One Nation, Under God

I'm Glad I Got Out Last Week

Winter started early.

The snow that fell in November is still here, hidden under all the snow that’s fallen since. Another storm is on the way, promising more snow and a third bout of sub-zero cold.

I’m glad I got out last week. It was barely below freezing with only a slight breeze. Inside the spearing shack it was warm enough to take off the gloves.

Spearing fish is much like deer hunting from a stand: long periods of inactivity abruptly interrupted.

One minute it’s hard to stay awake and the next your heart is pounding with excitement.

A tree stand, however, offers the hunter an opportunity to watch deer approach, sometimes from a distance. A spearing shack, on the other hand, only provides a view of the target at close proximity.

If a fish appears in the hole in the ice – roughly two by three feet – it’s in range, and time to let the spear fly.

My friend Mike and I had been sitting in the portable shack for little more than an hour when a large pike suddenly swam into view a few feet off the bottom. In an instant he was gone.

I started jigging the decoy, a gaudy florescent-orange, weighted plastic fish and Mike grabbed the spear.

In seconds the pike reappeared, his attention now on the decoy, which I raised and he followed. Mike eased the spear into the water so the splash wouldn’t spook the fish, and when the pike turned, Mike thrust spear into flesh.

The spear hit the pike a few inches above the tail, but the fish rolled and came off. Fortunately, this all happened near the surface, and the two feet of ice bordering the hole kept the pike in range for a second shot.

There was a lot of hollering and commotion as we pulled in the spear with the fish attached.

Removing the pike from the spear, we resumed jigging the decoy with renewed energy until it got too dark to see.

We sat in the spearing shack for hours over the next three days and never speared another fish. A large burbot that appeared on the bottom the next evening didn’t offer a shot, and except for a school of cisco that swam past like a flight of birds the last day, we saw nothing to spear through the ice.

We did catch a few more pike on tip-ups and jaw-jackers, but pulling fish through holes in the ice pales quickly in comparison to sticking them with a spear.

It also helps pass the time.

Spring will be here soon.

Parker Heinlein is at [email protected]


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