As I sit down to write this column it looks like a freeze is on the way, but will it be cold enough and long enough to put some ice on local ponds and lakes so there can be some ice fishing?
Have you ever been ice fishing? I started long ago in my teens and Black Pond was the place to be.
The main attraction at Black Pond was the Black Pond Boat Livery, run by one of the nicest outdoorsmen I have ever known, Eddie Holmes.
This was before the CT DEEP paved what is now the boat launch and parking area. Back then, it was a gravel road down to the water’s edge, though you could park up by the boat livery.
Eddie always had some type of soup or stew on the stove and the boathouse was a winter hangout for many of the local outdoorsmen. Eddie would bring in one of the wooden boats he rented out during the fishing season and worked on them while the place was heated by what I believe was a wood fire.
Once there, you could purchase bait for your ice fishing as well as a hot dog or hamburger and a steaming hot cup of coffee.
For some of us, Black Pond will never be the same without it being overlooked by Eddie from the porch of the boathouse. His passing was a great loss to those of us who loved to fish Black Pond. We miss you Eddie Holmes.
Of course, this was before power ice augers made their mark on the ice fishing industry. Being a kid, I made use of whatever I could scrounge at home. I bet Mom never knew that it was me who took her flour sifter and used it to ladle ice chips out of the holes I chopped for ice fishing.
We made good with what we had and I used an axe to chop the holes in the ice. It worked pretty good in ice six inches or so, but when the ice became too thick it became harder to make the hole deep enough to hit water.
A downside of using an axe was the fact that when water began to leak into the hole you were chopping, you would get a cold shower from the axe hitting the water a lot of the times before you finished cutting the holes.
But then a friend of Dad’s gave me his ice fishing gear, including wooden type with flags, a ladle for cleaning the chips out of the hoes and an ice chopper that seemed to make chopping the holes a bit less tedious.
I was in the big time then!
To keep warm, I usually made a small fire on the shore or made an occasional visit to the boat house. Many times we would use a metal 5-gallon can as a cooking stove and for heat. We would build a fire in it and, when the coals began to form, we would roast hot dogs or kielbasa over them.
To this day, I can’t ever remember better tasting hot dogs or kielbasa.
As time progressed and we got older, we started to try other spots for ice fishing, and Silver Lake was one of them.
Some of my most favorite memories were born on Silver Lake while ice fishing with a buddy I worked with, Ken Statske, and our kids. We would fish what was known as “The Peat Hole” at Silver Lake. We would set up a camp on the shoreline, build a bonfire to keep warm and ice fish the day away.
I will never forget one day we hit the ice on a Sunday and evidently someone had been jigging the area we fished because the holes that were left in the ice were much smaller than the ones we chopped.
Ken decided to save some labor and make use of one of the smaller holes. He set up a type in the smaller hole and, before you know it, the flag went up. Ken raced over and started to haul in line. The fish on the other end was giving him quite a tussle. After a brief struggle, it came up into the hole — AND GOT STUCK!
It was a huge pickerel and it was not coming out.
Just then, the line snapped! What Ken did then was pure instinct. I would also call it bravery. Ken jammed his fingers into the toothy mouth of the pickerel and hauled it out the rest of the way on to the ice, but not without paying a price for such bravery.
The razor sharp teeth of the pickerel had made some deep slices into a couple of Ken’s fingers. As usual, we had some Band-Aids with us and Ken toughed it out for the rest of the day. If memory serves me correctly, we caught a passel of fish, mostly yellow perch and calico bass along with the one pickerel.
This was long before we got into deer hunting and one of our favorite ice fishing meals were pork chops. I had a Coleman gas stove that used Amoco white gas (remember them?) and I would fry the chops in garlic and olive oil and serve them up on a slice of hearty rye bread.
Man, I get hungry just thinking about some of those ice fishing meals.
Sometimes we would catch calico bass and yellow perch in the shallows. When this was happening we would put a bait down into the water and lay down next to the hole waiting and watching for a fish to take the bait.
The water was clear enough for us to see the reactions of the fish to the bait before they hit it. It was really a learning experience and one you have to be in our great outdoors to enjoy.
I guess you can say it is quite a thrill to hook up with a fish that is too big to come out of the hole you chopped in the ice. One time we were on Gardner Lake in Salem and a fishing buddy, Hank Klatt, found one of those smaller holes in the ice left over from someone else the day before. Hank used it for one of his type and when the flag went up he, too, found the fish too huge to come through.
Unfortunately for Hank, the line broke and the fish got away. He took a lot of ribbing on that one.
Ice fishing can be fun for the whole family. Why not give it a try — IF we get some ice and, hopefully, we will.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving to protect our great country.
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