Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ice-Fishing Trip 2010

I felt I was the most prepared I have ever been for our Annual Ice-Fishing Trip on Black Lake this year. I had made several trips to camp the weeks before to get everything set up. The ice-shanties were already in place out on the lake, the snowmobiles and ATVs were gassed and sitting on the lawn ready to be driven onto the lake, the porta-john was delivered, the food packed in the cupboards and fridge, the beds were all made, and we had plenty of extra clothing.

Once everyone arrived at Black Lake, we caravan-ed to the Black Lake Fish and Game Club to sign up for the fishing derby. We then stopped at Turner's Inn for pizzas and finger foods. After everyone was full, we headed back to camp. The children exited the vehicles ready for play. The younger kids played in the snow and went sledding with their plastic sleds, and the older kids were anxious to ride the snowmobiles. While Renee dug out all the helmets, I made a big loop from the camp shoreline, 1/2 mile out by the island and back to the shoreline. The kids took turns riding the snowmobiles, following the trail I had made. We watched as the children played and rode snowmobiles for a couple hours. Then everyone was called indoors for some hot chocolate and a snack before settling into bed.

By sunrise, us adults were up sipping on our morning coffee. For the first time in years, we waited on the children to awaken from their sleep (generally, they spring out of bed and excitedly wake us). It must have been the late evening playing had tired them out. Renee cooked eggs, toast, hash browns and bacon for everyone. I am always amazed that some of these children will eat a bowl of cereal in addition to their hot breakfast.

The skies were clear and the sun was shining. From inside it looked to be a pleasant day. Once outdoors, we discovered the wind was blowing and the temperature was 10 degrees. Our tip-up holes would freeze up shortly after we set them in the water. It was a constant chore keeping the holes from freezing solid. Without the fish biting, the children were ready to play and ride snowmobiles. We plowed a large space out on the lake where the children could play and ice-skate. In addition, a 30' x 15' piece of my lawn (which was flooded weeks earlier ) froze over, making it a slippery skating ring. I was surprised to discover the small patch of ice was the weekend long object of play for the big and small kids.

Later in the morning some SU students from the Acacia Fraternity arrived to help out with our trip. Not being familiar with upstate New York weather or ice-fishing, the group arrived a little under-dressed. Renee quickly forged through our extra clothes and dressed the SU students just as caringly as she does our kids. Soon they were out on the lake helping us chop the tip-ups out of the frozen ice. The cold weather causes the ice to expand and often times loud noises of cracking and popping can be heard. It was comical to watch one of the students cringe every time he heard the noise. As one of our group members drove past us in his truck, I asked the student if he thought he weighed more than the truck but it didn't seem to bring him much comfort to know the ice could support over 2,000 lbs. The students were a great help chipping out the tip-ups. Once they finished, they were drawn to the small patch of ice and began playing with the children.

Our day of fishing (with more than 60 tip-ups in the water) only resulted in a catch of five small pike. When I owned my camp on the other end of the lake, we would easily catch 20 pike on our trip. Now that I own my father's camp (located on the opposite side of the lake), it seems it is going to take me some time to figure out where to catch the fish. Eventually, I will figure it out; it's just going to take me a few years to do so.

I spent a lot of time sitting on the back of an ATV or a snowmobile so that I could allow the younger kids an opportunity to drive. Needless to say, once I started letting them drive, they kept getting in line to drive again. I spent several hours sitting on the rear of a snowmobile or an ATV (mostly the ATV). It was humorous teaching them to drive. The younger kids have a little difficulty getting used to thumbing the throttle. This would result in jerking us backward, followed by releasing the throttle, causing us to jerk forward. The process continued until the kid got used to controlling the throttle. Needless to say, my body was happy when they finally figured it out. Of course, there were a couple kids who didn't have this difficulty; they simple squeezed the throttle and held on. When this happened, there is the first jerk of the vehicle, followed by my applying the break and yelling "slow down!" in which the kid would let off the throttle (I had to yell to be heard through our helmets). It's easier to break the kids in on the ATV first because my foot rests over the break when they drive, making it is easier for me to apply it without grabbing the handlebars. On the snowmobile, I have to grab the handlebars to apply the brake. So, I would start with the ATV, and once they developed the proper skills, I would give them a couple of opportunities to drive one of the snowmobiles. The lake is a great place for the kids to learn because of the wide, open, unobstructed space. It was rewarding to see the kids' driving skills improve. At first we would drive a short distance on the lake and return to the shore. Then we would drive back out, following the tracks that they had made a mile out on the lake, eventually turning back, once again. The kids enjoyed following and staying on the "road" they had made out of the snow trail, and they improved greatly with each trip out.

Later in the evening we all came inside and played games. The weekend was a fun and memorable time for the children as well as for me: sledding, skating, fishing, riding and driving ATVs and snowmobiles; our days and evenings were filled with things to do. Driving the ATVs and snowmobiles is an experience that most children would probably not have until they grew up (and maybe not even then). I consider it a privilege to be able to share such memorable moments with the children. A special thanks goes out to those of you who helped support our trip. I can hardly wait until next year.


Officer Clarke

No comments: