News from the Wild

March Almanac

In March, the peak of cabin-fever season, we abandon all pretense of sanity and go ice fishing.

The seemingly endless winter has built up an irresistible urge to fish, a desperate pressure that has pushed us beyond reason. With every instinct shouting, "Don't go, you fool!" we go.

We're in for a shock. It has been a few years since we have ice fished. We have forgotten where we put our tackle. Worse, we have not kept abreast of recent "progress."

It seems like only yesterday ice fishing was a simple pastime. For 10 bucks, you equipped yourself with rod, reel, line, hooks and split-shot sinkers, and got change back. For drilling holes in 4 feet of ice, you needed an auger, but you could borrow one from a buddy. Or take the buddy along.

Now, ice-fishing dweebs are out there with sonar fish finders and mapping global positioning systems. Most everyone has a power auger, a sled to carry the auger, a snowmobile to pull the sled and a four-wheel-drive pickup to pull the snowmobile trailer. Kids' college funds are being blown on what once was a simple pastime.

Happily, the essence of ice fishing survives. Dressed inall the warm clothing we own, we waddle around on the ice like penguins. We fish until there is no longer any feeling whatsoever in our extremities. The fish are so lethargic that, when we finally hook one and pull it onto the ice, it has all the vitality of a stick. Upon returning to the civilized warmth of our vehicle, we're astounded to learn that the two weeks we spent ice fishing actually was only two hours.

Robert Service, with his, "There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun," didn't know the half of it.

-Field Notes is edited by LES PALMER