Heard on CultureShift

Frozen: Detroit Photographer Documents Ice Culture in Michigan for NatGeo

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Image credit: Amy Sacka

Ice coverage on the Great Lakes has fallen by 71% since 1974.

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Robert Halsey fishes through the ice on Brest Bay, Lake Erie. Fisherman walk or drive ATVs nearly 1.5 miles on the ice to set up their shanties in the walleye-rich region. Amy Sacka
Amy Sacka

Robert Halsey fishes through the ice on Brest Bay, Lake Erie. Fisherman walk or drive ATVs nearly 1.5 miles on the ice to set up their shanties in the walleye-rich region.

Pictured above: An attendee of the annual Perchville festival in Tawas, Michigan. Perchville, which is in its 69th year, spans four days, with much the event taking place on the ice, including an ice fishing competition, ATV races and the polar bear dip. (Photo via Amy Sacka)

In a recent story, National Geographic is taking a look at the culture that surrounds the Great Lakes through the eyes of a Detroit photographer.

From ice fishing to pond hockey and the polar plunge, photographer Amy Sacka’s photos document how people around Michigan spend their time on the frozen lakes.

Sacka spent the 2017-2018 winter season driving 10,000 miles and photographing anglers along with the culture that surrounds them on the frozen lakes after ice fishing with her father. 

I just wanted to get to know him better,” says Sacka. “I went out with him on the ice and while I was out there, he and many of the ice anglers that I spoke with, would talk about the declining ice cover on the Great Lakes.”

The frozen ice on Brest Bay, Lake Erie. Fisherman walk or drive ATVs nearly 1.5 miles on the ice to set up their shanties in the walleye-rich region. Amy Sacka
Amy Sacka

The frozen ice on Brest Bay, Lake Erie. Fisherman walk or drive ATVs nearly 1.5 miles on the ice to set up their shanties in the walleye-rich region.

Sacka quickly noticed a running theme of conversation — the changing ice cover over they years.

They would tell me anecdotes about the days when they could drive their cars across the Lake Erie and how they could fish mid-December and into April,” says Sacka. ”(In 2016), they weren’t able to get out onto the ice until right after Christmas. Then I started looking into the data on ice cover and I saw the dramatic change that had happened on the Great Lakes over the course of 35 years.”

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview with Detroit photographer Amy Sacka about her NatGeo grant and how she used it to document Michigan’s ice culture.


Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. As a longtime arts and culture reporter and photographer, Hooper has covered stories for NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @HooperRadio

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