Birdshot and backlashes

by Bob Cary

The thing about ice fishing, at least right now, is to make sure the ice is safe. Some lakes, like Burntside, still had some open water last week. Moose Lake, which had frozen over, opened up again with the high wind. Most of the smaller lakes have pretty good ice, but the snow came before it was real thick. But poor ice never stopped dedicated ice fishermen. Some carry a long popple pole under one arm so if they fall through, the pole will catch on the ice and they can crawl out. <BR><BR>Some carry ice spikes - two six-inch sections of broom handle with nails embedded in them and sharpened. These spike are hung around the neck on a thong. If the fisherman falls in, he can grab a spike in each hand and pull himself out of the hole. Of course that means the fisherman has to let go of his bucket with his fishing tackle. Some say they would rather drown.<BR><BR>Doc Leino, who goes with a gang of fishermen, says they have a foolproof means of testing the ice: “We always let Larry Mischke, walk across first,” Doc says. Larry, the former Ely Timberwolf football coach, is a rather solid individual who is somewhat heavier than his companions. <BR><BR>On foot or on snowmobiles, ice anglers were on Shagawa Lake last week. Some fair catches of walleyes and panfish were reported from such favorite spots as Stinky Ditch and the bay off the Forest Service hangar. <BR><BR>Anglers were on Fall Lake and a number of smaller lakes which seemed to have more solid ice. Some anglers were getting their fish houses out on the ice, but others worried that the lakes could slush up. Slush - caused when water comes up through cracks in the ice - makes slop out of the lower snow layer. It can form around the base of an ice fishing shanty and if the slush freezes, the ice house becomes an integral part of the lake and sometimes difficult to remove in early spring. <BR><BR>Most ice anglers using houses have their shelters set up so they can be skidded off the ice readily if necessary. Spear fishermen need to operate from a dark house so they can see the area below the hole where northern pike come cruising by. Expert spear fisherfolk use a “decoy” fish on the end of a string, jigged around the hole to attract the pike. A pike will come up to the edge of the hole after the decoy, allowing the spearer to jam the sharp tines into its back. Experienced spear fisherfolk can harvest a pretty fair catch of pike by this method. <BR><BR>A number of fishermen prefer lightweight, portable ice shelters, the fold-up type made of aluminum poles and a nylon shell. These shelters are packed inside a boat-like sled and can be pulled to any place on the ice. A key feature is mobility. The portable fish house can be moved anywhere, providing mobility not available from more solid and permanent shelters. <BR><BR>During the weekend blizzard, Ely experienced the best snowfall in northern Minnesota. Duluth had only a couple of inches and the same held true farther west. The Hidden Valley Ski Area was about as good as it gets. Fred Rayman, from the ski club, had the trails groomed to perfection and a lot of skiers were out, including the high school ski team. The 7.5 kilometers of trail were groomed for both skating and classical, the snow packed and fast.<BR><BR>As of now, it looks like Ely will have adequate snow for skiing and snowmobiling over the Christmas holiday. On Jan. 3, the ice fishing season opens for lake trout and stream trout in lakes within the BWCAW. Veteran anglers know trout lakes are notorious for having thin ice early in the winter. It pays to check the ice with a drill or chisel before wandering out too far.<BR><BR>Or simply follow Larry Mischke. <BR><BR>