Putty-gray was not just the color of the winter sky above but also the color of the farm pond’s ice below.
ice-fishing anglers often refer to such material as “punk ice,” a term
that generally applies to maybe-safe, maybe-not-so-safe, conditions.
ice,” yelled Paul Liikala, thrusting his left hand up and spreading his
fingers apart as a way of making a safe-ice explanation point.
had worked his way from the farm pond’s shore, drilling first a hole in
the ice only several feet from the bank. He then inched further out,
drilling test bore holes along the way.
super-bright Mustang survival suit, Liikala was less concerned about
falling through the ice more than he was regarding whether we’d have the
opportunity to fish.
“There’s six inches of ice,” Liikala said after returning to land. “We’re good to go.”
ghostly scab of gray ice was little more than a shim overlaying several
inches of solid clear stuff underneath, Liikala said.
Such conditions would not forestall an effort for us to try and catch some of the farm pond’s fishes.
“You have to consider it a bonus when you get good ice this far into March,” Liikala said.
March’s good ice not only provided our last opportunity to ice-fish the
farm pond this season it also was the first opportunity. Thus, it
likewise was the only opportunity.
Considering as well
how the 2011’s unseasonably mild/global-warming/climate
change/whatever-weather tossed out any chance for ice-fishing the farm
pond, we were thoroughly pleased.
Using his ice augur
to drill a matched set of holes for each of us, Liikala decided that
four weren’t enough. Nor eight nor even 10.
took off on the ice, drilling a running series of prospective holes that
would please an entire colony of gophers or prairie dogs.
our first attempt at fishing after Liikala had worn himself out by
drilling holes (“I’m pretty hot from all that work”) we sent our lines
down through the farm pond’s slightly stained waters.
determined the water’s depth by temporarily attaching a weighted
alligator clip to an ice-fishing jig, we settled on having the lures and
their accompanying wax worms suspend 12 to 18 inches above the farm
pond’s muddy floor.
That should get the fish’s attention, we figured.
did, though not as fast nor with as many fish as we would have liked.
Call it timing. Late ice, Liikala opined, usually means the better
fishing comes to play toward early evening.
For now we
were content with catching a few respectable bluegills. The numbers were
enough to keep us paying attention to our lines but not enough to stave
off worry how this could be our worst-ever ice-fishing day.
No need to panic, of course. Certainly not with this farm pond anyway.
swap of pre-drilled holes proved less than satisfying in the volume of
bluegills being hoodwinked by the stationary jig-wax worm combination.
was a different story, and here size did matter. The average length of
the fish was on the rise, another hint that the later we angled the
better the odds were of catching both more and larger fish.
about the time I was thinking we had enough, Liikala yelled from his
perch up toward the face of the pond’s dam. And while we were separated
by maybe 150 yards I could see the fish Liikala was holding up had some
substance to it.
Sure enough the last series of holes
to be drilled by Liikala was over a hollowed-out cavity - or bowl - in
the pond’s substrate. And down maybe 15 to 18 feet Liikala tapped into
the hunger of a nearly 14-inch-long white crappie.
That would be our forth and last move. There really was no point in trying to augur any more bore holes into the ice.
still the clock was now entering the cusp between late afternoon and
early evening. On cue the fish started to bite; nice-size fish,
better-size fish, and finally Liikala’s “that would be a ‘wow’ fish for a
Trying to keep an eye on more than one
pole became a chore, the fishing having turned itself on with gusto.
Usually it meant that while you were keeping a close look on the
tantalizing pull-down of a foam plastic float in one hole the another
float in the hole three feet to the right dipped quickly.
Which led to neither fish being caught.
was a stretch of good-natured banter as either Liikala or I would
withdraw a bluegill, admire the fish and then send it back down the hole
from which it was extracted.
Before we even realized it we each had become chilled as the evening took hold.
It had been a good day of ice fishing; the likely first, last, and thus, only, such trip of the kind to the pond this year.
Yep, the long wait was worth it, too.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn