Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Warm memories of frigid days spent ice fishingBy DICK PINNEY February 04. 2018 2:39AM
The ice was kind of "creaky" when the Tomcat drove his dad's "going to work" old Ford sedan onto the ice of Great East Lake to try to catch a bucket of crappies that we were told the lake was full of.
As we inched the old Ford out onto the ice, we made it a point to check with some of the fishermen who were already set up out there and universally they answered with dismay when we mentioned crappy.
The universal answer was: "There ain't none in here and never was!"
But we set up with our dozen tip-ups that we had set with small shiners at different water depths. And the flags began to trip, sending us skidding and sliding past most of them, and there were fish on every one that had gone off but not the ones we expected. They were yellow perch. Just the size that you were tempted to take home and fillet. In our estimation there's no better eatin' fish than ice-caught yellow perch. But also there's no more miserable fish to fillet than an eight-ounce yellow perch.
But every once in a while when we'd arrived at the waving flag signaling a fish on, we'd be surprised by a mid-sized pickerel or a decent largemouth (we think bass).
Did we mention that it was freezing cold out there? Not just cold but windy and cold! So at that time in life, the three of us, The Tomcat, Brad and the Dickster had sworn off drinking the "wicked spirits" for some time, and the hot tea or coffee in our thermoses were just not providing the impetus to brave-it-out on the ice.
The old Chevy four-door sedan was set sideways to the prevailing wind so we parked her so we could see our tip-ups and still be somewhat warm. Better said would be not quite frozen completely.
Tomcat came up with a unique and not at all safe idea of lighting up our usual store of cans of Sterno inside the car. We were willing to trade (seeing it wasn't one of our cars) the chance of burning a bit of the car's upholstery to the slight comfort those cans of Sterno produced.
It was quite a sight to see the three of us with many layers of clothing stacked on us sitting in the car with our feet stuck outside on the ice to be able to try to outrace each other to any flags that flew.
We set up just inside two or three other ice anglers gear but a reasonable distance from them, or so we thought. In fact, we were quick to make our acquaintances and friendship. After all, we were "brothers of the ice", which seemed to be a good thing because they hadn't forgotten to bring a flask or two and were quite generous in letting us have a sip when the flasks were being passed around.
I would have to admit that the cold air and extra slippery ice weren't the only things that was causing the three of us to take frequent falls, but then we got up with a smile on our face.
Then bedlam visited us! One of the flags had tripped and soon others became active! "We must have set up over a school of big fish," one of us yelled as we desperately grabbed some of the tip-ups, and were engaged in some serious give-and-take on what we were sure were some huge bass or pickerel.
Well, it didn't exactly end up that way. There was one outsized white perch that seemed to be the culprit! It had taken a bait on a tip-up that had no tension adjustment and had run out about 20 yards of line and then making a few figure eights through our tip-up field with each one of us thinking we had the monster of the deep on our line, not the other dumb friend that was thinking the same thing as we took and then gave line to each other!
We didn't mention that these were Brad's dad's fishing gear and tip-ups! You can't imagine the mess of frozen lines and tangled gear that we finally managed to get out of the water and into the back of Brad's dad's nice new Chevy station wagon!
Somehow, when we got to Brad's house, we were able to put the jumbled-up and frozen gear and lines into his dad's garage. It was quite a mess but the Tomcat and Dickster were having none of that when we quickly slipped into "the Cat's" Dad's car and were laughing as we left Brad with a long afternoon's job of thawing and untangling. And to add insult to injury, both of us made a big deal of emptying the remains of the flask of "Old Stumpblower" whiskey as we left in a cloud of dust!
Those were the times, my friends! We thought they'd never end! But we thank God that the three of us are still alive and still able to act up a bit and our friendships have lasted for well over half a century!
Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and "get you some!"
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get you some!