A Cinderella story: The magic of one farmer’s hobby

The enchanting picture of Cinderella’s coach magically changing back into to a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight is something just about anyone can visualize. But did you know farmers have a very similar experi­ence to Cinderella’s midnight flight? Wait, what?

Think about it: Each year, farmers invest all their energy into planting, nurturing and harvesting their crop. But when the harvest is over, they turn back into a pumpkin, waiting patiently for the next season’s magic to begin. So what do they do as they wait for the next ball to come around?

For Grinnell producer Bryce Engbers, the off-season is still very busy due to his hog operation. But from December to March, you can usually find him in his fishing hut out back, pole in hand.

Bryce has been fishing since high school, but his ice fishing hobby began 15 years ago when he built his home near a pond. “With all the modern technology we have, I can pretty much conduct business in my hut,” said Bryce. “It also allows me to enjoy some quiet time and just think.”

Hobbies can be expensive, but Bryce spent less than $50 when he started ice fishing. It isn’t lonely, either. A ninth-grade neighbor boy named Jake has taken up the hobby with Bryce’s guidance. “In January, Jake started fishing with me on the ice nearly every day after school,” said Bryce. “Now, he even has a hut of his own!”

Bryce’s Lake, as he refers to it, is stocked full of common Iowa fish—bluegill, crappie, bass, catfish and walleye. Bryce has never caught a walleye through the ice, but he is just waiting for the day he can celebrate that catch. The lake is about 26 feet at its deepest point, with a lot of brush piles the fish like to hide in. “I haven’t caught a lot yet this year, but what I have caught has been big,” said Bryce. “Someone recently caught a 19 ¼-inch crappie out here!”

Some think of ice fishing as being cold and unpleas­ant, but Bryce recently purchased his third hut, which features insulated walls. Enter the hut, and you will find 75 degrees of comfort thanks to a small space heater. The roomy hut also boasts a few chairs, four fishing holes, some poles…and magical space for a farmer.

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