Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For March 13th, 2009 Edition.
As we approach the mid-point of March, the month dad proclaimed was created by God because eternity wasn't long enough, it's a time ice-fisherman look forward to. The guys and gals who enjoy sitting out on thawing ice as water runs back into the holes realize the time is ripe for great pan fish fishing.
Now I freely admit I have never been "completely nuts about ice fishing." In fact, when I view normally sane individuals sitting on buckets with their backs against a raging northwest wind and swirling snow I've often used the word "nuts" to describe those so inclined to do so. But - we all have our personal "insanities" in life and I'm sure numerous folks have thought that I'm a pint short of a quart when I'm sitting in a duck blind enduring a raging northwest wind and swirling snow.
As Father Time pushes my birthday numbers higher and higher my affinity for sitting on six gallon buckets with my back against the wind has diminished proportionately to those increasingly larger birthday numbers. But when there is a hint of spring in the March air and water starts running back into the ice fishing holes I get an urge for a meal of freshly caught, pan fried yellow perch fillets.
I'm not sure the water will be running into the holes in the ice tomorrow, but whether or not it is, my good friend, Dr. Tom Tilkens of Green Bay and I will be heading out on an area lake late tomorrow morning with yellow perch fillets on our minds.
During my formative years, when I was young and foolish, as opposed to now when I'm old and foolish, I did a considerable amount of fishing through the ice for whatever would bite. For many years during my youth, when my family lived on the shores of Kasomo Lake, I'd try to keep my favorite ice fishing holes open all winter, but with little success.
When I was a kid, Kasomo Lake was known as Dollar Lake. It is small, just 26 acres when it's filled with water. Presently, due to the ongoing drought in the north it has shrunk to probably just over 20 acres and its original maximum depth of 19 feet has dwindled to about 15 feet.
When dad and mom homesteaded on its north shore in 1938 Dollar Lake was infested with perch, few of which ever exceeded seven inches in length. Due to their high numbers those little perch were always starving and would consume just about anything presented to them on a hook.
Dad and I would start collecting our winter bait, grub worms, when we began filling the woodshed in early October. As dad split chunks into smaller pieces it was my job to do the piling. When we encountered logs that were infested with grubs it also became my job to pick them off the sawdust floor of our woodshed or pick them out of their tunnels in the wood chunks with a long wooden probe, and store them in a coffee can for safekeeping.
When a can was confirmed to be "full enough" we'd stuff several handfuls of sawdust into the can to keep the grubs happy, and then place the can of grubs under a mound of sawdust in our icehouse to keep our bait from freezing to death.
After the ice on Dollar Lake was three-inches thick I would be given the green light to start harvesting perch. I'd chop holes with a hatchet over the deeper portions of the lake where beds of grass-weed flourished in the fertile muddy lake bottom. When I decided to call it a day I'd cover the holes with chunks of discarded plywood and then cover the plywood with snow, attempting to prevent the open holes from freezing tight. A twig from a tree shoved into the snow mounds marked the location of my "hot spots."
Another favored perch harvesting location was Escanaba Lake. In the days prior to an actual boat launch being constructed at that lake, which occurred sometime around 1950, access to Escanaba Lake was difficult. Well, actually access was fairly easy but exit was highly difficult. To access this pristine body of water anglers had to descend a VERY steep hill at the extreme southern tip of what is now known as "Landing Bay." The downhill slide was exciting - the climb back up was a struggle!
One of "life's embarrassing moments" took place out on the frozen surface of Escanaba Lake when I was about 12 years old. Dad and a group of his pals planned a major expedition to that location in hopes of securing a sack of jumbo perch. They made the mistake of inviting me along and allowing me to carry the one and only ice-spud, which is a tool used to chisel a hole through two-feet of solid ice.
After a long walk to the "perch holes" the junior member of the expedition decided he'd show off by chopping the first hole open, which turned out to be a hole someone else had chiseled open and abandoned. Little did I know only a thin layer of ice rested over the icy-water. I thrust the spud at the frozen surface with all my might. The spud broke through the thin layer of ice - slipped out of my gloved hand - and rapidly discovered the bottom of the lake some 15 feet below my feet!
I will omit the actual vocabulary used during the tongue-lashing I received from the owner of the spud, as well as a similar one from my father. Fortunately for me, as well as our group of perch harvesters, another nearby angler allowed us to borrow his spud - with an understanding the kid kept his hands off it!
A more recent memory of a near disaster while ice fishing took place about five years ago during a March assault on a school of perch. Dr. Tilkens, JR DeWitt and I set up shop on an area lake and proceeded with the harvest. Dr. Tom was hunkered down warm and cozy in his portable ice-fishing tent, while JR and I straddled our six gallon buckets, propane heaters tucked between our legs, our backs turned against a howling northwest wind and swirling snow.
I was seated about 15 feet in front of JR, with my back towards him. Every few minutes I could hear a muted verbal chuckle as another perch committed suicide. But suddenly I heard a loud exclamation that I mistook as a signal JR had landed some monstrous finny specimen. Turning quickly on my bucket, expecting to see an exceptionally large fish dangling from JR's hook, I was horrified to see my pal was on fire!
A small tear in his goose down vest had allowed a feather or two to escape and fall into the flames of his heater as he leaned forward to soak up more heat. The blaze ignited additional feathers within his vest, which projected an image of a man on fire! Fortunately, the blaze was short lived and only minor damage was done to JR's vest, but the vision of a man dancing around on the ice swatting a flaming vest with a gloved hand continues to give me a chuckle.
At the sound of the commotion Dr. Tom poked his head out of his warm environment to see what the fuss was all about. But he missed seeing the "dance of the flaming vest."
Time will tell what happens tomorrow!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: email@example.com or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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