Thursday, Feb. 19, 2014 | OUTDOORS
"Caterpillars and fishing pools"
The excuses were piling higher than the snowbanks surrounding my house last Sunday, Feb. 16, as I contemplated the many reasons why it wasn’t the right time to take my 3-year-old daughter ice fishing. At 8 a.m. it was still too darn cold outside, I thought, to be taking her out on the ice. With so much snow on the lakes, there was concern I might get stuck with no help, and since she always seemed afraid around loud motors, there was no way I’d get past drilling one hole before she’d be in tears and we’d be headed for home.
The wife was actually the one pushing the hardest to get both of us out of the house on Sunday, and while I haven’t figured out her reasoning, it wasn’t long before the two of us, father and daughter, were heading down the road.
“Heading to the lake! Heading to the lake!” Morgan chanted as her eyes squinted from the sun rising high in a bluebird sky.
It was a good sign considering Morgan needed a little coaxing to get outdoors, and I hate to admit it, but I did too. But if there’s one weakness my daughter has, it’s chocolate, and I packed lots of it in the hopes of bribing her to the lake, and keeping the peace if things didn’t go as planned. It was also discussed that in order to obtain any of these treats, we’d need to drill holes and set up the ice shack and heater beforehand.
It worked, and in the event of us getting stuck and forced into survival mode, I’d packed enough treats and juice to sustain us both for up to a week. In reality, I knew that if everything went well, we’d be on the lake for about 25 minutes before she’d want to go back home. Thankfully the trip lasted a bit longer than that.
I’d succeeded in not getting stuck and drilled a pair of holes, set up the ice shack, or tent, as she called it, and even got the heater fired up. All while she stared lazily out the window of the truck, oblivious to the noise going on outside.
After passing the first of several tests, it was time to get fishing, but not of course without first digging out the chocolate promised earlier. With a face full of chocolate and her mind on other things, I rigged up an old-fashioned ice-stick that I may have actually used as a kid. With two prongs, some line wrapped around it and a bobber and jig, I thought it would work perfectly for shallow water, and she could pull fish up through the hole, hand over fist. It’s a simple design but not very effective for a 3-year-old. It wasn’t long before she insisted on using my “fishing pool,” so I gave in and handed it over, pulling out another rod and reel so we could both fish.
By that time, without any biting fish at the moment, she was busy with her second treat of the morning, and once finished, found the waxies we were using for bait, or as she called them, “callerpillars.” In fewer than five minutes, the chairs and floor were mostly covered in sawdust, the food, as Morgan called it, for the callerpillars.
“Oh they’re so cute,” she said, letting them crawl around in her hands and on her fingers. After another five minutes, however, the waxies were mostly gone.
“What did you do with all the waxies?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Did you put them in your pockets?”
“Yep,” she replied with a smile.
I left the ones she had in her pockets and continued to try and hook the first fish of the day to show her what we actually came to do, and we managed to catch half a dozen bluegills to keep us both entertained. After about the third fish, I tried getting her to reel in a fish on her own, and she did so with a swat of my arm, explaining she could do it herself, while giving me lessons on how to jig, even without actually having a lure in the water.
She lost interest in the fishing, after about the third fish, continued to play with the bait, and proceeded to pull the line from her side of the ice shack, attempting to fish in the same hole my line already occupied.
Much of our brief time on the ice was a perfectly tangled mess of lines with occasional laughter and just plain fun, but as the heater died out after nearly two hours of fishing, we called it a day, even though she may have been content to stay longer. She played in the snow awhile as I loaded up the truck, which may contain a few dried waxies between the seats this spring. I never did find the ones she claimed to have stuffed in her pockets.