An Outdoorsman‛s Journal
by Mark Walters
Lots of Laughs on Lake Chetac Hello friends: I have several annual can’t-miss trips in a year’s time. One of them is to Sawyer County’s Lake Chetac near Birchwood where our group of 4 to 8 stays at a very comfortable cabin on the lake and does some fairly hardcore ice fishing for crappie, perch and hopefully walleye.
Friday, Jan. 10 High 17, low 2 Paul Bucher is from Cumberland and owns The Cumberland Advocate. Ryan Ransom went to high school with Bucher at Black River Falls and these guys are both good buddies and, I might add, diehard Vikings fans.
Joey Dushek is my stepson and has been traveling in the outdoors with and without me, since he was four. The four of us made up this year’s crew as the rest of the gang was headed to Green Bay to watch the Packers play the Seahawks.
This year’s dilemma is one that everyone in the northern quarter of Wisconsin has been facing all winter, and that is that too much snow had piled up on too thin of ice. In other words, the weight of the snow has sunk the ice, which makes it very diffi cult for ice to get thicker. The ice is under water and the snow insulates it from getting thicker and the water on top of the ice creates slush.
Generally, on this adventure we use Paul’s portable permanent shack, which he pulls with his truck. This year we used my ATV and Paul’s, and a pop-up Eskimo 9416I Fatfish, which in simple terms is a 13x8 foot insulated ice shack.
What we like to do on this trip is all of us sit in the same shack, and we watch our electronics as the crappie might be right at bottom in 16 feet of water or maybe 8 feet off the bottom.
What is really kind of funny is that everyone knows that I am a true Neanderthal when it comes to anything that has a screen and runs electronically. For Christmas this year I was given a Humminbird Helix 7. This would be its maiden adventure and thank God I had these guys along to help me figure out how to turn it on. My buddies really liked my new toy.
Back to the fishing, on day one there was yet to be a permanent shack on the lake or a truck. We traveled by ATV and it was windy and cold. Our goal was crappie because they bite after dark and we like to fish until at least 11 p.m., but tonight were on the ice until 1 a.m.
We put a heater and two propane lamps in the Fatfish and about 9 o’clock I started cooking supper, which in this case was venison steaks fried in onions and butter with homegrown fried potatoes.
The crappie were not real hungry but we caught maybe a dozen in the 9- to 11-inch range.
Saturday, Jan. 11 High 15, low minus 4 Today it was quite cold out. Very strong north winds combined with a high of 15 degrees made it so that after a move across the lake we all kind of sat in the shack most of the day.
Fishing was tough, but we did catch maybe thirty 9- to 11-inch perch and crappie. There were times when we would catch five in an hour and then nothing for an hour. Paul and I started our ATVs about once an hour as the wind really likes to suck the life out of the batteries.
As is always the case, we laughed all night long and tonight it was Joey and I making a series of subtle jokes as we listened to the 49ers beat up on the Vikings. Perhaps there were even a few one-liners about the number of Super Bowls the Packers have won compared to the Vikings, but in all honesty we did not push it too hard.
Generally speaking, on a weekend like this there can be some sort of a propane explosion or fire and tonight there was a wee bit of a fire when supper was being cooked and some propane was leaking out of a cross-threaded propane bottle.
The north wind is generally a fish bite killer and this weekend was no exception, but the four of us did not hesitate under adverse conditions and simply put, we had a blast.
Winter has always been my favorite season. Sunset