Ringing in the New Year on frozen Lake Mitchell

From fat tire biking to ice fishing, Lake Mitchell was bustling on New Year’s Eve with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.

Paul Darrington, of Mitchell, rides his fat tire bike on New Year's Eve across the ice on Lake Mitchell.
Sam Fosness / Republic
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MITCHELL — As Jared Ackman prowled around Lake Mitchell with his ATV on New Year’s Eve, he was in search of a spot where the fish were biting underneath the thick sheet of ice.

While bars, night clubs and house parties are popular spots to ring in the New Year, Ackman was one of many Mitchell area residents who spent New Year’s Eve on the frozen body of water in the great outdoors.

“Ice fishing is my favorite kind of fishing. You don’t need a boat or trailer. You can just get your gear and go,” Ackman said, while he jigged for crappie.

Ethan Hegg, left, reels in his line on New Year's Eve while ice fishing on Lake Mitchell with his cousin.
Sam Fosness / Republic

From fat tire bikers to ice skaters, Lake Mitchell was bustling on New Year’s Eve with people of all ages and outdoor enthusiasts.

On the east side of Lake Mitchell, Ethan Hegg and Max Zachariasen, a pair of young teenagers, were reeling in crappie and bluegill and testing out some of their new ice fishing equipment.


Although Lake Mitchell and the nearby Missouri River see more fishing traffic in the summer and spring, like Ackman, Hegg said winter ice fishing is his favorite season to fish.

The young Mitchell angler said he’s thankful to have a body of water like Lake Mitchell in his backyard to ice fish during the winter, which isn’t the case for his cousin who trekked to Mitchell from Sioux Falls to fish with Hegg.

“We don’t have a big lake like this right by us in Sioux Falls where you can ice fish. There is a lot of stuff you can do outdoors here,” Zachariasen said of the Mitchell area.

A pair of anglers watch their lines on New Year's Eve while ice fishing on Lake Mitchell.
Sam Fosness / Republic

As anglers were searching for fish, a trio of local bikers came whipping by. After the arctic blast that brought a week of subzero temperatures to the region, the added thickness of ice on Lake Mitchell provided the right surface for winter riders to take their fat tire bikes out on the frozen body of water.

For Joe Thornberg, and Paul and Julie Darrington, riding on the lake during the winter offers a thrill only achievable in cold weather.

“It can be a little sketchy at first, but it’s a rush. After we saw so many ice shanties out on the lake, we felt pretty good about the ice being thick enough to bring the fat tire bikes out,” Paul Darrington said, as he made his way across the ice. “The lake ice is nice because you don’t need to groom it like the trails.”

Joe Thornberg, of Mitchell, rides his fat tire bike across the sheet of ice covering Lake Mitchell.
Sam Fosness / Republic

The bustling activity taking place on Lake Mitchell on New Year’s Eve proved it’s not a summer-only destination. As Thornberg put it, the lake offers “plenty of activity for all seasons.” Even riding a bike with the right setup.

“During the winter, you see a lot of people hiking and walking the lake trails. It’s why we maintain them year round,” said Thornberg who is among the Palace City Pedalers group that collectively maintains the Lake Mitchell trail system.


The lake itself wasn’t the only spot that attracted people over the holiday weekend. Along the shore, the amphitheater hill near the Prehistoric Indian Village was speckled with dozens of sledders and snowboarders.

“There is something for everyone out here,” Julie Darrington said.

Julie Darrington, of Mitchell, glides across Lake Mitchell on New Year's Eve with her fat tire bike.
Sam Fosness / Republic

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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