Ice fishing through the eyes of a sturgeon

Karen Wils photo Bob with a big northern pike on the ice.

ESCANABA — ” Pssst, hey you, skin face up there, It’s me Stanley Sturgeon down here in the water.”

“Don’t look so surprised!” “I’m a hundred and two years old. I sure should be able to talk by now.”

“Go ahead, lean your ear a little closer to your hole-in-the-ice.” “I won’t bite, I’m a bottom feeder remember.”

Some folks might think it gets boring down here in the winter months when the ice and snow cover and seal us in.

Cold and dormant, they think my life is in mid-winter, but that’s not entirely true. In the winter we watch TV (that is top view). See, if you look way up there, quaint little critters drill numerous holes in the ice. Through these holes light streams in, just like from a television set.

Only, the programs that play on my TV are all comedies. Let’s take a swim up and tune in to what’s going on in this guy’s shack.

Look at those size twelve Icemen’s boots he is wearing and that beat up old lucky fishing cap. Oh, my it’s nice and cozy in there cushioned seats, propane heater and floral print curtains on the window…

Oh, no, Bud be careful! Don’t lean too far, splash. There goes his cell phone.

Did you ever wonder what a one hundred year old sturgeon would see if it had been able to spy into our fish shacks over the years?

This prehistoric looking fish probably watched your Grandpa when he was going fishing. Gramps donned ice creepers and his warmest boots and wool jacket. Then he walked from the house to his shack pulling a little sled with some firewood and his fishing supplies.

Ice shanties or fish shacks as we called them were simple affairs back then. Tarpaper, cleats and scraps of wood were pounded together. Small, lightweight, with runners were important features because back then nobody had ATV’s or snowmobiles to pull shacks with.

Fish finders and under water cameras were unheard of yet. Thinsulate and Under Amours predecessors were flannel and wool. A tiny woodstove took the chill out of the shack and if you built a sturdy shelf, you could put a radio on it.

That old sturgeon, the largest of all the fish in the bay, must have overheard music. From Frank Sinatra to Buck Owens muffled melodies drifted down the hole-in-the-ice.

Conversations as serious as the bombing of Pearl Harbor to assassinations, war and terrorism were disgust by fishing buddies in the fish shack.

The eaves dropping sturgeon also heard much laughter. Things so silly as” catch a fish and you get a Hershey’s kiss” and songs to lure in the fish were over heard by Stanley. Happy voices of children hooking their first perch and shouts of joy when a wall hanger walleye was caught echoed.

Stanley the great sturgeon is still down there in the depths of the timeless world of fishermen and women. Maybe he’s by your fish shack?

Spread a little caviar on a cracker and that we scare him away. Back to the murky waters at the head of the Bay the big fish will go with stories of the humans and their ice fishing.

Ice fishing has changed some over the years but the excitement and the fun always stay the same with this traditional winter sport.

— — —

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today