Challenges are lurking behind every endeavor, even for the person trying to get some ice-fishing time in. Now days, just getting the frigid temperatures necessary to freeze the lake surface seems impossible. Then coordinating the freeze with time off work seems a logistical nightmare. I remember when Old-Man Winter would freeze the ice in November, and it would stay that way until March. That was before the Global Warming came along. Now, it seems we can’t get good ice.
The last time we had a good freeze was a couple of years ago. Since then, there was no ice hockey, the local ice fishing contest was cancelled, there wasn’t even enough snow to host a snowball fight. It was too warm! It was very frustrating because at the end of the last good ice fishing season my dear, sweet, lovely wife had bought me a gift in the form of ice fishing jigs. Fancy ones, with the sparkly crystals embedded near the hook. The flashing crystal is meant to drive those curious panfish to madness with wonder, and hunger. Enough so, hopefully, to compel them take the bait. There was this one jig in the bunch called the, Tarantula, that had hooks ALL over the place. Scary looking! It makes you think it will just reach out and snatch a fish for even swimming near it. Heck! Just trying to bait the thing up looked like an exercise in self-mutilation. I couldn’t wait to try it out. It didn’t happen, however, because the global warming swooped in and took the ice away for the season.
Recently, the weatherman rolled his weather-dice, and made big predictions for snow, cold and the first promise of “fishable ice” this season.
“You have to hurry,” He said. “Because next week the temperatures would shoot back up to 50 degrees and the ice would go away.”
The weatherman began sounding like one of those commercials where they are selling their stuff at low, low prices. It was annoying. Regardless, I couldn’t wait to get to the lake! It seemed that the work day would never end, but when it did I was on my way to my favorite fishing spot.
Heading out on the road I had reminded myself that with cold, and snow comes slippery roads, and before I knew it, what looked like a promising head start on the highway soon degraded to a crawl. You can only imagine my disappointment as the vehicles in front of me ground to a halt, and the neighboring lanes of traffic began stacking up like blocks on a Tetris board, whittling away the head start down to a late night arrival.
Now when the weatherman says “fishable ice” I can only assume that he means that the water will be hard. I have never fished with him, so I don’t know how he comes to a determination. But when I say, “fishable ice”, I mean that it has to successfully pass a series of test I have created to ensure the joy and safety of the fishing experience. It goes something like this… Sometime in November, the lake freezes and I chuck rocks at it to see if I can smash holes in the surface. After that is done, I step out on its surface a foot or two off of shore to see if the ice will hold me. After that is done, I go inside to dry off and change into fresh clothes because I have broken through what is termed, “Thin Ice”. After that is done, I sip coffee, while standing guard by the picture window; watching the lake, waiting for the neighbors to congregate on the lakes surface. When they do, then I know its safe to go ice fishing.
During a recent neighborhood gathering I overheard a conversation in which one neighbor admitted to another that watching me break through the “thin ice” is part of their test before letting their children on the ice.
My family enjoys the fish I occasionally bring in. And because of this I try to justify my ice fishing urges to my hardcore, fly-fishing buddies by saying that the “nymphs” I use are very authentic, fight down to the taste. They only shake their heads in sadness, and disgust as they deliberate whether or not they should revoke my seat at fly-fishermen’s table at the local coffee shop.
While it is true that big risk often produces big rewards, so too can they produce big disasters. Human nature has proven that temptation will compel us to go for the bait almost every time. Maybe it is not just the bait itself we are after, but instead, the challenge of getting the bait without getting caught. Perhaps challenge truly is, the tastiest of baits.