Two Weeks on the Ice: Daily Log 3

Warming up a bitter day with the first flag of the week

Two Weeks on the Ice: Daily Log 3

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

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019
7:13 a.m.
-26 degrees
Rhinelander, USA

You’ve got to
Kiss an angel good morning
And let her know you think about her
When you’re gone

7:27 a.m.
The sun is out and my truck says it’s up to -24 degrees. I keep it running with the heat blowing until I’m all set up. It was -32 at my house when I got up this morning. For the third consecutive day, I appear to be the only soul on the lake, aside from the morning commuters making their way across the ice into town, and a deer that just sprinted across the ice from one shore to the other.

The heaters are running full blast but the mercury in the shack thermometer isn’t even on the scale yet. None of it wants to leave the little bulb at the bottom. Maybe it just lacks motivation.

9:22 a.m.
It’s been a disorganized and discouraging morning. I think I picked up a little circle of frostbite on my thumb from pressing the primer/igniter button on one of the heaters as soon as I got in the shack. Then I realized I forgot my phone and the bag that has all my charging cords and gear, so I had to run back home. But I’m back in the shack working now, and my tip-ups are in.

It’s another beautiful sunny day and a warm front is moving in. Outside temp is currently -19. It’s supposed to get close to zero today. It’s warmer inside the shack than my house.

Despite having no good reason to be, I’m optimistic today. I set up my boards on the east side of the bay, but I’m still fishing out close to the mouth. All three lines are in about 6 feet of water. If I don’t have any flags by lunchtime I’ll move deeper into the bay.

A pack of snowmobiles just buzzed by me, headed upriver.

I’m trying to finish a story about the Traditions Pursuit G4 Ultralight muzzleloader for Shooting Sports Retailer magazine, and I can’t help but think of some of the similarities between deer camp and fishing in the Snake Chaser. They’re places where we come together, and regardless of results, they always hold great promise. They give the days I live for.

Still no flags. I just mentioned that to a co-worker and he said one has to pop up one of these days. Odds would say he’s correct; on this lake I’m not so sure. There’s no rhyme or reason out here. 

Pete just rolled in with pasties for lunch. He’s putting his boards in now. Six lines are better than three. 

It’s too cold for Velcro to work.

Mid-afternoon and another day without a flag is beginning to look like a distinct possibility. I just chipped out my holes and moved one of my tip-ups deeper into the bay out in front of my Uncle Tom’s house in about 12 feet of water. I’m set about 3 feet under the ice, 7 feet off the bottom. I always set closer to the ice than the bottom for northerns. They feed up. Walleyes feed down. 

All is quiet on the flowage. 

The Washington Post is reporting that officials across multiple states have linked at least seven deaths to the fearsome polar vortex that has gripped the Midwest. They say you shouldn’t breathe deeply or talk too much outside in these conditions. No mention of how many people have moved their offices into ice shacks to celebrate the “coldest arctic outbreak in a generation.” 

Heaven help him if you think you can
They’re makin’ it hard on the workin’ man

Come on. Not one damn flag? That’s not even possible. You can’t tell me there aren’t fish in this bay. It’s too fertile.

There are 23 inches of ice on the bay. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 22 inches is enough ice to safely support a 30-ton load. 

It’s both difficult and demoralizing to keep track of the futility. 

Jose Cuervo you are a friend of mine
I like to drink you with a little salt and lime

“I’d like to spit some Beechnut in that dude’s eyes” might be one of the greatest lyrics ever written.

I live back in the woods you see
My woman and the kids and the dogs and me
I've got a shotgun, a rifle and a four wheel drive
And a country boy can survive

Third straight day without a flag — six overall, including days prior to opening the ice office. It’s funny how logic and hope fight from different corners. Day 3 is close to done and I’m just getting fired up. There’s a warm front coming in and I’m gonna catch fish over the next few days. I’m hoping I can catch a few decent fish over the weekend and share with you the delights of pickled northern next week.

You’d think after three days of this bullshit I’d be out of here as soon as 4:30 arrives and my workday is over, but instead I’m wishing there was an extra hour or two of daylight.

Final thoughts on Day 3: I really thought today could produce some action. I was completely wrong, but I think tomorrow could be ... Holy shit. Pete has a flag!

It took his minnow and 20 feet of line before he even noticed his flag was up. Got caught staring at the paper mill. Her beauty seduces us all. No fish but still, it feels like a triumph.

Ryan pulled in a little while ago. We're celebrating Pete’s birthday.

My boards are most certainly frozen solid. But this Busch Light is melting my heart. 

I really should pull my tip-ups. 

Ok, I gotta get out of here. 

Classic Country cut to my nephews’ hockey came. How can I leave? 

The mill is lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s gorgeous. 

The Hodags are down 2-1 heading into the second period. I am still scoreless. 

We’re tied at two. Bridger Flory evens the score. I coached him in youth hockey. Great kid. 

Alright, I’m picking up. I have to be back on the ice in 11 hours.

Next in the Series

A Tour of the Snake Chaser

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


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