|I'm standing on frozen water! I still can't believe I caught these|
If you would have told me at the age of 15 that I would one day walk out on a frozen body of water and fish through holes in the ice I would have said you're out of your mind. I would have laughed until my stomach hurt. This southern city boy would never do something crazy like that. That's what we would call "white people shit". I wasn't down to do white people shit. I like life. As a matter of fact, very high up on my list of worst ways to die is falling through ice into a freezing cold lake and then swimming back to the top only to not be able to find the hole. Drowning because of a bad decision is one thing, but throw in the embarrassment of having a bad sense of direction and that double whammy is top (or bottom) five ways to go.
However, I'm not 15 anymore. Adult Jon understands that life is a playground and ice fishing just might be a fun game. Some of my favorite lifetime memories involve fishing. As a kid we would go to Grandma's backyard and use bread as bait to catch the little fish near the dock. The little I remember about her husband "Pop-Pop" is all about fishing. I remember my mom falling in the water at Alligator Alley and using shrimp as bait with Grandmother and Renee. A salmon fishing trip with my boy Bobby and Pappa Hutch in Alaska is unforgettable. Another trip in Alaska that involved driving, biking, hiking and fishing stands out. Fishing is fun for me. Ice fishing should definitely be fun.
I found out that we have an expert fisherman at my job. We played a gift exchange game at work and both of the gifts he gave were fishing accessories. This guy is the Fish King! He's a fun guy as well, so I always commented that I would be down to go fishing whenever he went again. I never expected him to take me up on my request. He's the Fish King after all. I'd only get in the way. He probably thought I was just saying it as small talk or something, but I was really down. I wasn't bluffing. I know how Swedes are about not letting new people in their lives, so I figured my chances of actually fishing with Fish King were slim. Boy was I wrong!
One day Fish King came in to work with an extra pep in his step. He said Saturday would be the day. He was going ice fishing. He invited me along. I had been saying I would love to go ice fishing, but now the moment was upon me. 815 reasons not to go ran through my head. Why be a chicken, Jon? Go ice fishing, man. You may never get this opportunity again! I asked Fish King to give me a few minutes to call my wife (and maybe my therapist). I called Swedie to see if she worked on Saturday. I suspected she did, but I wanted to make sure. This phone call was going to suck because she was going to act annoyed that I NEVER listen to her and she told me her schedule A MILLION TIMES. Here goes. I called her.
- Hey, do you work Saturday?
- (angry ass pause followed by a deep sigh) Jooooon... I toooold you... I work... Saturday and Sunday this weekend.
I acknowledged my annoyance with a quick eye-roll, but I was too excited to be annoyed for real,
- That's what I thought. I just wanted to check. I might go ice fishing this weekend! I'm going to ask your wonderful and amazingly sweet mother (she reads my blog) if she can be the darling that we all agree that she is and watch Bash for a few hours.
Swedie wished me luck and I immediately called Mom-in-Law. Mom-in-Law said it was exciting:
And agreed to hang out with Bash. Now it was official. This kid from Miami was going to go on ice with the Fish King and try to catch some fish. I told Fish King it was a go. He showed me some cool pictures of frozen water with holes in it. This was going to be fun. He described the plan. We'd cut a few holes in the ice and put some live bait on the lines. We'd drop the bait down in the water and connect the line to a wooden stick with a spring-mounted hammer on it. Whenever the line jerked, the hammer would be released from the spring and smack a small bullet which would make the sound of a gunshot. POP! That's when you run over to the hole and start pulling!
This shit got better and better! The Friday night before, my boss decided to join us. He was going to bring his son. Now it was an official guy trip! Fish King had all the necessities. I just had to bring some clothes to stay warm and my excitement. I dug out all of my Alaska winter gear from my Air Force Days. I woke up at 4am Saturday morning ready to go. We wouldn't be leaving for three hours! I watched some replays of football games until Swedie woke up to go to work. Oh yeah, she works today. I almost forgot! Bash and I had breakfast and then headed to Mom-in-Law. Now it was time.
Fish King picked me up and we drove down to Boss Man. He loaded his truck up with gear (including an air rifle!) and we hit the road. The ride was fun. Fish King is a cool cat. Laid back and low-key hilarious. He does good impressions and had me laughing the whole ride down. Sweden is a beautiful country, so the ride didn't disappoint. We stopped on the way down to grab some munchies and then hit the ice.
Getting geared up was interesting. Fish King handed me a tool to put around my neck in case I fall in. What? There's a risk of falling in? Apparently you're supposed to reach up and remove two ice picks from the tool and stab at the ice around the hole that you fall in. That way you can pull yourself back up. This felt too real now. As Fish King explained how to use the tool, I imagined freezing and hating my life as I try not to stab myself while fighting towards ice from hell. Now let's go have some fun!
We followed Fish King across the ice. He was certain that if we make it far across the lake the fish would be plentiful. He had a long spike that he stabbed into the ice as we walked. This was to see how strong the ice is. He stopped once to drill a hole in the ice. He showed us how thick the ice was. It was comforting to know that we were standing on about three inches (8cm) of ice. It looked thick. The whole time I kept thinking to myself "This some white people shit", but I was here now. Pulling a sled full of fishing equipment across a sheet of ice while following a man who is stabbing at the ice. Great! Then Fish King stabbed the ice and a crack shot across the ice. Fish King jumped.
- Oh shit!
He ran the opposite direction. I'm pretty sure that outside of Basic Training, I've never changed directions so damn fast in my life. I was ready to cancel the trip and ride back home. But not Fish King. He guided us back in the other direction and kept stabbing at the ice like what just happened didn't just happen. He found a good spot and drilled the first hole. It was cool watching the master at work. Slush from the hole was used to keep the wooden stick in place. Then the bullet put in place after the bait and line was set up and attached. We had nine more to set up so we couldn't stick around to admire the work. On to the next spot. Fish King went straight to work. He drilled the hole, started setting up the...
My hood instincts had me almost drop to the ground for cover. They do drive-bys in Sweden? No, we had a fish! The line had been dropped less than ten minutes and we had one! We shuffled over (I wasn't trying to fall in front of these people) and Boss Man started reeling it in. A huge pike! It was amazing. Fish King really knows what he's doing! This would be a fun afternoon.
The gunshots kept coming. Some false alarms and some the real deal. I caught my first one about an hour in. An even bigger pike! Fish King had said these were harder to catch, but we were bringing these bad boys in. It took me a couple of minutes and I needed help from Fish King, but we got that big mofo up. It felt so good. He asked if I want to keep the fish. HELL YES! Then he smacked the shit out of the fish to stop its misery. That's how successful Fish King is. He releases the fish he catches. Not me. This big baby was gonna end up on a plate!
|Boss Man on the hot dogs|
Another one! This one got away. A few got away, actually. There were also some false alarms. The excitement of it all was worth every shuffle to every gunshot sound.
After lunch, Boss Man had to head back home. His son didn't want to leave, but they had to. Just as they were getting their stuff together another gunshot went off. They ran over so the young buck could pull up a fish. This one got away too. Too bad, I really wanted him to get one too. They ended up leaving with their big pike from the first shot. Fish King and I decided to start breaking down the lines. I had my fish. It was time to...
No way! We shuffled over to the hole. Fish King was there way faster than I was. He told me to hurry as he gave me the signal for "something is on the line". I knew the signal because I was a pro now. I shuffled faster and grabbed the line. This one didn't even have a fishing rod attached. I was gonna pull this up like a neanderthal! I pulled my second fish out of the ice. Another big pike! Fish King asked me that rhetorical question again. Yes, man. Yes I'm going to keep and eat that fish! Smack!
The day was done. We gathered up all of the equipment and freed the bait fish. Good luck in life little buddies! I felt accomplished. I know Fish King's expertise is what got me my two fish, but I was still a champion! I called Birgitta. She's the expert fish gutter around these parts. It had to be done that evening to keep it safe to eat. It was SO MUCH FISH that I we couldn't possibly eat it in one sitting, so she would gut and clean both right away.
Birgitta is the best. She cleaned and gutted both GINORMOUS fish when we got there. We had mashed potatoes, peas and applesauce with our baked pike. She had a recipe that called for lots of butter and for it to be breaded. It was crispy and delicious. I thought about my grandma Booster as I ate my dinner. She always warned us about bones in our fish that she prepared after a day of fishing.
- Ball up some bread 'case you get a bone in ya throat!
I removed the delicate bones as I ate my delicious fish that I pulled through a hole in the ice that day. Who would have thought this city boy would have a day like this? Life is good. I hung out with Fish King, Boss Man and Young Buck for a day on the ice that I'll never forget. I can't wait for my next fishing adventure. Until next time...