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Ice fishing event becoming a Sierra pastime

Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily TribuneFresh out of the icy waters of Red Lake, a trout is shocked by the warmer air of the human world.
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When Doug Busey started his annual Mac-the-Naw ice fishing get-together in 1992, the future didn’t look promising. Four people showed up, including Busey and his friend Steve Lightfoot. The other two participants were a man and his grandson.

“They were ecstatic. The guy thought it was something he and his grandson could do to bring them closer. Over the years, I guess, more people have decided to go ice fishing.”

The 17th annual Doug Busey party took place Jan. 22 on Red Lake off Highway 88, where almost 50 people showed up. Looking down from nearby Carson Pass, they looked like black dots on a sheet of white.



There were anglers from Northern Nevada, Lake Tahoe and California’s Central Valley. Each year, Busey said, attendance has increased.

Busey, a Gardnerville resident and fishing writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, has relied on the words of one man to help organize the event. That man is Mike Alger, chief meteorologist for Channel 2, Reno’s CBS affiliate.



If Alger said the weather looked stable, Busey set a date. If he said the weather looked unstable, Busey took note. Sometimes, Alger’s forecast wasn’t accurate.

Busey has been out there on days when it’s sunny and 40 degrees but also on days when winds are gusting and the snow is blowing sideways. Busey, though, is a fisherman and knows the worst day of fishing still is better than the best day of work.

In fact, Alger has had such a big role in the event’s history that Busey always has extended an invite to Alger for him to attend. Being a Northern Nevada meteorologist, Alger is a busy man in the winter, so he’s never been able to find the time. That wasn’t the case this year.

Alger, who never had been ice fishing before, made the drive from Reno to Red Lake, stopping at Busey’s house along the way.

“I had a great time – well, until Doug got the bigger fish,” said Alger, who took home two brook trout and threw another one back into the lake. “When you get in a boat, you are pretty insulated. You almost never interact with the other people around the lake. It’s basically a bunch of isolated groups out there.

“But with ice fishing, you can get up and stretch the legs a little bit. You can approach someone else and talk a little bit. It’s a lot more social.”

California isn’t an ice-fishing hotbed like the Midwest, which is considered the Mecca of ice fishing. In Minnesota, for example, there are between 300,000 to 400,000 winter anglers, according to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Busey and his wife went ice fishing for the first time more than two decades ago at Caples Lake. Nobody else was there. But when the ice started to vibrate and then crack – basically, a chasm opened up between their legs – the couple decided it was time to go.

Over the years, Busey has developed enough experience to know when it’s safe to walk onto the ice. And with an angler like him running the show, his annual event is bound to get more popular.

“Heck, just come on out. If you don’t have an auger to drill a hole, I’ll drill one for you,” Busey said. “Mike Alger was asked by someone, and he ended up drilling 10 holes for other people. I think he ended up drilling holes for an entire Boy Scout troop. I really don’t know why, but people are more giving when ice fishing. But this ice fishing thing, it’s not for experts. It’s for everybody, beginners included.”


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