January 20, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Be careful what you wish for. I was so disappointed when the recent warm spell ran off our ice so quickly. The rain and the high temperatures did away with frozen ponds prematurely.

So, of course I had to whine to any readers that would listen. I complained about having just three partial days of ice-fishing fun.

While most sane folks were enjoying the heat wave, I was praying for a return of sub-zero temperatures to bring back my favorite winter pastime.

Jack Frost answered my calls with three straight days of single-digits on the old thermometer. While most people that entered the door at the newspaper were upset by the frigid conditions, I was as happy as a school kid the day before Christmas.

But we whiners are also complainers, so I must offer this bit of sour news to go along with the success story. As usual, my best-laid plans always have a snag or two. It just happened to work out that the freeze took hold over the weekend, leaving me little time to enjoy the weather.

Thursday night, the first real cold evening, I saw several ponds that still had open water as I drove over to Queen City for the ball game. That painted a bad picture for ice fishing. I was sure that all ponds froze over that night, but still that left just Friday night to add enough of the frozen stuff to hold me up.

Iíve confessed before that Iím not the most courageous soul, so I sat around Saturday watching football and sulking around the house knowing that the ice was not thick enough yet. Iíve always been told that a really cold night will make half an inch to an inch of ice.

So by Sunday I had the calculator out and was doing all kinds of figuring trying to make those ponds have at least four inches of ice. I just couldnít make the math work. Of course thatís when my phone rang.

My best fishing buddies deemed it necessary to call me and tell me they were just leaving the pond after catching a bunch of fish. They assured me the ice was at least four and a half inches thick.

Again my yellow streak showed up and I could not mount enough bravery to head out and try the ice by myself, so the whole weekend evaporated without me ever wetting a line.

Finally on Monday, the pressure simply became too much. Okay, so it wasnít quite that spontaneous. I worked all Sunday afternoon and got to the office early Monday to get caught up and free up some time that afternoon.

By 2:30 p.m. me and my two fishing buddies (they resisted real hard, but I twisted their arms and made them go) were out at the farm with big plans for the fish.

Initially I was grateful to have the company, because that ice was making me nervous and I probably would have just got back in the truck and went home. But once you got out past the rotten stuff around the shore we found excellent ice at least five inches thick. That didnít stop us from being a little jumpy each time the surface buckled and expanded as more ice was being made.

Like I said, I was initially happy for the company. But by the end of the day, I wish I would have gone solo and ran home with my tail between my legs because I wasted three plus hours and caught just one stinking fish.

I guess the layoff made me a little rusty. First I forgot half of my stuff in the garage. Then about 15 minutes into the fishing my battery quit on my Vexilar fish finder. You donít know how much you miss it until itís gone. Then again, I was not too mad, because all the electronics were doing was making us mad. My partnerís fish finder showed us fish all evening. We watched them swim leisurely amongst our lures, teasing us with their presence but rarely fulfilling our need for a bite.

Now with the forecast for warmer days ahead, I sit here once again pessimistic about the future of the sport. Looks like all I did was get a higher gas bill, catch a cold and listen to people scold me about wishing this cold upon us all... oh yeah and one bluegill.

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