Usually it's fish we're after. But sometimes you can feel just as good pulling something else from the water. Especially if it's something you just dropped.
I lead a pretty charmed life in this area. Well, almost. I recall a nice Boy Scout pocket knife I had just gotten for Christmas. I admired it constantly, so for convenience I kept it in my front shirt pocket so I could pull it out and open its blades when I wanted to.
Why I leaned over the ice hole I can't recall. But I vividly remember the sickening plunk sound when it slipped out and plummeted to the bottom of the lake.
Other than that I've done pretty good. At one time we had a large oil burning stove in our fish house and a long-handled scoop for reaching in and removing soot and ash that sometimes built up. It seems as if every fish house has tight quarters, as ours did. When a bobber went down I jumped up to feed it line and hit the scoop that hung from two small nails. Into the hole it went. That put a damper on the moment! Despite the fact I was fighting a fish I could only think of how I would explain to my father why the scoop was missing.
I pulled the fish up and it made a pass below the hole. Tangled in the line was the scoop! Landing the fish felt good, but not as good as untangling the scoop and hanging it safely back on its nails.
Years passed without mishap.....until the other day. The lack of snow on the ice makes it slick and treacherous. Still we decided to go spearing. We had augured a big hole and were knocking out some pieces with the chisel when I took a fall, driving the chisel through the ice and down into the water. It was gone.
Shamefully I insisted on setting up the portable spear shanty anyway and getting a fish. When we could see down through the hole, there was the chisel, jutting up from the bottom like an artifact from the Titanic. I figured I could rescue it. With a rope tied in a slip knot and a clip-on weight, I dangled the loop right over the chisel shaft and gently tightened up. The chisel came free and I pulled it in.
Now relaxed, we got a couple fish to come in the hole and speared one of them. My brother asked for a fillet knife to clean the fish, and I handed it to him. Just as he grabbed the knife it slid from the case and, you guessed it, fell into the hole. Ironically, it stuck in the bottom right next to where the chisel had been.
"I believe my record of retrieving lost items has ended," I muttered.
We kept spearing and I stared at that knife, sitting there stuck in the bottom, mocking our casualness. Then, I thought, I'll spear the knife -- maybe. I looked at the space between the spear tines and figured that knife handle would fit right in there. So I lowered the spear by the rope right over the knife and dropped it. Sure enough, the tines spread right over the knife handle and pinched it tight. We pulled it in and congratulated ourselves on our ingenuity, forgetting about our earlier ineptness.
We speared just one northern that day, but we were happy with the day. It wasn't entirely successful, but it was eventful.
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