December 30, 2004

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

WowÖ there must be a lot of folks out there that donít care about ice fishing. You would think that I was the weatherman, with all the people hollering at me, blaming me for the frigid weather we had for Christmas.

Maybe Iím just developing thick skin, because all the complaining I heard did not dampen my spirits one bit. Maybe it was because I had my earmuffs on and I was heading to the frozen pond to catch some fish.

Okay, it was a little cold, but how else are we ever going to get thick enough ice to hold me and all of my equipment. I got so much tackle in my sled that it takes a good six inches of ice to keep me afloat.

I guess I was a little anxious, because Thursday evening, December 23, there was only about four and half inches of ice. But it was so cold, I figured by the time I was done that figure might double. Okay thatís stretching it a bit, but as much cracking and groaning as that pond was doing, it sure sounded like there might be a couple feet of ice before the night was over.

I must say that I am now a veteran ice fisherman. Back in the old days, I would have jumped out of my seat and headed for the shore the first time I heard the ice crack. Now I just sit there, even when the ice shifts right under my feet, actually allowing me to feel the movement. I know that the pond is simply making more ice. When the water freezes, it expands, so the ice is just making room for the new frozen stuff. All the noise and all the motion, is a good sign.

While itís reassuring for me, itís still sort of funny to watch when I take a first-timer. They canít get that tent zipper down quick enough. Of course I donít help the situation much, as I like to egg it on a bit. Usually I hand them my ice picks and tie them to a rope hooked to my pick-up bumper. It makes for some good photo opportunities.

Once my new partners got their nerves settled there was no stopping their fishing. I had a couple new companions on the ice as we fished three straight afternoons over the holiday weekend. Each outing we landed no less than 40 bluegill. Abigayle even got into the act. She pulled in two or three lunker panfish. Finally she handed me the pole and said she was exhausted, her back hurt and she wanted me to at least catch one. I think sheís too much like her father. How many five-year-olds no how to dish it out like that?

The only thing better than catching those fish, was watching them go back through the holes. I love to eat fish caught through the ice. If I could just find a way to eliminate the middle step, cleaning the fish, Iíd be a happy man.

I figured there was plenty of ice fishing left, so I didnít want to fill up the freezer to early in the season. We did take a bucket of bluegill back to a new pond and transplant the fish. Itís amazing how the seafood can come back to life after hours on top of the ice. Maybe theyíre just playing possum and once they know theyíre not to be eaten they wake up and swim off at he first opportunity.

Maybe I should have cooked some of those fish. With the forecast for temperatures up to 60-degrees on New Yearís Eve, it doesnít look like the season is going to last too long.

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