Things were just beginning to take shape in the dark green water as their eyes got used to the shadows under the ice. On the bottom weeds waved and undulated in the soft currents and bits of white, shiny clamshells glittered on the silt covered bottom.
An old man readied himself by pushing the point of one spear tine into the ice on the side of the hole. Then he let the spear handle rest against his shoulder, ready for the prowling pike he hoped would come through the hole. His grandson sat next to him, working the red and white decoy. By lifting and lowering the stout line tied to the decoy he made it swoop and dart like a living fish.
From his pocket the grandpa took a jar of eggshells that had been crushed into tiny pieces. He carefully sprinkled a small handful into the water. The eggshells became a white cloud slowly descending toward the bottom, giving off slight flashes as they twisted and turned. Moments later a school of minnows came into the hole, attracted by the shells. More minnows came until there were several groups of flashing baitfish milling about under the boy and man.
Suddenly the tranquility in the hole was shattered by a long, savage pike that shot through the hole and clenched the decoy in its strong, tooth filled jaws. The force of the attack pulled the decoy line from the boy's hand. The big pike dropped the decoy and disappeared. Grandpa whispered to the boy to stay still and let the decoy sit still. Under the ice the great pike turned and slowly moved toward the decoy again. Gradually its nose, then head, came into view. Slowly grandpa lifted the spear and threw it at the fish.
Chumming for fish is an age-old technique that's not used in our country very much anymore. But it's important to the fishing culture in the orient and Europe. Japanese fishermen pour chopped fish overboard to attract fish. Europeans toss maggots to attract fish. They even use modified sling shots to get the maggots farther from the boat or bank.
Minnesota law prohibits throwing fish parts into the water, but some forms of chumming are legal and effective. Maggots, grubs and worms attract minnows and panfish. Crushed eggshells draw the minnows on which bigger fish feed. An angler I know soaks crushed eggshells in a fish scent for added appeal.
Chumming is particularly effective when ice fishing. But do it legally and don't be a fish hog.
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