I stepped out of the shanty. The sun stung my eyes like walking out of a bar in the middle of the day. Uncle Pete was back at the house. He hadn’t been gone for longer than ten minutes. I squinted in the direction of my tip-ups. Flags down. My ears rang in the silence of a dead calm morning in the middle of winter.
Then a fight broke out.
I opened the shanty door to see my rods getting pulled into the water. I grabbed them both and landed the first two keepers of the day. A huge school of perch was stacked up from the bottom of the lake to the bottom of the ice. They fought for the bait. Biting each others fins and chasing each other around. By the time Pete got back to the shack I had 15 fish on the ice.
We sorted through some smaller schools for a few hours. Then loaded up the truck and headed out for smelt fishing in the dark.
The ice was clean and thin. Maybe 3 inches. Nowhere near the 20-24 inches that usually covers Higgins Lake by early February. The sun quickly set and we were joined by a couple hundred anglers. Coleman Lanterns and Vexilars. Cold beers and stupid jokes. We lowered a light bulb under the ice, hooked it to a car battery and waited.
Little yellow bands finally showed up on my Vexilar. I chased suspended schools for hours with minimal success. It was 2 am before I realized it. 2 buckets of fish. 16 hours on the ice. That’s a good Saturday.