The trip I am about to write about took place in mid-December and is centered around winter camping and ice fishing. In reality, it is about friends and the simple fact that sometimes things do not go like you want them to.
Friday, Dec. 16
High 20, low 6
Scott Polencheck is a good buddy of mine from Glidden. I actually met Scott about 13 years ago when he invited me to bear hunt at his family’s resort (Wintering Lake Resort). Wintering Lake Resort was near Ignace, Ontario, Canada, and owned and operated by his late father-in-law Dick Butler, who I grew to admire.
I think I hunted out of Wintering Lake Resort four times, and each time Scott and Karen Polencheck would spend the week at camp. Each time they brought along all three of their kids; Gunner, Preston and Jersey. Even though they were very young, I became very good friends with the kids as well as Karen.
Last summer I was at the Polenchecks, and Gunner, who is now a senior at Butternut High School, told me about a lake in the Chequamegon National Forest near Mellen where he had camped and caught big walleye and crappie. Long story short, I decided I had to camp on it, and that is what Preston and I would do on this trip.
We helped by Scott and his brother Bruce Polencheck. There was a lot of snow on the lake and we were using Scott’s 1999 MX2 Ski Doo instead of my ATV.
Bruce, who I just met today, is a logger and a very gung-ho guy. He had just enough daylight to show us where to camp and fish before he went bowhunting.
We drilled holes, set up my cabin on the lake, which is a 13-foot by 8-foot Eskimo Fatshack. Preston began jigging for crappie in the shack and I began running gas lines for two propane lanterns and my heater. This is the part of this week’s column that you will want to pay attention to.
It was getting dark and I wanted to have a jig pole in my hand, but instead I was constantly failing at lighting a brand new propane tree for one of my lights. I could not get my heater to stay lit, and the gas light running off a hose also would not stay lit, and when it did run, it was running very poorly.
It had been dark for two hours, Preston and I were not feeling well at all, we had not had a flag or a bite and we had major gas problems. I was feeling like a total loser and thinking how can so many gas problems happen at once?
That’s when I put it together. The gas lines were froze up. I thought the moisture from powder snow had possibly got pushed into the lines from each of the three 20-pound propane tanks I was using. Both the drive up and the ride on the lake were very snowy. I used a 1-pound propane tank, put it on the heater and a gas light, and an hour later everything was thawed out, but let me tell you, it was ugly with a capital U.
We were finally warm and while jigging, Preston started telling me a ton of hunting and fishing stories. This kid, who is only an eighth-grader, has the pictures and videos on his phone to prove he is quite the outdoorsman. Right now his biggest goal is to get a camper, fix it up and put it on a frozen lake.
I cooked pork steak for dinner. We did not catch a fish, but went to our cots comfortable and with high hopes for the next two days.
Saturday, Dec. 16
High 11, low minus 2
I was up before the sun and roaming the ice after an hour of jigging in the shack without a bite. I decided it was time for Preston and I to move all of our tip ups a long ways from the shack and hopefully find hungry fish. I went in about a 400-yard circle around camp drilling holes in about 7 inches of ice over about 26 feet of water. One time the Jiffy popped through 2 inches of very poor ice and I did a steady retreat from that area.
It was not long before Scott, Jersey, Gunner and a very good family friend and hardcore outdoorsman, Brett Buccanero, joined us for the day. It soon became obvious that we were in what I call a non-bite. Other than four, 7-inch crappie, and one 15-inch northern pike, nothing was hungry, despite the fact that the graph was loaded with fish.
Jersey Polencheck is a good buddy of mine and I spent a lot of time listening to her hunting and fishing stories. I was amazed at her knowledge despite the fact that she is just in sixth grade.
Catching fish was not meant to be, but it was a pleasure spending time on the ice with my good friends from Ashland County.