You know you're getting "long in the tooth" when your grandson, Nate Griffin, offers you an ice fishing trip and you'll be accompanied by his son and my great grandson, Hunter, who is an advanced three year old.
When Nate picked me and my equipment up, Hunter was so excited he could hardly contain himself. It was apparent that at his young age he'd already had a few ice fishing experiences under his belt. He was full of questions about catching "the big one," and if we were going to catch some pickerel as he liked to feed them to the eagle that constantly is on the lookout for a handout where we were going.
Hunter was right about the eagle. When we were unloading our gear from Nate's truck we watched the one other group that we could see on the ice toss a fish out near their fishing shanty and saw the eagle swoop out of a big pine tree. It picked that big fish up without any fear, being only about 10 feet away from the fishermen. That was pretty cool for both Hunter and me.
Nate is quite the physical specimen, working bridge construction and also being a former semi-pro football player. So it didn't take him very long to grind that hand ice auger through about a foot of ice and had most of the tip-ups baited while Hunter and I had only a couple baited and set in.
It was my intention to stay busy catching perch on a couple of small rods, so with small pieces of shiner baited on my small jigs, we were happy sitting on my padded seat that is a gear box with a sled bottom - a rather unique and very usable rig.
Before Nate had the last tip-up set, his yell to Hunter and me brought me back to reality. I tried to race Hunter to the flag but he won the race and had already pulled the gear out of the water and was hand-over-hand pulling the fish in.
"This kid is already a veteran fish catcher and may be pretty stingy with letting anyone else tend to a flag," I was thinking. But he did get into a bit of a line tangle with Nate finally helping him to land what turned out to be a very nice smallmouth bass that was at least two pounds and probably more.
We've handled so many fish in the past that there were no plans for me to take a flag, hoping that at least we'd be able to catch a few on our two jig rods. But before my two rods were back at work Hunter was calling to dad that there was a flag up behind Nate. But again, Hunter beat us all to the flag and again he hauled in another smallmouth that was even larger than the last.
"Daddy, when are we going to catch a pickerel so I can feed it to the eagle?" was Hunter's reaction to landing that bass but for me the picture of crispy fillets were what was on my mind. To me, there's nothing finer than winter caught smallmouths.Still no bites on my two jig rods, I pulled them out of the water and had Nate cut a couple more holes and with Hunter helping, put two more tip-ups to work. But even at that, we had several more rigs we could have deployed. With Hunter being with us, it seemed we had plenty as the bass bite was on. Finally a skinny pickerel of well over a foot long was pulled up on the ice by Hunter and he let out a screech of happiness.Nate let Hunter pitch the pickerel out on the ice but it wasn't far enough for the eagle to see it, so Nate picked it up and tossed it well up in the air but only about 10 feet from where he and Hunter were standing.
The reaction of that eagle was instantaneous as with Hunter screeching in joy the eagle landed and slurped down that fish with one big gulp and just stood there, almost at arm's reach, to extreme pleasure.
Nate had Hunter sitting on a portable canvas chair right in the middle of the tip-up field but we'd lost the sun and Hunter was getting cold. We called it quits and while Nate was taking care of pulling the tip-ups I took Hunter back to the truck and got the heater going on high gear.In no time at all, Nate had picked up and wound up the tip-ups and with three sleds in tow, came across the ice. Soon some hot chocolate for Hunter and some hot coffee for Nate and I warmed us up and Hunter's quiet snores brought smiles from us adults as we could imagine just what he was dreaming.
How lucky could those "jolly three fishermen be?"
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.