Two Weeks on the Ice: Daily Log 8

Battling through winter whiplash and making my mark on the flowage

Two Weeks on the Ice: Daily Log 8

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2019
7:31 a.m.
9 degrees
Rhinelander, USA


Hello darlin’
Nice to see you
It’s been a long time
You’re just as lovely
As you used to be

The ice storm kept me away yesterday, and it’s damn good to be back in the shack.

Getting here wasn’t without its challenges though. The power was out at my house when I woke up. Roads were considerably improved, but I locked my keys in the truck when I stopped for minnows. And when I got to the shack the lock was coated with ice, so I had to dig around in my truck for a lighter, and then huddle around the lock blocking the wind while the flickering butane flame slowly opened the door to another day of killing it on the flowage. 

My boards are finally in and the ice office is humming like a beehive. I wish I had a fax machine. And a glazed donut.

Ice conditions are far better than expected. After the polar vortex caused last week’s once-in-a-generation arctic outbreak, unseasonably warm weather slid in right behind it for the weekend. Saturday was sunny and beautiful. Sunday was even warmer but fog hung over the lake. And then came the ice storm. Luckily temps dipped back down in the single digits last night and firmed up what could have been a very slushy day on the lake. 

Meteorologists across the country must be staring red-eyed at computer screens into the wee hours of the morning to come up with all these new weather terms that describe daily life with such threatening overtones. 

I’m fishing. Same hole I caught my musky in Sunday. 

In a sick twist of fate, I got broken off again. My spool wasn’t spinning when I got to the hole, so I watched it for a minute and then let out a little extra line and pulled the board off to the side. I brought in about 6 feet of line before I could feel the fish, but it was there. I pulled in about 6 more feet before I realized it had me wrapped around a tree. I’d take in a little line and then let it take a little back out. In and out. I was wrapped but the fish was still pulling when I let it. I played it for a few minutes, hoping it would work its way out, or that it was just a little branch that might break free, but eventually it snapped me off. 

I’m up again, back in the shallow water. Fish have me running today.

Just landed an 18-inch northern. A little skinny, but a good lookin’ fish. I returned it to the water unharmed. You gotta save some for seed.

The Stateznys — Jamie, his wife Nikki and son Jonah — just pulled in. All the way from Colorado to the Snake Chaser. We’ve become a destination. I’m thinking about listing on Airbnb. 

I’m all out of pre-rigged leaders so I’m tying one up with Cortland SST tie-able stainless steel leader material. It doesn’t tie like monofilament but it’s pretty supple for wire.  

Jamie and Nikki just got their boards in and they already have a flag. This lake is full of surprises. 

Nikki’s fishing again. Minnow trip.

She’s up again. Jamie’s calling her the snake whisperer. False alarm: just another minnow trip.

We’ve caught fish in this spot two days in a row. That might not seem like a high standard, but it’s more than enough to keep us here. 

The action has slowed but time is passing fast on the flowage. The Colorado crew is checking their lines and clearing their holes. I know the flowage well enough not to bother. 

The snow’s been floating around all day but it’s coming down now. We’re supposed to get 5 to 8 inches tonight and more Thursday. Navigation on the flowage is going to get challenging.

Pete’s here too and there’s heavy debate over whether we should roast a whole pig on the ice Saturday. Various guys are chiming in via group text. Pete tried to get a suckling pig and couldn’t come through on the short timeframe. Ryan’s got a 50-pounder lined up but we don’t think we can cook an animal of that stature with our setup in these conditions. 

My neck is sore. Winter Whiplash is in full effect. I’ve never heard the term in my 43 previous winters, but this is the worst case I’ve ever had.

The Statezny boys just thumb wrestled for a laminated $2 bill. They’ve got a laminated $1 bill too. I’ve never seen anything like it. I think they just carry it around for thumb wrestling money. 

Ryan just pulled up with Rose McBride from WJFW Channel 12, the local NBC affiliate. He brought her out to do a story on me without telling me, but everyone else knew. Somehow my boss knew. 

I’m talking to Rose. Not super happy with Ryan but what can I do? I reacted poorly at first but then acquiesced. I’ve been on the other end of reluctant interviews and it isn’t fun. And she thought I knew about it. 

Still talking. Pretending to work now while she gets some video. Lots of fake typing. She’s working on a close-up shot. It’s strange being on this side of the camera. 

I actually kind of enjoyed that. I think the best parts of the conversation were off camera, but it was kind of cool to talk about what I’m doing. It’s been building every day and this was a good opportunity to take a look at where I’m at. 

Nikki’s up again. Caught herself a little perch on a northern rig. Little guy had quite an appetite. 

Any man who carries your weight in his pack is a good man. 

It was an interesting day. A few flags. A few fish. Friends. A little news coverage. It’s a pretty cool thing I’m getting to do out here. 

Time to pick up. 

If you’re coming to northern Wisconsin in February and plan to spend a few days ice fishing, show up with an appropriate vehicle. We just spent a half hour pushing Jamie and his front-wheel-drive mock SUV about 30 yards to where he could turn around and drive out. That’s 36 inches per minute. In a motorized vehicle. 

I’m out.

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


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