Cornell Cooperative Extension

February 3, 2014

Ice fishing memories from long ago

In the early 1960s when my husband Bob was in his teens, he lived in Plattsburgh with his grandfather, Pip, and his grandmother, Mim. Bob and Pip spent many a winter day ice fishing on Lake Champlain. 

Using a Flexible Flyer sled with a wooden apple box bolted to it, they would set off across the ice. Pip sat on the lid of the apple crate and Bob pulled him around on the ice until Pip was satisfied that they had arrived at a spot where they would catch fish.

Using a cold chisel to punch a hole in the ice, Bob went to work. The chisel was tied to a rope secured around Bob’s waist or tied to the sled, because if the chisel slipped from Bob’s hands while he was using it, the tool would end up at the bottom of the lake.

Once the hole was 6 inches or so across, Pip, who had been supervising from the overturned 5-gallon bucket he was sitting on, would bait his hook with a bit of frozen fish they had brought along, drop his line into the hole and “jig it.” Jigging is the act of raising and lowering the line in the hopes of enticing a fish to take the bait.

Most of the supplies they used were either homemade or simple and readily available. The hand lines they used were boards with one long section with a hold drilled into it. The fishing line was wrapped around the board with the end threaded through the hole.

Once Pip was settled on his bucket and fishing in the first hole, Bob began chiseling out a second hole for himself. It wasn’t unusual for Pip to announce, just as Bob was baiting his hook, that there were no fish at that location and they needed to move on to a new spot. So off they would go with Bob pulling the sled, and Pip scouting the ice for where the lunkers lurked.

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Cornell Cooperative Extension