Maine Adventure Series: Ice Fishing
Often the showy display of Maine's rocky coastline distracts from the fact that the northern state also boasts thousands of lakes and ponds. So many, in fact, that hundreds of them are unnamed. In the 22 million acres, there remains many a place untouched by human hands. As a natural result of so many beautiful bodies of water, ice fishing is a favorite pastime of the locals.
Last weekend, we loaded up the car with necessary items (augers, tip-ups, bait, hot dogs, marshmallows, ect.) and set off to Hadley's Lake, a popular locale. Before kids, I would have wanted to hike miles through the forest to some fish hole in the heart of the wilderness, the type of place your great grandad found in 1842 and nobody is allowed to talk about. But having little ones makes the idea of walking ten feet from the minivan to the lake more desirable! Most people even drive their vehicles right onto the lake, and usually a least a couple go through every year so, being the cautious type, we don't do that.
Despite said popularity, we were the only ones there and no footprints disturbed the snow that fell days ago, except the thin line left by a deer using the lake as a shortcut. I'm sure his flight was a quick one; a deer on a lake is vulnerable to the copious coyotes about. His track, as straight as an arrow, draws a sharp contrast to the circling, swirling, clompy tracks we leave.
We picked our day just right, and while there was still plenty of ice, the temperature was a balmy 33, no doubt part of the yearly 'January thaw'. Still, both kids and adults were bundled up like the Michelin tire man, so that we had to waddle instead of walk in the slushy snow. Wool shines here, of course.
We dug our holes, taking turns with the manual augers. Of course, there are motorized augers, as well as state of the art ice 'shacks' complete with beds, kitchens, and all the comforts of home dragged out on the ice behind a pricey snow sled. But we agreed that too much technology and ease takes something away from the moment. However, if the temperature were any lower my virtuous opinion may have changed!
In go the tip-ups, just a few,and we settle down to start a fire. The kids select suitable green branches from alders and cherries for hot dog roasting sticks and we sharpened them to a point. While they both take turns with the jig stick, burning things in the fire and downing marshmallow after hot dog for six hours is their favorite part. There's little I can say, as it was my favorite part too growing up. Who am I kidding - it still is!
Winter is still very much a time of survival for Mainers, and summer is the time for work. So there's something to be said for taking an entire day in the outdoors, busying ourselves with tasks that produce nothing besides enjoyment. We take turns playing in the snow, warming ourselves up, chatting and sometimes just sitting in silence and listening to the breeze above us in the cedars that line the lake.
The sun, behind the overcast, was rapidly setting as we packed up our gear and headed home. After we shed several layers (enough to get the seatbelts to fit us) and loaded up, twilight had deeply settled over the land. Now the bright white of the snow out-shined the sky, and the world was in mirror image for a moment.
I'd like to tell you about all the fish we caught and how delicious they were stuffed with Ritz crackers and butter with parsley and baked until crisp and flaky. However, we got skunked - this time! We couldn't even tempt a greasy old pickerel. But my pride is not hurt, for time spent with family is precious, and time spent with family outdoors, well, that is irreplaceable.