Page 9 - WCM 2023 Winter Flip
P. 9

 line skimmed through my fingers again, I heard the hum of the vibration in the thread. After a few minutes I saw the leader again, and a quick flash at the hole revealed a beautiful brown trout. My heart throbbed faster! A few more feet of line, and as I got it to turn into the hole, it literally jumped to the ice, flopping feverishly. After a brief scramble I got a hand on the fish ... or so I thought. One flip and it returned to the depths, while my shiny hook sat neatly on a lump of ice next to the hole. And, as they say, “she’s gone!”
I looked down the hole in disbelief, then up, as my fishing buddy was running my way to see what all of the commotion was about. “What is it?” My reply? “Ahhh! You’re not going to believe ... it was a huge brown!” And that, right there, is how fish stories are made. “It was at least 5 pounds, and at least 24 inches!” Yet, the only one that knows the real truth is the fish.
I rigged my line with a fresh smelt and reset the flag
in hopes that the fish would return. Not just any fish, but that fish. And then came my slow walk back to the ice shack. As I plodded, I continued to glance back in disbelief, but with that, there was hope that I’d be repeating this again and again, only with a different outcome. Moments like this are exactly the reason why I fish “hard water.”
To me, ice fishing has always been a thing of anticipation, hope, wonderment and adventure, and I’ve had the pleasure of introducing hundreds of people to the sport. Ice fishing can be as simple or
as complex as we allow it. Regardless if the fish are biting or not, we always eat well, tell great stories (some of which are actually true!), and make fantastic memories, all while trying to not freeze to death.
In simpler times, people fished more for food than for fun, and it doesn’t get any fresher than catching your lunch from the clear cold waters of western Maine. People would cut large slots through the ice with a spud bar, or ice saw, and use weighted fish decoys to simulate other fish. As larger fish would approach to investigate, sharp pronged spears were used to catch their quarry. It was challenging,
and usually geared towards larger species. As the activity evolved, hand-powered augers, followed
by gas-powered ones, made the cutting or drilling much easier. Spools of line wrapped around a piece of wood or a hand rig were set. This was followed by short “jigging” rods, and then tip-ups, or “traps” as they are commonly referred to today. These allow a person to set multiple lines, and increase the probability of catching more fish.
Through years of conservation efforts, bag limits were created specifying how many and what types of fish

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