WOODS ‘N’ WATER: On the big lake they call Gitche Gumee

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: On the big lake they call Gitche Gumee


Got ice? You have to go north if you want to find some safe ice to fish, and even then you’d better be careful.

Way out in Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior, 35 ice fishermen had to be rescued when the ice they were on broke away from the mainland and started to float away.

This may sound funny, but in reality it is no joke, and it happens every once in while on some of the larger lakes that do not entirely freeze over.

Ever been on Lake Superior? I have, and it was one of the most startling revelations I have ever experienced in my outdoor life.

I was at an Outdoor Writers Association of America conference in Duluth when an opportunity to go fishing for walleyes on a charter boat on Lake Superior came up. You just know I jumped for a chance at that.

It was dark, cold and foggy when the charter took off from the dock. I questioned the wisdom of the trip with the darkness and the fog to the captain, but he told me not to worry about it. He had radar on board and it would get us safely out and back.

It was warm in the cabin, so we stayed inside while we made our way to the fishing spot and I was up talking to the captain.

“Oh, wait till you see what’s coming up,” he said. “And don’t worry, he has us on his radar also.”

I stared at the radar screen and saw something on it and it was quite close, but I nearly passed out when I saw what it was. It was a HUGE ship. And when I say huge I mean MEGA-HUGE, at least in this old country boy’s eyes. I had to crane my neck back to look up at its rails as we passed by in the fog.

The captain saw the look of concern on my face and said, “This is the Great Lakes and big vessels like that travel through here quite a bit, but we are aware of each other.”

I just stared speechless at the size of such a vessel on an inland body of water. Like I said, I’m just an old country boy.

But once you get to think about it, the Great Lakes are just that, and huge ships plying their waters is a common occurrence unlike any on our larger lakes here in Connecticut. In fact, the most startling thing I’ve ever seen on our lakes and ponds were float planes — one on Hatch Pond up in Kent, the other on Gardner Lake in Salem, and that was years ago.

Back to those ice fishermen on Lake Superior … according to an article in the New York Outdoor News, crews had to rescue the 35 anglers stranded off Park Point on Dec. 1. The Duluth Fire Department reported strong winds created a crack in the ice and set the floe adrift.

Initially, 36 fishermen were on the ice. One entered the water and made it back to shore on his own. Rescuers removed the other 35 using a ladder, three inflatable rescue rafts and a boat. St. Louis County Rescue conducted a final aerial sweep to make sure everyone was off the ice.

So, got ice?

Last week, on one of the warmer days, I made the rounds of local waters and was delighted to see fishermen on some of them. Marty Loos was one of the anglers at Black Pond. He hits the shoreline on a regular basis when the ice is out, and at this writing it was out.

And then I went up to Beavers Lake at the new Meriden Dog Park with my Darlin’ Edna and the two pups, Abby and Charlie. Kudos to Edna and her committee, Jim Moran and the Meriden Lions Club, Wayne Barneschi and the Trail of Terror and the city officials, especially Parks and Recreation for working things out and making such a wonderful facility available for dog owners here in the Meriden area. Well done, gang.

And, yes, the open water on Beavers Lake had two fishermen trying their luck on a nice January day.

I also saw a fisherman in the Quinnipiac River and a couple of them on Hanover Pond. There was a bass boat on Silver Lake with two anglers on board and a third on shore. At Hubbard Park, a young man with an adult was trying his luck at Mirror Lake.

(Note: You can fish Mirror Lake as long as there is no ice on the lake. There is NO ice fishing allowed on Mirror Lake.)

For my money, these are the die-hard fishermen who love fishing no matter what form it comes in.

Down at the Meriden Rod & Gun Club, Fish Chairman Joe Tkacz III stocked the club pond with trout in anticipation of some ice fishing. The ice became “almost” safe and then warm, monsoon rains came and took the ice away.

The Meriden Rod & Gun Club does allow ice fishing on its trout pond, but you may only use one jigging rod with a lure or worm or wax worm bait. No live bait or ice fishing type allowed.

Oh, I made a quick stop at Fishin’ Factory in Southington to get my new 2019 fishing license renewed and ran into my bass-fishing buddy from South Meriden, Jonathon Dingle. He was talking to a fellow angler and they were contemplating fishing the lower Housatonic River for some striped bass.

So there you go. Open water means get out the old fishing rod and have at it.

And, yes, I did purchase a trout stamp!

I still can’t figure the moaning and groaning over paying $5 for dedicated funding for the DEEP Inland Fisheries trout and salmon program.

These same groaners think nothing of forking over more than 80 bucks for smokes that can kill them, yet they think they are being robbed for five bucks to enhance a year of fishing pleasure. I just don’t get it.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.


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