when we were young, but when plastic worms came out we used them, too, but little plugs worked good for pan fish. I know we changed colors a bunch and it seemed on some days a red would work and on others a lime green or bright yellow. Fish can be finicky eaters. Also, you could bounce your bait off the bottom or try other heights. You just never knew. I remember twisting the line with my fingers to make the little jig move in a different way.

Dream Sporting Trips

What was your favorite lake, locale, to ice fish?

James Glaser

Any lake where the fish were biting! Also it depends if you are inside an icehouse or outside. If you are on a lake on a nice sunny day, it is fine to be outside, but you probably want a smaller lake with woods around it to keep the wind down. I always liked Island Lake near Northome, Minnesota, because I lived on the lake for years and knew the good spots.

In truth, I never liked the really big lakes and Minnesota has some huge ones. Mille Lacs in north central Minnesota is so big you can’t see across it and the wind can get the snow blowing like a blizzard, but there are thousands of icehouses on the lake with good roads plowed all over it so if you rent a good ice fishing house, it doesn’t maker what the weather is like.

Lake of the Woods is right up there on the Canadian border. Minnesota has way over 10,000 lakes so there are many choices. If you catch a big one or fill out your limit on some lake, it will become your favorite lake!

On a small lake you have a better chance of hearing timber wolves howling at night and the wind doesn’t block out all the sounds. Also, on a quiet, small lake you probably won’t hear trucks and snowmobiles driving around and with no wind on a cloudless night, the stars are so bright and many nights the northern lights are a light show you will never forget.

But ice fishing isn’t the best way to get a really big fish. If you really want a lunker, try spear fishing in an icehouse. There is nothing more exciting that seeing a 30 pound northern come through your hole looking to eat the decoy you have moving around.

Of course, you can spend the whole day playing with your decoy and if there are no fish in the area or no hungry fish, nothing will happen and you will go home skunked, but if that big one comes in to your vision, your adrenalin will start pumping and if you don’t spook it and if your throw or stab is just right, you will have yourself one nice fish, probably caught the way your distant ancestors caught theirs.

Dream Sporting Trips

That sounds like fun! Anything else you'd like to add, Jim?

James Glaser

Ice fishing is just fun! It is great to take kids along. If they get bored with fishing, they can make snowmen, have snowball fights, or just run around. If it's early in the season and there isn’t much snow, you might just find you a lake with a perfect sheet of ice where ice skating is amazing. If you are dressed for it and the day is nice, there is nothing better than being outdoors on the ice, fishing with friends, talking about what you and they are using to try to entice the fish to bite. With modern day equipment, you can have a camera down the hole and you can bop that fish right on its nose trying to get it to bite.

With an ice house you can go from primitive, with just a canvas shelter, to luxury, with a heated, wall to wall carpeted house with kitchen, beds, a porta potty, and of course a TV to watch the Vikings football game. Oh yeah, a nice poker table is a must.

Also like any modern sport, you can spend a hundred bucks and have everything you need to get a fish, or you can spend thousands and thousands to get that same fish.

Dream Sporting Trips

Jim, this has been so much fun. Thank you for sharing with us. We know you have some fascinating stories to tell about spear fishing, too. May we interview you again to hear about some of those adventures?

James Glaser

I'd enjoy that.



Fast Facts:

Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, has a very high quality northern pike size structure. Spring sampling in 2005 found about 16% of the adult population exceeds 35 inches, and 4% exceeds 40 inches. Only one or two other lakes in Minnesota have similar size structures. Lake of the Woods is likely the last place in Minnesota that anglers can go and have a realistic expectation of encountering a twenty pound, or larger, northern pike. (source MN Department of Natural Resources)

MN Fishing Seasons - 2016 

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