Monday, October 21, 2013

Game Warden Files--on the Ice

I never really like working ice fishermen.  I never really liked the ice at all; but I had a resource to protect and work it I did, in spite of my concerns.  I did take an ATV through the ice once.  I was working Mayfield Lake and the surface was flat, hard ice with no snow covering at all.  After checking the lake, I headed back to the point from which I'd entered the ice.  Not far from shore, I hit a small pressure ridge and lost control of the ATV.  It wasn't that I was out of control, it was just that I was now going in a direction I hadn't intended and could neither turn nor stop.  If it hadn't been for the fact that I was now headed for a patch of open water that would not have been a problem.

I tried everything I could but still could not get the machine to stop or turn.  Though I wasn't going all that fast, I was getting closer to that open water and finally steeled myself to the fact that I was going to get wet.  The water was shallow, I was with 20 feet of shore and I got out very quickly.  I was smart enough to get the car keys in my hand  before my pockets froze and got back to the car and drove home uneventfully.

After a shower a hot meal and some hot coffee, I got checked out at the hospital and then set out to recover the machine.  Assisted by Ray VanAnden, we pulled the machine out and got it to one of our shops.  A couple days of drying out, some fresh gas and an oil change was all it took to have the machine up and running again.

One afternoon I was checking ice fishermen on the Great Sacandaga and came upon a few guys with a very nice large mouth bass on the ice--frozen to it.  When asked about the fish--which was out of season--they said that they were "just getting ready to throw it back."  Likely story with the fish frozen solid; I signed them up for a trip to local court.

Sometimes the worst days on the ice produced the most interesting cases.  One cold and windy day, I pulled up to a shanty that had activity.  There was smoke coming from the chimney and a fair number of tip ups on the ice.  Since each fisherman is allowed only five, I expected to find two or three fishermen.   As I pulled up to the door, a friendly face popped out to see who was coming for a visit.  "How's the action?" I asked while looking for another fisherman.  "Pretty slow," was the response.  Still not seeing another fisherman, I then asked "Is that the reason for the extra tip ups?"  The fisherman shook his head and admitted that he had put out more than the limit in hopes of catching at least a couple fish.  Realizing that he was caught, he invited me in out of the wind to write the ticket.

In the last couple winters before my retirement, I was happy to see the return of big northern pike.  It was not uncommon to see a half dozen or more pike in the 40 inch range on the ice over a weekend.  Even the walleye had started to come back along with more, and larger, yellow perch.

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