Ice Fun………..Nice Kitty……

Every time of the year has it’s own little charm for the outdoors enthusiast, whether it is taking a walk on a beautiful spring day or hunting grizzly in rough terrain. This is the time of year when a multi-layered, heavily shrouded creature can be seen leaving his warm comfortable home to venture out into sub-zero temperatures in order to drill holes in frozen waters to try to coax a fish into biting. I, myself, am one of these creatures.  It is almost a mystical call to defy Mother Nature when she is being frosty, making the statement that you are willing to go to extremes to enjoy your sport.  Or is it simply not being willing to sit inside somewhere when there are fish to be caught?…..    This last weekend, one of my best buddies and favorite people to fish with, went out on the ice with me to see how the crappie fishing was. It was fairly cool, around 7 degrees F., but no issue for a couple of  human onions ( layers ) on the prowl! We got a few holes drilled in a spot that has always produced big crappies in years past, and got our shelter set up. Once the heater started to perform it’s duty, we settled in to enjoy ourselves. It wasn’t long before the fish were coming in on the sonar as expected.  Here is where it gets strange.  I see a blip on the screen and lower my spoon to the fish. It bites and I miss the hookset, but the fish stays and comes back to hit it again. As I get the fish to the top of the hole, the hook pops out of the fishes mouth and it is free. This is about a 13 inch crappie. I reach to grab him and he spines me, of course. Down the hole he goes and is gone. I sit back to get my rig ready to go again, when that crappie comes flying out of the hole ( a good 12 inches high ) and lands on the ice next to my feet!  I look over at my buddy and we both look confused for a minute before we start laughing our heads off. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it before. Suicidal crappies!   That was the first strange thing that day. A little time and a couple fish later I was reeling in one of my lines. It was straight down the hole and was not caught on anything. As it got closer to the surface, it came popping out of my friends hole that was 2 feet away, and landed on the ice. Again , my friend and I look at each other in silence for a second, before we burst into laughter again! Mystic ice today!  All of this reminded me of a pond that was only 2 miles from our present location. It happened 2 years ago on another late afternoon outing on the ice for crappies. On this pond the bite was on after dark so I got there early and got set up for the evening. While I waited for my target species, the bluegills were biting and they were nice eating size, so I started a pile of fish on the outside of the icehouse. The bite was good and the pile was getting bigger, even more when the crappie bite came. As I sat there, I could make out the smell of a skunk getting close. I just sat in the icehouse and he walked around for a minute, grabbed a fish, and moved on. No biggie, I didn’t mind.  A little while later, I heard noise on the ice and snow outside my house, but this was different…..bigger.  I sat there quietly while this animal decided he had hit the jackpot for supper. I could hear the smacking of my fish in his jaws! Not cool!  After it had his or her fill, it wandered away. I waited for 15 minutes before I lifted my shelter to see.  All of my fish were gone, and all that was left was a slightly bloody, scaly mess on the ice where my supper used to be. Along with the evidence of no table manners, it had left many footprints….5 inches across! I realized that I had just been visited by one of the mountain lions that inhabit our area. Luckily for me, I had just supplied him with a great supper, so I wasn’t too worried about his hunger being a problem, just his attitude. It was now about 9:00 and there was a bright moon out.  I carefully and quickly gathered my gear, took one last look at what would have been my supper, and started back across the ice to my Jeep.  Looking around, I was the only very visible moving black spot on the very white snow-covered ice. It made me very happy that I had given out a substantial meal, and hoping it was enough to satisfy the beast.  Nice Kitty!  I still fish that pond and many more in the area, however , I now carry along an equalizer just in case I come across this situation again, and don’t have that pile of fish!   Nice Kitty!………..