Nick Langton with his personal-best crappie, caught on early ice last year.

Nick Langton’s youthful path to ice fishing: As early ice arrives around Chicago

SHARE Nick Langton’s youthful path to ice fishing: As early ice arrives around Chicago
SHARE Nick Langton’s youthful path to ice fishing: As early ice arrives around Chicago

Priorities. It’s always a juggling act for outdoors enthusiasts.

‘‘Hard to study for finals when you are thinking about ice fishing,’’ Nick Langton said Wednesday.

Ice fishing arrived in places around Chicago during the last few days.

‘‘Early-season panfish is definitely the way to go, especially crappie,’’ said Langton, who caught his personal best last year on early ice. ‘‘When you get on the early-season panfish bite, they are super-active.’’

It’s near-perfect timing for Langton this year. He is in College of DuPage’s 3+1 program with Benedictine University. He plans to earn a degree in business management and an associate’s degree in marketing with the goal of being on the business side of fishing.

Langton already has proved himself. As a sophomore, he helped middle-school teacher Eric Stark start Glenbard North High School’s bass-fishing team/club. The Panthers qualified for state in Langton’s senior year in 2016.

Langton also is involved with a couple of buddies in doing ‘‘Frigid Outdoors.’’

‘‘I like the more media aspect of it,’’ he said.

As to ice fishing, it was Stark who hooked Langton on a trip downstate, where Langton caught several personal bests.

‘‘I started ice fishing five years ago while still in high school,’’ Langton said. ‘‘I started getting into it. You don’t have to have a boat, and I am used to being on the shore.’’

There, he touches on the egalitarian draw of ice fishing.

‘‘It allows you to get out and fish off-shore structure for bluegills or bass in 20 feet of water instead of in five feet from shore,’’ Langton said.

Langton also is learning from Debbie Compton, whom he met at a fishing event. Compton is one of the top women in ice fishing in Illinois and the country. In 1992, she was on the U.S. team that finished second (then its highest finish) in the world championships for ice fishing.

‘‘You don’t see many females on the ice who are fishing,’’ Langton said. ‘‘Debbie has forgotten more about fishing than most people know.

‘‘People don’t realize that when you get a mentor like Debbie, who trusts you and is willing to share information, you have to take it as a blessing. You don’t get people like that every day.’’

One thing I’ve enjoyed about Langton from the time I met him as a high schooler is how he sees the big picture.

‘‘For me, it is just that I value people who spend their time with me; I don’t take it for granted,’’ he said.

Real life ‘‘is almost a perfect storm’’ with girlfriend Erika Meister, who likes to join in.

‘‘She is probably one of the most supportive girlfriends any ice fisherman could dream of,’’ Langton said.

Last weekend, he trekked to Minnesota for the St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show.

‘‘There is nothing like that show,’’ he said. ‘‘It is absolutely insane. Never seen people with the same passion and willing to share. You feel like you are more part of a family. There’s something about the ice-fishing family that is more willing to share information.’’

Langton will travel downstate and north to ice-fish, but he truly values the forest preserves of Cook and DuPage counties.

‘‘Another reason that the Midwest has such good opportunities to ice-fish is there are so many forest preserves,’’ he said. ‘‘The best thing about ice fishing, you can get on and go.’’

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