Lifestyle
January 13, 2013 • 03:02:46 p.m.

McHenry County residents say winter is no reason to stay inside

By JAMI KUNZER - jkunzer@shawmedia.com

Mike Grodoski, from Lake in the Hills, drills a hole into the six-inch-thick ice of Crystal Lake. Grodoski likes to ice fish every weekend during the winter. (Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com)

For some, it’s never too cold to get outdoors. Whether they’re boarding or skiing or reeling, the results are the same.

Fresh air on their faces and in their lungs.

And the knowledge that they’re staying active, that winter hasn’t gotten the best of them.

“I hate the cold,” said 50 year-old Mike Grodoski of Lake in the Hills, who despite that aversion would ice fish every weekend if the ice was thick enough.

“We are in the Midwest, so you’ve got to embrace it,” he said. “I love the outdoors in the summer, but you’ve got to embrace the winter, too.”

That’s what he and countless others who take part in winter sports do. They’re usually wearing thick hats, coats and boots, but they’re embracing it despite all sorts of conditions.


The finesse of ice fishing

An avid fisherman for years, Grodoski first tried ice fishing about five years ago.

“I’ve been hooked on it ever since,” he said, pun perhaps intended.

As if positioning yourself on a sheet of ice isn’t enough of a challenge, not to mention a fear for many, the actual fishing part isn’t easy, either.

Fish remain lethargic in the wintertime. They don’t feed as much. So getting them to bite can be tricky.

Some might even take the bait, hold it in their mouths and spit it back out, Grodoski said.

“You think you’ve got ‘em, but you don’t. You’ve got to entice them. It takes a lot of finesse,” Grodoski said. “You’ve got to have a lot of the right techniques. It’s being in the right spot at the right time. It’s a lot more work than doing it in the summer.”

Grodoski fishes throughout McHenry County, including Crystal Lake, but also enjoys heading to Wisconsin and northern Minnesota on occasion.

Because of ice conditions in this area, he said those who enjoy the sport are lucky to get 60 to 90 days to fish out of the season. Yet, it’s a sport he’s seen draw in more fans the past few years.

The McHenry County Conservation District offers ice fishing at six of its sites as long as at least 4 inches of clear ice has formed on the water. A status of the ice is kept at its website at www.mccdistrict.org.

Grodoski said the ice fishing season began about two weeks ago in this area, and he plans to take advantage of it as much as he can. As long as he’s wearing his gear.

He estimates he’s invested about $1,500 in the clothing and gear needed to do the sport, including a shanty, or type of tent, and a portable heater.

All keep him warm so he can focus on what really matters – the fish.

“It’s a fantastic sport,” he said.


‘The cold is relative.’

That’s the view of those who thrive on snowboarding and skiing, two popular sports in the area.

Find someone who shares that view, and you just might end up sharing relatives.

That was the case for Rick Pasturczak of Algonquin, who met his wife, Laurie, through a snowboarding club years back. The two now head up the PowderDogs Ski and Snowboard Club (www.powerdogs.org), which formed about five years. ago.

Other clubs existed in the Chicago area, but none in McHenry County.

Pasturczak wanted to give enthusiasts an outlet to meet up, hear speakers, compare skills and take trips to sites throughout northern Illinois, Wisconsin and beyond.

The club’s roughly 75 members likely agree on one thing. Temperatures of 30 degrees, even 20 degrees, are not really that cold.

“When you’re dressed properly for the weather, 10 degrees is nothing,” said Pasturczak, who both snowboards and skis, including cross-country and downhill. “You can stay out there forever.”

Many who share his interest would like to. And there are plenty of places throughout the area for them to do it.

The McHenry County Conservation District offers more than 40 miles of cross-country ski trails as long as there is 4 inches of snow on the ground. The districts host Cross-Country Candlelight Skiis after significant snowfalls in January and February.

Though, all it takes is an open field to cross-country ski, said Pastursczak, who sometimes skis in a field behind his business. That, and snow on the ground, of course.

As for snowboarding and downhill skiing, Raging Buffalo Snowboard and Ski Park in Algonquin offer opportunities for both the novice and experienced.

“We’ve seen it expand to all types,” Owner Steve Duck said. “People do it for a date. We have our regulars that come out ever day after school and do homework in between runs.”

Guests have ranged in age from 18 months to 70, he said.

In its 21st season, the park is launching an area geared toward the 10 and younger crowd as well, he said.

The goal is to get as many children involved as possible and keep them staying active as they grow.

“From my own personal perspective, I see some of the kids so wrapped up in the computers and cell phones and PlayStations and X Boxes,” he said. “They sit on the couch and play snowboard games when they could go out and actually snowboard.”

Like many enthusiasts, Pastruczak said, the sports are something all should experience at least once “to understand the type of thrill that it gives you.”

“There are people that don’t like it. All they want to do is lay on a beach,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with laying on a beach, but there are other things to do in your life.”


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