The 'only girl out there'
Chances are if you peek inside most fish houses out on area lakes, you'll find a guy or two hunkered over a hole in the ice.
However, there's a local woman who has taken a liking to ice fishing and she's boldly going where few women go.
Bev Paulzine of rural Alexandria has a passion for fishing, so much so that she has her own fish house, her own gear, her own all-terrain vehicle and the confidence to go ice fishing all by herself.
During the winter, you'll find Bev in her cozy, 7-by-12-foot, six-hole fish house she's affectionately named "Big Blue."
She usually sets up on Lake Reno, Maple or Mary.
"It all started with my brother-in-law, Wayne, and the two of us seeing who could outdo the other and that grew into fishing. Fifteen years ago I told my husband, Ken, that I really wanted my own fish house. He built one for me and I'm still using it today," she said.
'IT'S SCARY AT FIRST'
Bev said it took awhile to get comfortable being on the ice by herself, the "only girl out there."
"It's scary at first," she admitted.
However, here's her advice to other women considering going it alone: "Your confidence will grow when you start doing a little bit on your own. You start feeling empowered, like I can do this. But don't be afraid to ask the guys around you for help. The guys out there [on the ice] are wonderful; they're always willing to help. There gets to be camaraderie. It's like a family out there."
For example, once, out on Maple Lake, Bev said, "I caught a five-pound walleye and I couldn't get the hook out of its mouth so I threw it out on the ice and kept fishing. A guy saw what happened, came over and helped me get that hook out."
Then, she got the equipment to do it herself.
"It also helps to have a good husband who can help you get set up," Bev added.
"Early on, I had rattle reels - the small little plastic ones - and I really wanted the big wooden ones. I went out [to the fish house] one year and [Ken] had made wood rattle reels for me and inscribed them with 'Bev's Rattle Reels.' It's really neat," she said.
Ken also set his wife up with an all-terrain vehicle with a mount on the front for her ice auger and a box on the back for her gear. Bev said her husband of 37 years has set her up well to enjoy ice fishing solo.
There's also a fair share of on-the-water competition between the husband-wife team.
One of the most memorable moments, Bev said, was one day while she had been on the ice fishing all day, her husband came down and he immediately caught a 10-pound walleye from the hole she'd been fishing.
"I said, 'Let me take it,' and he said, 'No, no it's a big one.' That one is mounted," Bev said, shaking her head.
Someday, it will be her turn.
"I'd like to pull up a 10 or 11 pound walleye just once," she said.
Her biggest fish so far was a seven-pound walleye.
"We were fishing on Lake Reno toward dusk and I believe you need to jig or run with a Lindy instead of running with a Rapala, because that's just snagging the fish, in my opinion. But we were watching some guys in another boat trolling with Rapalas so we did the same thing and that's when I caught my seven pounder," Bev said.
"I must say the reason I like to fish so much - besides fish tasting great - is the challenges it provides. I'm always thinking: What will it take to get the walleyes to bite? What jig should I use - a Swedish pimple, chubby darter or plain hook? Bait needs to be considered. Are the walleyes biting light? Do I take them right away or do I give them line? Anyone that ice fishes knows the adrenaline rush you get when the hook is set, and the flash of white from the walleye's tail goes by the hole."
After all these years of fishing, Bev said some of her favorite memories have been fishing with her grandchildren and their excitement when they catch a fish.
Even better is when she gets all the kids, ages 8 to 12, together at once.
"I was with the grandkids and we were all fishing from shore in the spring. The DNR went by asking other people on the shore for their licenses. He walked right by me and I said, 'Don't you want to see mine?' He said, 'I've been watching you and the five children here and what I see you doing is not fishing, I look at you as guiding,' " she recalled, laughing.
One more generous fishing tip she has for male and female anglers alike, especially those fishing with kids, is the location of her honey holes: "Anywhere on Reno, especially the northwest side. And there's Union for big crappies, and on Maple you'll get crappies, walleye and northerns, which the kids love."