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Dick Ellis Blog:
3/8/2019
With Spring Turkey season just around the corner, Henry USA sent us a video now posted on our homepage that I know you’ll get a kick out of. The point is though, young hunters and smaller hunters won’t get a kick out of it at all. The wait for a gobbler can be too long to question whether or not you’re packing the right turkey load when he does show up (Dick Ellis Photo) Henry wanted to test the viability of their beautiful ...
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Fencerows:Winter Bridge

By John Luthens

Standing on the trestle bridge spanning the Milwaukee River in summer, I could look down at the island below the bridge and see the deep cuts of the river clearly.  Smallmouth bass fanned in the current and pike sulked along the weed lines.  In summer, the water below the bridge was a good five feet deep. There was nothing separating a landing net from the fish on the pebbled bottom, save the rippling water and the asking price of a gentle cast.

Summer is a far-off dream.

The trestle bridge in winter is a barren place; sub-zero temperatures and 40 mph wind gusts.  Wind-swept ice blinds the channels of the island.  A few hearty oak and pine hold the higher ground, but mostly, there is only snow drifted down the banks and out across a frozen expanse of white.

School was canceled more than it was scheduled.  Where I grew up, in northern Wisconsin, there were no cold-weather cancellations and we shoveled our way uphill to school and back both ways.  I told this to my son with the pounding countenance of a Sunday morning preacher railing above the congregation.  He looked up from the video game controller and rolled his eyes.

“Why did we cancel the ice fishing trip up north?” He asked.

“Too much slush under too much snow,” I answered.  “It’s hard to move around and it’s easy to get stuck.”   I fumbled with my sermon notes, but it was too late to take it back.

“If the lake was on top of a hill, we could have shoveled our way there,” he said smugly.

I shuffled from the pulpit and into the basement to polish my ice jigs, not understanding at all this Polar Vortex conspiracy, but having a sneaking suspicion that Wisconsin winters were somehow waist deep in the affair.

The trestle bridge took on more snow and groaned in the wind.  Every step across the wooden planks cracked the cold air like a rifle shot.  The river current moved under the ice.  Below the bridge, under the tension of the ice, there must still be life.

Back inside, winter’s tension took a different angle.  Cabin fever crept in through the frosted windows like a plague.  My son chewed gum too loud and hogged the video game system.  I didn’t mind the gum, but I do have a breaking point.  I tattled to my wife about him not letting me play.  My son and I both got the evil eye after that.

It was accident or design when the sun slipped in for a day.  It wasn’t a full-fledged January thaw, but sunbeams shone through the framework of the old railroad bridge.  It was close enough.  My wife agreed.  In fact, she held the door open for us.

A half-dozen minnows; any more would have been tempting the gods of greed.  I’d have bought less, but six was the minimum at the bait shop. There was a hand auger, light enough to carry, and a single tip-up.  I believe in spreading the maximum number of lines.  I don’t believe in hand-drilling through ice that is thicker than the earth’s crust.  There would be only a single hole.

For what may have been the first time in recorded history, there were humans ice-fishing below the bridge.  We drilled through 2 feet of ice to get to 2 feet of water.  Winter had made the river current sluggish.

The interior of the island was duly explored.  We climbed the occasional deadfall to keep sight of the tip-up flag.  Crusted trails showed that deer had come across the river to browse.  Rabbit and fox tracks chased each other from fallen log to brush pile.  Twig-bound nests hung in the brush, long abandoned and given over to caps of snow sitting above them like ice-cream cones. Dozens of chickadees were on the wing.

We chipped the tip-up out of the ice and stood on the trestle for a moment before walking back. Whirlwinds of snow spun across the bridge. Boot prints in the crust were the only sign of life below.   But if you closed your eyes and remembered, it was the same bridge and the same river as in summer.  It was just laying still and waiting out the winter.  

 

 

 

Wisconsin Fishing

Wind-swept vista on the Milwaukee River.

Wisconsin Fishing

A January flag of hope.