It’s been 30 long years since I’ve been ice fishing. In anticipation of freezing my butt off I bundled up with cuddle duds, cozy socks under my boots and lots of layers. Gary relinquished his puffy down coat to me; that’s how excited he was that I was finally going to bite the bullet and go fishing with him. My version of the frozen tundra was about to begin. I grabbed the bottle of Fireball whiskey…just in case.
After some snafus with the brakes on the van & Gary having to stop every 10 miles to bang on it with a hammer we finally headed out onto the ice field. We didn’t see any gaping holes on our 2 mile journey out to the middle of the lake but I was very aware that we were driving over very deep water. I think ice fishing should be done with cars that look like boats that have wheels attached.
The dad of one of Gary’s coworkers directed us by phone out to where he was set up which was a miracle without any definite markers to follow. After introductions, he drilled holes for us and let us use lures of his that had been working for him. They had been very successful that day so we were hopeful as we settled in to fill our 5 gallon bucket.
With my Irish background I figured my jigging would produce enough fish to fill our freezer. I varied between a graceful ballet of ups, downs & twirliness to the mosh pit at a Flogging Molly concert. I did everything aside from putting a stripper pole down there. They were down there; they were teasing me with their nibbles at my spikes (maggots). I just wasn’t able to snag any of them.
The bonus is that I’m a lot more patient in my maturing years. I’ve become better at turning down the volume of the chatter in my brain and living in the moment; noticing the world around me. The sun was shining and it was warm so I was able to peel my layers off down to a sweater. When I scanned the expanse of snow and ice it looked as though it was sprinkled with glitter and there were chunks of sparkly diamonds scattered around.
And then something phenomenal happened. When everyone stopped talking and there was dead silence…you could actually hear the snow melting! It was a quiet sound, as if there were a stream of water running somewhere in the distance. It was SO COOL! Once I was aware of the sound I was able to pick it up even if there were other noisy distractions. That, in itself, was worth going ice fishing.
Gary found a castaway fish that was lying a distance from our van and threw it to a group of gulls that were oblivious of its existence (how they missed it is beyond me). It was a wintery version of the movie Birds (minus the phone booth). Just a heads up people; they pick out the eyes first. Gary & I entertained ourselves with giving them voices and scripting what they were screeching to each other.
The guys we were with are regulars and their van is rigged up as an ice shanty with holes in the floor. When they opened their van door a school of fish fell out. Their bucket was overflowing and because their freezers are full of fish they were going to send us home with 3/4 of a bucket of fat meaty fish. Yay! We questioned how they were able to do so well while I caught nothing and Gary only got three and we were less than 10′ away from them. They gave us a detailed explanation of how beneficial it is to have a fish locator! C’est la vie.
It took us over three hours to clean all those fish. Gary gave me the easy job of skinning & cleaning them. It was almost fun. I’ve decided I will have to do this more often because it’s such a thrill at the thought of having a freezer full of fish.