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 four to eight stays at a very comfortable cabin on the lake, and do 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, these guys are both good buddies and I might add, diehard Vikings fans.
Joey Dushek is my stepson and has traveled 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 everyone in the northern quarter of Wisconsin, has faced all winter, and that is too much snow had piled up on too thin ice. In other words, the weight of snow has sunk the ice, which makes it very difficult for ice to get thicker.
The ice is under water, the snow insulates it from getting thicker and water on top the ice creates slush from the snow on top of it.
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, 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 everyone knows 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 p.m., I started cooking supper, which in this case, was venison steaks sauteed 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 -4
Today, it was quite cold out. Very strong north winds, combined with a high of 15, made it so 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 30, 9 to 11inch perch and crappie. There were times when we would catch five in an hour, 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 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 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 cooking 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