Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Unsafe Ice Fishing

Got word minutes ago: two guys were out ice fishing Lake Hopatcong today, about a half mile south of Bertrand Island. No facts on ice thickness, but my informant was pretty sure it was unsafe.

Guys do it. I once crawled out--a rope around my waist--on two inches of ice over clear water, viewing bottom 10-feet below me, and cut holes with a hatchet. Ice crackled outward from cuts, slightly threatening to weaken under my left hand supporting shoulder-weight.

I set tip-ups. And then watched from shore.

More recently--2008 I think--on Lake Musconetcong with my son, I told him to keep back on the safe three-and-a-half-inch ice, while, curious about a spot, I got on hands and knees, progressing for about seven or eight yards on ice two-and-a-half-inches thick to place a tip-up.

I may not be well-known for this, but I have a streak of hubris. That day, my son and I ice fished for two hours on clear, hard ice before my mood grew until I felt confident that if I fell through the ice over five feet of water, it wouldn't matter. I once suffered a big wetsuit rip in brine of nearly 29 degrees. Treading clams commercially. Air temperature 22, wind 45 mph. I was more than a hundred yards from the boat. The incident resulted in deep second-degree hypothermia, which felt as if I drank at least two six packs, but of course--I'm here to tell you.

Also to tell you, if you do go through extensive thin ice, you likely have less chance of survival than falling through thin ice with thicker nearby. I had ice spikes on Lake Musconetcong that afternoon, but they would have worked by allowing myself to pull my weight up onto ice which at best would support that weight.

Obviously, if I fell through those two inches of ice I dared, I would probably have to keep breaking ice and sort of swimming or floundering, until I reached water shallow enough to stand in. Similar on Lake Musconetcong. I would have had perhaps seven or eight yards of struggle to overcome before my time was up, though I have to say, I was aware the spikes would have helped. Grip that ice and pull! Grip and pull!

Disrespect for my son is implied. Imagine an eight-year-old boy witnessing his Dad in that situation. He would feel, if he did nothing--even if I told him to stay back--compromised.

The hubris I experience, no doubt, does involve heightened perception and heightened tactile coordination. Inevitably, the inner desire of a man of such drive is to try what he sees is possible. But it is dangerous. And it often seems ethically edgy at best.

It can seem to others downright foolish or crazy. But, in fact, the experience--and in my case, I'm ultimately the only one to know the experience at its center--is in essence neither. The hubris is a form of natural force, though of course, to yield to it is to choose to do so. It is dangerous and certainly unconventional, yes. The very essence of daring adventure, and never to be imitated or faked, because without the heightened senses, it is suicidal.

The ethics would require more analysis than I care to offer here. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Fly Fishing March

Sometime in February each year, I feel March approach, the month always proving the process of spring's unfolding has begun. A few times, I've fly fished trout in March, and though I have fished stream trout successfully in February, I would have to consult my handwritten log to be all but absolutely certain I've never tried streams in January. For many years, this hasn't mattered to me, if during the last few or so, I've begun to think of doing this. Last winter, I thought of it a lot, but I never got out this January on any small river or stream, if perhaps next winter I will, or rather, when I get the time. And perhaps the boot-foot waders.

I think this March I will do it.

Over the years, I've caught a lot of bass in March. Quite a few in February also. This year, if things work out and I get an evening, I've learned the whereabouts of a pond nearby I've never fished, with bass present.