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Ice Fishing in February: A Guest Post

February 5, 2011

My dear friend, Robert Wesolowski, is a self-described: Former Boy Scout, former sailor, former banker, former husband(s), current business consultant.

I think you’ll find that he neglected to include: Current ace photographer and droll wit.

1.Easy drive to the end of the world. Arrived at 0645 to catch an airboat ride to the islands. The airboats look like the same contraptions they have in Florida without the high seats and with a touch of frostbite.
At 0646, I receive a text message that the approaching front has kicked up a quartering wind. The airboat guy is afraid that he will end up in Buffalo so he has cancelled all frostbite rides. I am to go to the airport.

2. It is 0715 and it has turned into day. The airplane looks more secure than an airboat and the pilot looks very young, but he is taller than the marker that said, “You must be taller than this to fly an airplane.” It made me feel better about his skills.

3. Spacious interior seated two across if you are intimate with the person sitting beside you.

4. Take-off was uneventful. Translated, that means we did not crash. We did slew sideways, crease the top of a tree, and bounce up and down. The flight was just 10 minutes. I was able to complete 8 rosaries.
Beautiful views of the peninsula and then the lake and Bass Island. I kept looking at the ice. Well, not the ice, but the open water and the fissures between the floes. “Worrying the beads” has a whole new meaning to me.

5. Curb service was great at the island airfield. The group picked me up with this rig. All the gear was stored in the trailer that doubled as a bus. You can see a storage box on the front of the ATV. When they mentioned that the box doubled as a flotation device with a second box on the back of the ATV, the beads began whizzing in my pocket.

6. First thing to do was to drill holes. You need them to fish, I guess. Did I mention that I don’t ice fish? When you drill through the ice, water splooshes through the hole and the beads in my pocket whiz because I can see what the ice looks like. It gave me a whole new sense of “pucker” as I hate cold baths at any time, not just when I am swathed in 6 layers of clothes.
Three holes… one for the line, one for the fish finder, and one because all good things come in threes.

7. The fish finder is one of many pieces of important equipment. It tells me that I am standing on ice in thirty feet of water. It doesn’t tell me how far from shore I am. It lets me know when a fish follows my lure. It tells me that I don’t know what I am doing.

8. Ice fishing is all about male bonding. It is a group activity where the group goes out on a frozen lake and scatters. The beads are starting to slow.

9. Being out on the lake is breathtaking as long as you do not look at the ice. If you look at the ice, the rosary beads speed up. If you look at the shore, you realize that you cannot swim to shore if you go through the ice. The beads speed up. So you look back to the hole and the fish finder and begin breathing again.
The approaching front has slowed fishing and the wind kicks up. Sustained winds of 10 mph with gusts to 15 mph. I am thinking fireplace… in a cabin… on shore.

10. First fish of the day is a white bass. Just over a foot long, the species is gathering in large schools in anticipation of the spring spawn. The females look like little footballs. The walleyes are feeding on white bass.

11. First walleye is taken, beads slow and stop. Concentration is focused on the fish finder and my line. This ice fishing thing looks promising.

12. I finally catch a walleye. The rosary has not only saved my life but it made me an ice fisherman. It was an “average” fish for Lake Erie, about 4 or 5 pounds and 24 inches long.
For a newbie, the fish was perfect. The wind seemed to die down and the shore got closer. The ice still looked like crap but I no longer noticed it.

13. Big fish of the day was ten pounds thirteen ounces, thirty inches long. Scott was happy. The fish? Not so much.
Fish fry for dinner. But not Scott’s fish. His went into a bag for the taxidermist.
The group caught limits every day from Tuesday through Saturday. A number of fish were in the ten pound range.

14. The storm that hit the East Coast with thirty inches of snow grazed Ohio with three to four inches of snow. However, the front brought winds of thirty miles an hour… and snowdrifts.
I laughed when I saw my car in the parking lot. The drift was four feet tall. Snow ran around and under my car, halfway up the door. When I was finally able to open the door, my battery was dead.
Snow packed the wheels giving the car a thrum and a shaking movement when I started to drive, and for the first 90 miles, I felt like I was still on the lake.

15. East bound on I-94, heading home. Tired but happy. A faint odor of fish is wafting off my ski gloves, deepening my smile.
Life is good.

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