Ice fishermen are just different. They can’t wait to drag an old sled full of tilts, ice chippers, frisky shiners the bait guy swore were “jumbos” and frigid pickle buckets out to the middle of a wind-swept lake, drill some holes and set up shop for a good day. They are perfectly happy shuffling around for hours, waiting for a flag, playing some hockey with the kids or chit-chatting about the fish they caught last year. What’s more, ice fishermen have their own fashion sense. They can wear overstuffed black and safety orange jumpsuits in jungle camouflage print topped with furry Chicago style bomber hat and look just fine. Usually, without washing it until ice out.
South County’s ice season started with a small tragedy. While one fishermen set up camp, the other set out to chip some holes with the former’s heavy, old school chipper, a reliable tool handed down from his grandfather.
Before the first flask was unpacked, the latter yelled, “I did it!” which seemed a bit excessive to yell that he had chipped a hole through six inches of ice but fishing makes us happy. “No, really, I did it!” he yelled again. Stooping over a ragged hole, he was staring down, down into Thoreau’s, “quiet parlor of the fishes,” looking for the chipper. There it was, gone.
Twelve feet down, taken hostage by the muck.
Four hours gear preparation, one hour packing, thirty minutes insulating critical beverages, two minutes chipping and we were done for the day. Quite a day, indeed.
That same day, the Butler brothers, Austin, Brendan and Brady, caught all the fish. Actually, they usually do. Having watched Austin fish for many years, it’s obvious he gets
it, has a real love for fishing and best of all, he knows how to have fun doing it. He and his brothers skate from tilt to tilt, share the catching and have a good laugh when one takes an unexpected wipe out. Young Brady is new to fishing but the day we saw them, he was hoisting a great big largemouth out of the ice with a great big smile to match. The politics of who baited what or who augered which hole are immaterial because they all posed for pictures, cheered their younger brother and returned all the fish as fast as they could. “Crazy For Rivers” author Bill Barich wrote, “His older brothers had taught him to love the outdoors, so he came by his longing honestly.” Some grow up fishing, some grow to love it. Cheers to the Brothers Butler for loving to fish, for proving that kids rule and that no video game can beat a day on the ice with family.
Wayne Barber, host of The Outdoors Scene on WNRI is helping promote another important day on the ice, the “Between the Crack Ice Fishing Derby” on January 27. It’s the Annual Kevin Thatcher Memorial Benefit, honoring his memory since passing away on February 5, 2011. Wayne said he was a, “Very popular local resident of Pascoag and very active in fundraisers in our town. He would light up a room with his personality and sense of humor.”
The derby runs from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Crystal Lake, also known as Brother Pond in Harrisville R.I. Early registration starts at 5:45 a.m. where major sponsor Big Bear Bait & Tackle will be ready with bait. There’s a three tilt limit, a raffle and awards for best bass, best pickerel and the Bill Bodnar Memorial Plaque for the biggest yellow perch in addition to the Best Food On the Ice award, which comes with the “Golden Pork Chop” award. Surely there’s some bragging rights with that win.
Organizers Wayne and Dennis Flynn have an “inclement weather” date set for February 3, but we’re talking ice fishermen here, right? They are a special breed of angler, built for kneeling in fourteen inches of hard packed snow, for peering into circular holes in the ice, doing the cold toes two step shuffle for hours, squinting through snow squalls and twenty mile per hour gusts, hoping to see a tiny red flag which might connect them to a giant pike or a tiny panfish and being happy about all of it. These men and women are built for inclement weather.
To sign up, give Wayne a call at 401-568-4894 or Dennis at 401-568-4393.
Speaking of Pascoag, local outdoorsman Brian Parenteau spent a day on the ice last week, watching those tell-tale changes in barometric pressure. He found the pike bite and by day’s end, had brought up a six-pounder, a seven pound eight ounce, an eight pound eleven ounce and an eleven pound fourteen ounce northern. Those were warm-ups for the day’s biggest pike, weighing just over fifteen pounds and measuring 41 inches.
A tip of the camo hat to Brian for getting out and enjoying, in his words, “One of those days a pike fisherman dreams about. Never give up!”