As ‘Old Man Winter’ strengthens his icy grip, even our cats Charlie, Lola and Magee turn up their whiskers at the prospect of heading outdoors in the sub-zero temperatures. So, as Josie the “chi-poo” (Chihuahua-poodle mix) chews up our couch pillows, we’re all suffering from a little cabin fever and coming up with column ideas about a river gets pretty darn difficult.
So for inspiration this week and to occupy 700 words or so, we’ll take some time to get back to the official ‘Notes from the River’ reader mailbag and answer some questions from you, our loyal readers. Let’s draw a random question from the mailbag:
Q: Now that the temperatures are in the 80’s and the kids are out of school, I was thinking of taking the kids fishing for the July 4th weekend. What might we expect from an excursion on the Sangamon?
A: (mental note: I really should get around to answering questions from the official ‘Notes from the River’ reader mailbag more often).
Well, to answer your question, these days you’d better bring your awl, your portable ice shelter, a heater and a saw because the Sangamon is nearly a solid block of ice.
Which brings us to the intriguing question of what fish actually do when a river freezes over. And for a definitive answer, I do what all trained and experienced Research Scientists do: I turn to ‘Yahoo Answers’!
And here we learn that fish are ‘poikilothermic’ and that is how they survive.
Q: Well, aren’t you going to tell us what the heck “poikilothermic” means?
A: Well, if you were a trained and experienced Research Scientist, you’d know that “poikilothermic” simply means ‘cold-blooded’. But I wouldn’t expect lesser minds to understand such complicated words.
Q: Man, that was poikilothermic!
A: Technically, that wasn’t a question. But getting back to the original question of what fish do in the winter.
Q: Excuse me, but that wasn’t the original question. That was your question.
A: Would you just pipe down and let me write, already? So, actually, according to Yahoo Answers, fish do what most humans would do after extended periods under the water without a source of oxygen: they quit breathing.
Q: But why don’t they just die?
A: Because they’re poikilothermic, they slow themselves down so much they don’t need to breathe. But I feel like I’m going in circles here.
So back to the question of fishing. And sorry, but since I didn’t get around to your question any sooner, we’ll have to cover the important topic of ice fishing.
And again, (since it’s too freakin’ cold to actually go outside) we turn to the internet to find a few ice fishing basics for that first timer who wants to have an enjoyable bonding experience with his kids.
On the internet, we find a few basic pointers from Pat Kalmerton of Sheboygan-based Wolf Pack Adventures, who advises: “When fishing 10-inch-plus suckers in trophy pike fisheries I rig 50-pound fluoro, five beads, a #6 Northland Real-Baitfish Image Colorado blade and clevis and a single 1/O hook tied with a snell knot.”
As for this column writer and novice fisher-person, I’m certainly glad to have the internet for such helpful advice. I’m working on my ‘snell knots’ even now, while reaching for the next random letter from deep within the mailbag:
Q: While we’re on the subject of ice-fishing, do you know any good jokes about ice-fishing?
A: The obvious issue here is how you, dear reader, knew we’d be on the subject of ice-fishing when you submitted your question to the Notes from the River mailbag. But setting that obvious issue aside, as a matter of fact, I do:
Two blondes went out on the ice to go ice fishing. They sat down, put down their gear and began to dig a hole in the ice with their auger when they heard a great booming voice from above say “There are no fish under that ice!”
So they looked at each other, picked up their gear and moved to a new spot on the ice about 50 feet away. As they started to auger their hole, the same booming voice again said “There are no fish under that ice”.
Now quite frustrated, one of the blondes threw up her arms, looked up and shouted “How do you know this? Are you the ice-fishing God?”
And the voice replied: “No, I’m the ice arena attendant.”
Q: Very funny. Are you really sure that one is such a good idea given that you have a blonde daughter making straight A’s in college and a blonde wife, too?
A: Ahem. It seems that somebody may have hacked my Notes column again. But, umm, well, yes, here’s a different one:
It seems that Sven and his buddies went ice-fishing every Saturday all winter long for the past forty years. Once they were fishing on a frozen lake near a highway and they noted a funeral procession driving slowly along the highway.
Sven stood upright, faced the procession, removed his hat and placed it on his heart as the procession went slowly past. Afterwards, Sven put his hat back on, sat down and got back to focusing on his fishing.
His buddy Olaf then looked over at him quizzically and said, with not a little amazement: “Sven dat was quite moving, dat ting you just did dere.”
And Sven replied: “Vell, it vas least I could do. I’ve been married to the woman for 40 years.”
Q: Hmmm. I’m not sure that one’s much better.
A: Well, anyway. It’s winter, I’m stuck inside looking at the frozen Sangamon out the window and it seems that the cats and the chi-poo aren’t the only critters suffering from cabin fever these days.
Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, January 15,2014, by Scott Hays