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The Ice Fishermen Have Returned

Last Saturday morning, just before 7 a.m., I drove into the parking lot at Hogan’s Hut. I could hardly find a place to park. There were wall-to-wall pick-up trucks everywhere, including four filling up at the fuel pumps.

Inside it was “mask-heaven” with a line properly distanced in front of the check-out counters. It was all guys, except for Olivia working at one of the cash registers. The dress code for ice fishermen is what I would call “unconventional” with nothing resembling Ralph Lauren in sight. Some were in camo, others had heavy sweat pants with hoodies–all bundled up with multiple layers ready for going out on the ice. These were a group of men focused on bait, fishing poles and lures whose goal was to get to the lake to try and catch walleye.

I felt a bit out-of-place. I was there to buy a newspaper. But, I must admit, I felt like I was in a group of God’s chosen. These were men with a mission, dedicated to a day on the ice. Their day was just beginning here.

Many had a breakfast sandwich in hand and arms full of a combination of soft drinks, candy bars, potato chips, cheese puffs and other assorted forms of health food sufficient to survive a day on the ice.

One guy came out the door as I was coming in dragging a new plastic sled to help pull supplies across the ice. In his other hand, was a bucket of bait. He said a quick “hello” and “good-bye” and headed for his truck.

As I was checking out, the fellow in front of me asked another guy: “where are you going on the lake?” The response was: “I don’t know yet.” Fishermen tend to keep such things “close to the vest.” Yet, by day’s end they often cluster up out on the ice. Someone finds where the fish are biting and others follow.

I really don’t know why ice-fishing is such a “guy” thing, but it is. Is it the primordial urge to bring meat home for the family? Is it the macho, “me-against-the-elements” survival mentality? Could it be: “I need to get away from the wife and kids for a few hours and be on my own?” I really don’t understand the maleness of it, but I have become convinced that ice-fishing is primarily a passion for men. Thus, with all due respect for political correctness, it is fair to call them, in general, ice “fishermen.”

As mentioned, there seems to be no interest in a dress code, yet this does not mean that they are sloppy or ill-prepared. You don’t want to get out on the ice and find that you are thirsty or hungry. There are no concessionaires out there running around to offer hot dogs and drinks. And some things are essential, like an auger to make a hole in the ice.

When you go out on the ice, you had better be prepared. If there is a “pecking-order” among those who fish through the ice, I would say that it comes down to who has the newest or best pop-up tent or the most advanced digital fish-finder.

Then there is my friend, now in his later years, with his battery-heated socks and side-by-side, four-wheel drive ATV so that he can pull a sled with his gear out onto the ice. Now, that is really the nuts!

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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