Deep Ties to the Lake I Fish

Sometimes a lake or a fishing spot is more than just a body of water

Deep Ties to the Lake I Fish

This story is part of a larger series on ice-fishing culture. To read all series posts, click here

I’m not as close to my mom’s side of the family as I was when I was a kid. After my mom died I lost some of that connection, but it’s no one’s fault but my own.

I have two aunts and two uncles who live on Boom Lake and its connecting waters. My mom grew up here. She and her siblings walked across the ice to school in winter, and took a boat across in fall and spring. She and my Aunt Arlene had to run across the ice one night in subzero weather to get my grandpa from the paper mill, where he worked until he went into the outboard motor business full time. My grandma was going into labor with my Aunt Mary Ann and she needed him to come home. Without a phone, she had to send her two oldest girls to get him. That was in 1946.

I can see my Uncle Tom’s house from the shack right now. My brother lives just over the hill on the point that runs along the west side of the bay, in a house that Aunt Arlene — and later one of her granddaughters — lived in long ago. I live on a different lake, but I’m connected to this water.

Duke's Bay

I started this two-week run in the ice shack at a very familiar spot on the lake. Duke’s Bay takes its name from Vernon “Duke” Montgomery. It’s not always named on maps, but it’s well known by that name.

Duke was the first and longest-running Evinrude dealer in the state of Wisconsin and his home and shop were up the hill at the head of the bay, about 250 yards from where the Snake Chaser is parked now. He was my grandpa, and I caught countless bluegills and crappies out of this bay as a kid, along with some perch and bass, and the occasional northern. I remember the northerns being small back then, too.

I can remember digging worms at the edge of the yard, and cleaning fish with my grandma. Butter running down to my grandpa’s elbows when he ate corn on the cob. Delivering rental outboards to local resorts. The smell of gas and oil in the shop, and the sound of the bells on the door. Slow pontoon rides, which I hated then but love now. 

I can remember the path down the steep hill to the water. It didn’t get real steps until I was older. And the big dock built on a repurposed set of pontoons. There was an old stump sticking out of the water to the right with a few lily pads scattered around it. That stump always held fish.

There was a downed tree in the water a little further off to the other side, and a big log just past it. I got hung up on both with regularity, but that was crappie territory. Further down in the corner of the bay there was a tire clinging to the barely visible remnants of a dock that hadn’t held a person in decades, but every spring it held the best bluegill fishing around.

Past that there was a long bed of weeds that stood out of the water along the shore. I can’t remember what they were; at that time they were just weeds to me. Then it opened up a little to the left — another good spot — and from there the point wrapped around to the mouth of the bay. As a kid, venturing outside that point in a little rowboat seemed like heading out to sea. Sitting here in the ice shack now, that seems impossible. So does the number of fish I used to catch.

One day in the ’80s, my Uncle Bob, who’s married to my mom’s sister Judy, reeled in a piano stool while fishing in the bay and unspooled an old family story. The short version is that after getting sick of his children’s piano lessons and lack of musicality, my grandpa donated the family piano to a local church. My grandma, who was not at all pleased, walked down to the dock and threw the stool into the lake. Decades later, Uncle Bob reeled it in. The Milwaukee Journal or Sentinel — they were separate back then — did a story on it and I can remember sitting on the porch at my mom’s antique shop talking to the reporter.

Starting Point

We’ve had the shack in this bay a few times. One year we caught a decent number of fish during the Lions Club Fisheree. I remember getting into my brother’s garage after he’d gone to bed to borrow more wood for the fire. And a few of us slept in the shack that night.

We haven’t been back over here, however, in four or five years. We’ve mostly alternated between a protected area behind the horseshoe island, and a spot we refer to as Coop’s Bay. You won’t find that one on any maps. 

Last weekend we moved the shack into Thunder Lake for the Jailhouse tournament, run by a bar (The Jailhouse) on the lake over there. They make a great pizza and it’s fun to pick one up with the pontoon boat on summer evening cruise. One of our crew, Ryan, actually took fourth place in the tournament and won $200 for a northern that was just over 27 inches. It was cold that day, too.

When we brought the shack back to the main lake on Sunday, I wanted to come here and start my two weeks in this spot. I’m starting to question that now, but I think the weather is playing a role in my lack of success. I highly doubt it’s my technique. 

Next in the Series 

Two Weeks on the Ice: Daily Log 3

If you'd like to see all the stories, videos and images in the series, go here


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