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Tenting it over the trout hole

By Darrin McGrath  |  Cabin Country  |  The Shoreline (Vol. 31 No. 48; February 13 2019)

The weekend of February 9th – 10th was very cold and windy. I had planned to go ice fishing on Sunday, however, the very high winds and deep freeze led to the trip being postponed. Being on a wide-open pond with high winds is no fun, unless you can find a sheltered cove to fish in.

More and more anglers are beginning to use tent shelters for ice-fishing. These shelters are great, but personally I’d rather be outside enjoying nature instead of sat on a lawn chair inside a tent all day. But whatever works for you – if you want to fish from a tent, go for it. I know up around Fox Marsh I have seen guys with a shelter framed up from 2 x 4s and covered with tarpaulins. A homemade shelter is less costly and just as effective as a store bought one.

I remember one time some years ago in Alberta when I went ice-fishing with a relative. There were about two dozen pick-up trucks parked on the surface of a large lake. We drove out onto the ice like we were pulling into a parking lot at a mall.

You needed a gas-powered auger to cut the very thick ice-sheet. If memory serves me correctly there was about three feet of ice. We cooked up on a propane stove on the tailgate.

And, I did get to have a look under the ice thanks to the underwater, fish-finding camera of a man with his tent door open. He invited us in for a look around. We did see a nice sized walleye swim slowly over to his baited hook, but the fish just cruised around it indifferently, and swam away.

It was interesting to see how ice fishing differed out in western Canada from here in Newfoundland. I think the increased use of gear such as shelter-tents, gas augers and submersible cameras in Newfoundland today may have to do with so many people working out west, and seeing such equipment. Of course, the prevalence of angling shows which feature such equipment might also contribute to its popularity. But to be realistic, owning such modern ice-fishing gear is also about having the extra income needed to purchase these things.

I have noticed that the cost of fishing gear has gone up. One large retailer was selling two beaded-bait spinners for $5.50. That’s pretty pricey if you ask me. But I have found a gas station that sells a nice tub of worms for $3.50 taxes included.

I had to buy new blades for my Mora five-inch auger, which I purchased in the mid-‘80s. It doesn’t owe me anything, but the replacement blades were hard to find. Outdoor Pros was able to locate and bring them in for me. They cost $30, which I thought was a fair price for a hard to find item.

A veteran angler told me that after you drill a hole with your auger and break into water don’t use the auger like a plunger to clean the ice and slush out of the hole. This man’s thinking was that chipping the blades along the sides and bottom of the hole would only contribute to dulling the blades.

Another thing to avoid with your auger is using it as a walking stick and constantly hitting the blades on the ground and/or ice. When not in use, it’s a good idea to use a blade protector, or at least wrap the blades in an old rag.

A couple of years ago I interviewed a man who, on two different occasions, had coyotes come out onto the ice after his trout. He told me he later cut a tall, straight birch tree. He cut it off at about seven feet long. He cut the flat head off a four inch nail and then drove it into the stick. He used the birch as a walking stick on the ice, with the nail providing traction. It also would help him defend himself against a coyote. And, if he broke through thin ice, the stick could be used to bridge the gap and help him get up out of the water.

You can often see birds around the open water at the edge of ice. It has been reported in another newspaper that a slaty-backed gull is hanging around at Quidi Vidi Lake. This bird is reportedly native to Russia and spends winters along the coasts of Japan or Korea. It’s a long way from home! Bird watching is a good hobby and is another way to enjoy winter. You can combine bird watching with other outdoor activities such as hiking, or fishing. My brother Jim and I saw eleven cormorants, locally known as shags, at the Duck Pond in Bowring Park. Shags eat trout, so the trout in the Waterford River system will be their prey.

Perhaps one of the most controversial issues in cabin country this winter has been the waste collection program run by the Eastern Regional Service Board. I’ve discussed this issue in previous columns. A new twist to the debate over the ERSB garbage collection program occurred on February 8th, when the Province’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment, the Honorable Graham Letto, issued a press release which instructed ERSB to cease garbage collection on un-serviced roads ASAP.

The press release also stipulated that going forward ERSB will limit all outstanding fees and interest (i.e. back fees) charged to cottage owners on their first invoice to a two year period.

Finally, ERSB was instructed to improve its transparency, accountability and engagement. I called ERSB for clarification and was told that more will be known on February 20th regarding the definition of an un-serviced road and how that will affect ERSB’s waste collection program going forward. For now garbage collection will continue on its regular schedule. Minister Letto’s press release also stated that once the comprehensive review of the Provincial Waste Management Strategy has concluded, he provide more direction to the ERSB.

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