One of the writers whose fish tales I enjoyed many years ago, Lenny Rudow, has returned to the CHESAPEAKE with more fantastic and factual fishing narratives. While searching the Internet, I discovered Lenny’s expertise at almost every type of fishing. Even in the coldest of winters, Lenny has braved to cut a hole in the ice in pursuit of our mutual passion.
I have ice fished two times in my life. There will not be a third time.
After spending almost seven years running fishing, dive, snorkel, and glass bottom boats in the Florida Keys during the Jimmy Buffett era, I returned to St. Mary’s County to work in the real world. While getting my rusty van inspected for a Maryland tag at the inspection station run by Brian Easter in Hughesville, Brian and I got into a conversation about fishing.
Late in January of that very frigid year, Brian called the house as I was huddled close to the warm Timberline wood stove downstairs.
"The Perchman says the big Yellow Perch are running under the ice at the bridge at Wayson’s Corner." Brian exclaimed.
Not one to miss a fishing trip, I agreed to join Brian and the Perchman on an ice fishing expedition.
The routine involved getting about four dozen minnows at the bait shop near the bridge on Rt. 4 early in the morning. Then we threw the Perchman’s aluminum canoe loaded with gear down the banks of the frozen Patuxent River beneath the bridge. We sat in the canoe on the ice and pushed it across the ice with the paddles to the middle bridge abutment where we off-loaded and stood on the exposed concrete base of the pylons.
There was about four or five inches of water between the ice and the concrete bridge supports where we eased our lines baited with live wiggling minnows. When a minnow would quit squirming, we hooked another and sent it to the cold depths. Four hours later, we had gone through most of the minnows without catching a single fish, though I thought I might have gotten one nibble, maybe.
So, we loaded the gear back into the canoe and pushed back to the bank, loaded the truck and headed home.
Needless to say, it was really cold under that bridge.
Any sane person would have simply said "No" to Brian when he called again the next week to tell me that the Perchman was once more tearing up the Yellow Perch under the bridge.
Of course, I said, "Yes."
The routine was the same: four dozen minnows, canoe loaded with gear, etc. However, this time I brought a box full of hardwood end trimmings from that week’s sawmill production in a metal crate. A can of lighter fluid and matches would be added to that mix to make sure we would not be cold. Getting skunked is bad enough. Getting skunked while freezing your butt off while standing in freezing wind on an ice cold concrete abutment is this fisherman’s own private hell.
After setting up the lines, I went to start the fire. I had been in the Keys too long to develop an appreciation for the aesthetics of which wood would work best in those close quarters. Unfortunately, I had grabbed a box of green sweet gum wood blocks.
Anyone who has ever tried to burn green gum wood knows that it is a nearly impossible task without an already established bed of coals. So, I spent the next four hours burning through a pack of matches and a can of lighter fluid. The fire never started well. We choked on acrid smoke the whole day.
No one got a bite that day either.
There won’t be a third ice fishing trip for me. After eight dozen drowned minnows, I figure the Perchman had a financial interest in the bait shop near the bridge and I have no interest in getting skunked a third time on the ice.
I can get skunked in a far more warmer climate. That’s why they call it "Fishing", not "Catching".