WOODS ‘N’ WATER: What will these days auger for the ice?

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: What will these days auger for the ice?


Hey, got ice?

Just as the December freeze began to form ice on many of the ponds in Connecticut, an early January thaw prevented ice to be safe enough for some ice fishing.

How many off the local icefishing enthusiasts were already checking their gear in anticipation of hardwater action?

I read somewhere that when it comes to icefishing, some folks do not want to be bothered with all of the new gear that we are told we “need” to have for a successful day on the ice.

Being the old codger that I am, I can remember when everything I needed for a day on the ice could be loaded into a trapper’s basket pack with room to spare.

Not anymore.

Let’s go back to my early days of icefishing at Black Pond in the early 1950s. My equipment consisted of an axe for chopping a hole in the ice, six fishing type (rigged with a flag to let you know when you had a bite on your bait), an old strainer taken from the kitchen to scoop the ice out of the fishing holes, and one of my old sleds to pull the gear out onto the ice.

It was not complicated at all.

The messiest part of the deal was chopping a hole in the ice with the axe. Before you broke through to the water it wasn’t too bad, but when the water showed up you were sure to get wet.

This was before all of the new space-age clothing was developed that is so much in use today. The rule of thumb was to build a fire on the shoreline of Black Pond to thaw out. Or, you could head on over to the boathouse that was run by Eddie Holmes.

I also purchased all of my live bait from Holmes for my fishing forays. I never had a bait bucket because Eddie would give you the bait in a tin can and, when you were finished fishing, you brought the can back to him.

Back then, you did not have the paved road and boat launch parking lot that now serves Black Pond. You could access the pond by the boathouse or use a dirt road that was located where the present road leads to the launch area.

To be an icefisherman back in the 50s, you had to be pretty hardy and ready to face the New England weather. I still marvel at some of the weather scenarios we experienced on some of our icefishing trips.

Today, like just about everything in all types of sports, things have changed with icefishing. Today, when the ice is safe enough, the surface is dotted with a multitude of tents.

They come in all shapes and sizes, and their purpose is to keep the icefisherman warm and cozy regardless of the weather. Some fishermen even use portable heaters while in the confines of the tents.

The tents come complete with a sled is used to haul them and all of your fishing gear out onto the ice.

Before the tents came on the scene, many icefishermen, including yours truly, made their own sleds. Some of them were quite ingenious in their design and in them we packed a small gas stove for cooking. (Just about all of our trips included some type of cooking on the ice while fishing.)

Of course, some of them went a bit too far in their construction. I can remember a couple that required two men to load and unload.

After a couple of years of using an axe to chop my holes in the ice, I inherited a three-piece ice chopper. This was a thing of beauty and served me well for a number of years.

And then one day we were on the ice and I was startled to hear the sound of an engine. It was a gas-powered ice auger and, before long, no self-respecting icefisherman would be seen on the ice without one.

In the time it took me to chop a hole with my trusty ice chopper, I could drill six holes and be fishing in no time. Slowly, but surely, modern outdoor equipment was taking over the sport of icefishing, with no end in sight.

There are not too many old grunts like yours truly who experienced the “good old days” of icefishing. Today, change and new-age technology has put a different spin on many outdoor sports.

Sometimes I wonder if we are overdoing it. Or is it just a sign of the times? Every year we see advertisements telling us about all of the new gear for those of that enjoy the outdoors, and it has even gotten to me — sometimes.

But for the newcomer to the sport of icefishing, start off cautiously and, as time goes by, you will notice certain items that can make your time on the ice more enjoyable.

And for all of you icefishermen out there who are champing at the bit to get out on the ice, PLEASE keep in mind that there is no fish worth dying for! We will still get some ice-making weather, but each day the sun is getting a bit higher and this can also make it take a bit longer for safe ice. I will have more on that later.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving this great country of ours.