Whitefish under the office floor
When we were in college, my roommates and I used to sometimes bring our textbooks along while we were fishing from riverbanks. Most days, the reading wasn’t interrupted very often by fish, but sometimes it was hard to concentrate on the homework.
I remember one late winter day when I decided to bring a book along on an ice fishing excursion. An English major, I was always behind on my reading – and most of my other assignments.
Back then, we didn’t have portable ice shanties for fishing. You sat on a bucket and hoped it wouldn’t get too windy. On that day, it was sunny and still, and the winter’s accumulation of snow on top of the ice was quickly turning into slush. The fishing was slow, but steady, so I was getting a little reading done in between putting minnows on hooks and adding perch to our slowly growing pile.
The book I had along that day was a 1,481-page anthology of all of Shakespeare’s works. Reading a book on a river bank is one thing. Balancing a giant textbook on one knee, while reaching down occasionally to jig a lure or bait a hook, is another.
At one point, I pulled one of the bigger perch of the day out of the hole and, while it was still hooked, I was watching it flopping on the edge of the ice, ready to make a break for freedom. I had the rod in one hand, arm extended way above my head, and the other holding the textbook, when I heard my roommate Paul scolding, “Put the book down … PUT THE BOOK DOWN!!”
I didn’t lose the perch and the textbook was not heavily damaged by the slush.
This story came to mind while I was working on this blog. I wanted to fish, but I had work to do, so I tried to combine work and play, again. This time, though, I was in a warm ice shack. My office chair was still a five-gallon bucket, and my laptop was on a fish cooler that served as a desk. I had a jig baited for whitefish and a spear at the ready.
I wondered what Paul would have thought about this set-up. If a whitefish swam under my office floor, I would have both hands free and I wouldn’t have to toss my laptop into the slush.
As February was coming to a close, we had our shack out only a week on the upper St. Mary’s River. In fact, the day we put it out, I received a press release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminding anglers that the deadline for pulling shacks off southern Michigan waters was two days away. My brother and fellow anglers down there confirmed that their hardwater season is ending, just as ours was ramping up.
Where we look for whitefish, there is a considerable amount of current and soon icebreakers will be coming up to make way for the shipping season, so we’ll be pulling our shack off the river within a few weeks. With any luck, we’ll still be able to ice fish in more secluded bays until the first week of April.
Meanwhile, the night I set up my office in the shack I found, as usual, that be it a book or a laptop, distractions don’t help add to the fish fry, especially if you are presented with only a few opportunities. Next time, it’s all hooks and spears. No Shakespeare, unless quoted from memory.