This Fish Tale Has A Ring To It – Literally

Did you hear the story of the three fishermen who back about two years ago decided to help their buddy turn the page to a new chapter in his life?   It seems their buddy was having a marriage breakup and that is when one of them had the bright idea to do something different, albeit dramatically symbolic.   They decided that if they caught a sailfish on that day fishing they would hold an informal ceremony and place the soon-to-be divorced friend’s wedding ring on the bill of the sailfish.
Well, lo and behold they did catch a sailfish off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, FL.   They held their little ritual…placed the ring on the fish…and then released the fish back into the salt water.

Okay, now fast forward time about two years later.   It seems this same bunch of guys was out fishing again when…when lo and behold they catch the very same sailfish.   Now, however, the ring had slightly grown into the fish much like a ring would grow unto the finger of a man who perhaps has added a few pounds since his wedding day.

Truly the story is fascinating…and perhaps almost too unbelievable to be true.   What are the odds of the same fishermen catching the very same fish two years later?   Moreover, what are the odds of ANY fishermen catching that same fish again?

Sure, this story does sound a bit skeptical but I happen to believe it is true.   For some reason I just think it is goofy enough that it has to be based in some fact.   I guess the best way I can equate it is the odds for this fisherman to repeat his catch must be about the same as a golfer who shoots a hole-in-one.   The odds are definitely against him, but why not.   In fact, the fishermen have all volunteered to take polygraph tests if that’s what it takes to prove their claim.

Oh how times have changed.   Today the fisherman, Eric Bartos has a new girlfriend in his life.   For some strange reason she was not happy that Bartos removed the ring from the fish and has decided to begin wearing it.   Girlfriends can have strange idiosyncrasies that way…but the new gal in Bartos’ life thinks that maybe this happening is an omen that he should get married again—to her.   Apparently the former Mrs. Bartos could not be reached for comment on this fishy tale.

I can’t help but imagine if this story had worked out a bit differently.   Imagine if you were the fisherman who landed a fish wearing such a ring.   Of course, not knowing the story as to how it got there…you would have had a real fish story to tell for the ages.   As things turned out, Bartos appears to be one lucky fisherman with a life that has taken a much better twist for the good.   He now has a new girlfriend, a story that has seen his name plastered in the news around the world…plus, he has his old ring back.   I guess you might say this fisherman truly had a lucky day on the water.

© 2005 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Ice Fishing Through The Eyes of a Southerner

I’ve often wondered what it must seem like to southern folk who look at us northerners with curiosity and wonderment when it comes to our wintertime fishing techniques.   To those fishermen south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it probably seems pretty strange to walk out unto a frozen lake to do your fishing.   Yet, ice-fishing has become one of the most growth-oriented segments of the fishing industry in recent years.

Last year about this time I was riding in a Las Vegas taxi cab when I struck up a conversation with the cabby.   As the conversation went along, he asked me the typical questions like where you from, etc.   When he learned I was from Minnesota I could see his eyes light up with excitement.   He asked me, “Do you know where Red Wing is?”   My response was, “of course,” since the city is located only about 35 miles from my home.   As it turned out, this 60+ year old African American had spent over $5,000 in preparation to live out his dream…and that dream was to go ice fishing before he died.

He had planned the trip out for years.   Bought a new parka, hired a well known guide, purchased a new camera to record the event, plane tickets, etc.…essentially he wanted to feel first hand what it was like to sit on the ice and fish.   His inspiration??   None other than the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” a movie along with “Fargo” that has done more to stereotype us Minnesotans than perhaps any other pair of cinema flicks.

I regret not getting this cabby’s name and address because I have often wondered how his dream trip turned out.   Here’s a guy who spent a good chunk of money just to experience and say he participated in an activity many of us take for granted.   He also said he offered to pay for his sons to come along, as well as some of his friends…but they all thought he was nuts and refused.  Yet, he moved on with his plans and decided to live out his dreams.   I was deeply inspired by my brief encounter with this individual.

I tried to look at the activity of ice fishing through the eyes of a man who has never seen snow before.   It must be incredible to imagine that people can literally set up a “shanty town” on a lake.

The more I considered it, the more I see a growing number of pop-up portable shelters becoming part of this wonderful wintertime activity.   But nothing quite matches the growth that is taking place with ice fishing, especially in the area of fish houses on wheels.   Check out these web sites to see just how comfortable live has become on the Upper Midwest Lakes:

Today, it is possible you can custom design an ice house much like you would plan out a kitchen remodel in your home.   Indeed, I can see where it might be intriguing for a guy who has never stepped foot on a lake to give it a try when you see how comfortable life has become for many ice anglers.
As for my new buddy the cabby looking to recreate a scene from Grumpy Old Men, I hated to break the bad news to him last year.   But at the time when I was out in Vegas we did not have snow or really much ice to speak of back home.   As I explained to him…in Minnesota, it might seem to many to be like an icebox during most of the year…but sometimes mother nature doesn’t always cooperate with our winter fishing plans no matter how much money you’ve spent or how hard you’ve planned out the adventure.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Make Preparations Now For Ice Fishing Season

Today we won’t be dealing so much with the new products that will be available this year for ice fishing, but I will offer some suggestions on things that need to be done soon to get ready for a season that is rapidly approaching.

One of the first things that a smart ice angler will do is pull out his portable fishing shack and make sure it is in good condition.   If a zipper is tearing loose, or perhaps there was a tear in the material from last season, now would be a good time to take it into the canvass shop to get it fixed.   Wait too long and you might miss some of the early fishing without your portable house.   Canvass repair shops get busy too with procrastinating anglers so it is always best to do your shelter inspections early and get the repairs done long before you need the structure.

One of the things I do with my gas powered auger is run it from time to time.   I actually have a maintenance schedule I keep where I try to run small engines I own that don’t see a lot of year around use.   My auger falls into this category, as does my chain saw, weed whacker, etc.   When these engines sit for long periods of time it can be bad news…especially with today’s gasoline.   I always run fresh fuel whenever possible and when I buy that fuel I put a stabilizer in it, like Stabil, Sea Foam, etc.   But nothing beats running the freshest gas possible and doing it on a routine schedule.   If you aren’t disciplined like this…then there is no time like the present to ensure that the motor starts on your augur.

Same goes for the blades.   Auger blades can be tricky to sharpen yourself…so usually for a few bucks you can take it to a sharpening service or many sporting good stores will be a drop-off point for blade sharpening.   The other option is to buy new blades for your unit, which is a good thing to do now while they are in stock because the hoards of people have not started thinking about drilling ice yet.

Another fine project during the evenings while you are sitting watching TV is to remove the old line from your reels and replace it with fresh line.   Changing line annually is more important on your ice gear than it is on your summer gear.   Generally you are using lighter test weight line that is not as durable to begin with.   Don’t tempt fate by being lazy and leaving your old line on the reels you will be using for this ice season.

Of course another big thing to look at for the ice fisherman is simply the clothing you will be wearing.   How do your winter boots look from last year?   Can you get another year out of them…or perhaps you need some new liners?   It’s amazing how fast the weather can turn here in Minnesota and it pays to be prepared for cold-weather living.

So what do you use for a heater when out ice fishing?   There are lots of choices, but some of them need attention from time to time, too.   I use one of the Mr. Heater type “sunflower” heaters…but I had one that was not working consistently last year.   It would work for 15 minutes…and then shut off…and so on.   Eventually I had to replace an $8 thermocouple unit and I was good to go.   If you use kerosene heaters maybe you need to replace a wick…or if you use a Coleman-style lantern for lighting maybe you need a new wick for that unit.   When you stop to think about all the equipment you use for ice fishing there is plenty of attention you can give to some of those items right now.

Don’t wait until the ice is thick enough for fishing to begin thinking about your equipment…put a little time into some of those items now and you’ll be ahead of the ballgame.   Then in early December when the big St. Paul Ice Fishing Show rolls around you can focus on what is important…buying all that new equipment you didn’t even know you needed.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.