WOODS ‘N’ WATER: An ice breaker for the new year

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: An ice breaker for the new year

Got ice? It first looked like we were going to get a good coating of ice for those who like to ice fish.

Then some warmer weather and rain took care of that and we again had open water.

We even had a nor’easter that gave us a heavy cover of snow, much to the joy of local ski slopes. Then a warmup and some rain took care of that.

I even got a few reports on some local anglers doing some open-water fishing. Meriden angler Marty Loos said he caught a few trout at Black Pond and, just last weekend before the freeze, there was a bass boat stalking the waters of Silver Lake.

How does that old saying go? “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait an hour?” From what we have seen the past two winters, it could be true.

On New Year’s Day, I took our 10-pound terror of a pooch, Charlie, over to the Meriden Dog Park at Beaver Pond for his morning workout and was not at all surprised to see that about 75 percent of the pond was covered with a skim of shell ice.

The only open water was over next to the railroad tracks. Two swans were making use of it.

Then I saw something that caught me off guard.

There was a car with a boat on a trailer backed up to the frozen part of the pond and it looked like they were actually going to launch the boat onto the frozen water. Granted, it was only skim ice, but in my book, ice is ice, and it would seem to be fruitless to attempt to fish on it.

There were two young men. Unfortunately, I did not get their names. They loaded the boat with all of their fishing gear and the boat broke through the ice when it left the trailer.

I was so fascinated, I put Charlie into the car and drove over to where they were getting the boat ready. I still did not believe that they were actually going to try fishing, but since the pandemic, who knows?

They had two electric motors on their boat, fore and aft, and they proceeded out into the thin ice. A couple of times they had to back up and hit the ice again to break it, but slowly, surely they banged their way through the skim ice.

A couple of times the young man in the front had to jump as the boat rode up on some of the ice to break through, but they were undaunted in their efforts to keep going.

I could now see that they were trying to get to the open water by the railroad tracks, but that was on the other side of the pond from where they launched the boat.

They finally broke through the ice to the open water and immediately began to toss fishing lures. I had to admire their tenacity in getting in some fishing time, but even your old outdoor writer in his younger years would have passed on such a venture.

These young men were hardcore!

After they made the open water, I left the park but made a note to return in a while to see how they were making out and if they were safe.

I got back to Beaver Pond just as they were taking their boat out of the water. They said they only caught one pickerel.

When I asked what prompted them to attempt such a stunt, one replied, “We wanted to start the New Year off right!”

That they did. If they read this column, I am sorry I did not get your names, but if you should attempt something like that again, PLEASE wear a life jacket!

And, speaking of ice, I could see many of the local ice fishermen digging out their gear with thoughts of getting in some early ice fishing.

For many die-hard fishermen, getting some time on the ice for fishing is as good as it gets. Nowadays, with all of the new ice fishing gear, including warm clothing and footwear as well as portable shelters, who can blame them?

I know that in my younger days, a trip to a frozen body of water with some fishing buddies was an all-day affair that featured some good times and plenty of good food to eat while waiting for the fish to bite.

If we get safe ice this year — and that is a big IF — ice fishing is a wonderful way to spend a day in our great outdoors, especially during these trying times of social distancing.

Ice fishing can be fun for the whole family. The kids can even skate if the ice is safe enough.

That brings up an important part: going out on safe ice. Every year there are horror stories in the news about some unfortunate person drowning after going through the ice.

Going through the ice into freezing water is something you will never forget, if you survive the plunge. I know this from a personal experience many years ago and it has made me always wary of being on ice that might be unsafe.

Generally, there is no warning the ice is going to let go under you. It just gives way and you plunge into the freezing water.

Your breath will want to leave you, the water is so cold. If you are lucky — if you call going through the ice “lucky” — you will come up in the hole you went through. If you should slip under the unbroken ice — well, get the picture?

As the cold weather returns — and it will — the ice will again begin to form on our ponds and lakes. And some future rocket scientists will test the strength of the ice by throwing rocks that weigh less than a pound to see if the ice is strong enough to hold them.

Don’t laugh it happens every year.

Next week, we will talk about safety on the ice. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.

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