An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 2-22-2017

by Mark Walters

All Over, And Under, The Ice!

Hello friends, 

This week’s column, as you are about to see, is all over the map and pretty interesting if you are into the outdoors.

Friday, February 7th
High 35, low 24

Our Tennessee winter keeps on hitting us with surprises, especially if you spend a lot of time on the ice. Today, I would drive to Oshkosh with my enclosed trailer packed full with my ATV and camping gear.

My goal was to spend the weekend on Lake Winnebago for the opening of sturgeon spearing. I had an unusual situation in that I kind of forgot to purchase my sturgeon spearing tag by the October 31st deadline, which meant there was not a spear in the trailer.

Not a person to let setbacks hold me back, I made some calls and found out that I could sit in my Eskimo “13×8 Fat Shack” and watch for a sturgeon and ice fish as long as I had no fishing gear in my shack. If my spearing hole was covered, I could fish with a hook and line in the shack.

So in my research, I found out that Payne’s Point Hook and Spear Fishing Club, located just north of Oshkosh, was having a 3-day fisheree, with live music and these folks put out some ice bridges for navigation over the expansion cracks on Winnebago.

I joined the club and entered the fisheree and 48-hours on the ice was my plan.

First let me tell you, when you arrive at 3:00 p.m. and you have a 5×3 foot hole to cut and a camp to build and tip ups to put out, you have a full schedule to beat the sun clock.

I cut the outline for my “sturgeon viewing hole” with my chainsaw and cut the entire hole with my “Jiffy Pro 4” which is a propane auger, which cuts a ten-inch hole. The Pro 4 is an awesome machine; I love it, but let me tell you, it is a crazy, wet, physical and dangerous job doing this with an auger.

Long story short, camp was built with my cot and bed set up, propane lights a heater and a kitchen by 8:00 p.m. My pup, Ruby, was loving life both roaming the ice and in her bed which is an Otter Sled with old jackets for bedding.

I tried jigging and had no luck with the jig pole or tip ups, as often happens on the ice late in the night, people (probably kids) came out and did a lot of donuts and crazy things with their trucks.

Saturday, February 8th
High 44, low 25

Today was another unique day in my life. I met my neighbors in the nearby spear shacks in the first light part of the day. I had hopes that I would catch a fish “or get a flag at least” and I sat in my “no spear” shack and looked down my hole and saw a whole bunch of nothing.

About 9:00 a.m. I received a very upsetting phone call that someone close to me had put his truck through the ice at 5:00 this morning and was EXTREMELY LUCKY TO BE ALIVE! I also received a call about a very fun bachelor party that was taking place all weekend long for David Nelson on Fox Lake.

These guys are the kids in their mid 20’s in our gang and they are fun. Later in the morning I got a call that they were having a hey day on walleye, northern pike and crappie.

Meanwhile back at “No Spear Shack” I have not had a nibble or seen a fish and so I made an executive decision. I am breaking camp as fast I can, packing up and heading over to Fox Lake.

The boys had my brother-in-law, Dick Schuster’s, portable plywood shack up that is about 16×8 foot up and were having a good old time.

Tim Rittmeyer, who is very tied into this gang, is like 27ish and recently got into tip up fishing in a big way. Tim has started a just for fun website called, “Just The Tip Up Outdoors” and I looked at it and it is really interesting for a greenhorn that has not even been officially been voted into deer camp (after like 15-years).

I was the old timer tonight; we stayed up late, caught some nice walleye and most importantly had a blast on a Tennessee winter kind of weekend.