Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For December 31st, 2010 Edition.
I doubt Iíd get much disagreement when I say ice fishing is one of the most popular winter sports in areas such as ours where winter weather generally consumes four or more months. Iíll also freely admit that if I had to rank all the various outdoor activities I enjoy, ice fishing would be rather far down the list. Donít get me wrong, I donít dislike the sport, far from it. But I certainly donít get as excited thinking about ice fishing as I do when the open water fishing season rolls around in early May or various hunting seasons such as duck, deer and upland game arrive. However, canoeing a pristine trout stream for brookies is my very favorite fishing adventure!
My most favored time to ice fish is in late winter/early spring when temperatures warm and melting water begins flowing back into the holes in the ice. Sitting on a bucket out on dark ice soaking up Old Solís warmth and pulling up a few Ďgills, crappie and perch makes for a perfect day of ice fishing.
As most folks know, ice fishing, like many outdoor sports, often presents dangerous situations. Trucks and ATVs frequently break through the ice, along with anglers who become careless or indifferent to the traps Ma Nature likes to spring. Iíve been lucky enough to avoid all of those accidents, but have narrowly avoided doing so several times. Such is the nature of partaking in most all outdoor activities.
One of my most memorable ice fishing disasters took place about ten years ago on Trout Lake. One of my outdoor pals from Green Bay, Iíll call him Tom because thatís his name, shared the adventure and we actually learned a lesson concerning a specific danger involving ice fishing.
Tom makes a great outdoor companion as he has scads of equipment for almost every outdoor sport, including ice fishing! On this memorable January day we decided a nice mess of white fish would be our objective and Trout Lake is home to numerous members of that species.
Tom drove his heavily loaded vehicle to an access point on Ben Bendrick Drive and we began organizing our equipment. The first order of business involved unloading Tomís ancient snowmobile, a nineteen sixties Yamaha. Next we connected a very large, heavy sled to the snow machine. Tomís sled resembles a dog team sled, except its much larger. Besides holding all our ice fishing equipment a second passenger, me, could ride on the rear of the sled just like a dog team musher. Last but not least, we hooked Tomís portable ice fishing shanty behind the sled and were almost ready to head out to our chosen location. But first we needed to start the old Yamaha!
Most motorized contraptions have specific personal quirks. This particular snowmobile needs to be coaxed into running after sitting in storage for many months. And the only way to make the beast fire is to remove the spark plugs and pour gasoline into the cylinders to prime it. That only takes about a half-hour and our reward is smoke and noise.
With much fanfare the great expedition headed west!
What a grand winter day it was. Large, puffy flakes of snow were drifting down from a lead colored sky and not a hint of a breeze disturbed the seemingly endless whiteness that lay before us. We traveled westward about a mile and stopped at a point where a broad gravel bar extending southward from Cathedral Point plunges downward into seventy feet of water.
Our first order of business was to drill many holes with Tomís gas driven ice auger to locate exactly where the drop off was. Next we erected his popup portable ice shanty, started Tomís portable heater and began fishing.
The finny denizens of the deep were not exactly in a feeding frenzy mode but as the morning progressed we bagged a few white fish and many more small lake trout, which were tenderly released. And most of all we were having fun!
We became so relaxed and focused on pulling up fish from the depths below we failed to notice what was taking place outside Tomís cozy shelter. It finally dawned on us the inside of the shelter was becoming darker and darker. Upon realizing what had been gradually taking place we unzipped the door and looked outside to discover we were in the midst of a major snowfall!
We stepped out of Tomís shanty into a world of total whiteness! Cathedral Point, only a few hundred yards distance was invisible! The track created by Tomís snowmobile was rapidly filling in and without a compass we would have no way of knowing which way was home should we stay and continue to fish! Our decision to pack up and get out of Dodge City came very quickly.
But then we discovered a new and more dangerous problem. The weight of the snow pressing down on the ice had caused water from all the holes we had drilled to seep upward creating a watery slush below the surface of the ice. We were standing in several inches of water that lay hidden under a layer of snow!
We set a new speed record repacking our massive amount of equipment and reattaching the sled and portable ice shanty to the old Yamaha, which easily started, much to our liking. But try as we might we could not get our load to move forward! The slush beneath the snow quickly froze to the steel skis of Tomís sled preventing it from gliding smoothly over the snowy surface. We were too underpowered to move the heavy load of equipment plus two anglers!
We disconnected the sled from the snowmobile and attached the pop up shelter to the machine. I told Tom to tow his shelter back to his vehicle and Iíd stay behind and chip the ice off the skis and pull the sled away from the slush-covered area. Tom departed following his rapidly disappearing track and within seconds he disappeared into the wintry whiteness that engulfed us!
I removed all our equipment from the sled, tipped it upside down andchipped away at the ice encrusted sled runners with my ice spud successfully removing most of it. Next I pulled the sled away from the slushy environment and reloaded all our equipment. I was just finishing the reload when I heard the wonderful sound of Tomís Yamaha approaching.
Well, all is well that ends well and within a few more long minutes we were safely back on sound terra firma and heading for a warm living room.
Looking back on that adventure it could have ended much worse. But it didnít and the smoked white fish that resulted from the ordeal more than made up for the discomfort of the moment!
Be safe out there!
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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