Don’t worry. It won’t be long before you get a glimpse of a flag just seconds after it has been discharged from its loading station on an ice trap.
As I reminisce of past trips I can almost hear the echo of the word “flag” rolling off a tongue and piercing a cold January morning. When the word is spoken from the shores of a frozen lake, that one syllable noun is getting the most attention. Especially when you’re viewing a flag so freshly triggered, the spring is still giving your flag deep left and right bows.
Just a glance at one waving atop a 2-foot-high vertical spring can send an out-of-shape 60-year-old man sprinting through a foot of snow with grace and speed that hasn’t been seen since the Olympics. This same long-distance runner may be slow when it comes to chores around the house, but with a shot of arctic air and a couple feet of ice beneath his boots, he really can carry the mail.
But many anglers aren’t marathon runners, and wouldn’t take a chance on a pair of Sorrels failing them en route to a trap calling for help. They’re just as concerned with answering the call of a trap as the fisherman returning from his latest run to a trap, but these nonrunners can be spotted glaring through the picture window of a heated ice shack or on a four-wheel-drive ATV or sleek snowmobile. We’re talking about sleds faster out of the gate than the automobile that brought them to the event.
But there is no doubt those multicylinder machines with a pair of carburetors hanging over the front seat are needed. This allows them quick access to their traps in any condition — especially the one you set a half-mile across the lake, with a meat hook holding an 8-inch sucker captive 100 feet below the ice.
But you never realize just how far off the last trap was set until it’s viewed through the window back at your fishing shack. That’s when you find out it’s set closer to the party fishing on the opposite shore . At this distance it looks like a toothpick sticking out of a snow cone, but there is no need for concern. That high-octane machine parked in the snow will rise to the occasion.
Past experience has shown me many fisherman believe the farther out this one trap is set, the higher the expectations. I can still hear that familiar quote from a fisherman returning from his day trip after setting one in uncharted waters. “If that flag goes up, it’s going to be one huge fish.”
Whether you’re answering the call of a flag by means of a rocket ship or a weathered pair of L.L. Bean boots, it’s nice to show up in time to see the fish at work. Wading through a foot of snow or darting from a 75-degree ice shack to subzero temperatures is barely remembered when you reach your trap and see the spool turning and the line pulled off to one side.
So rinse out your bait pail and sharpen your hooks. The only thing standing in your way is a few days in December and Old Man Winter to blow some cold air at us.
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The latest report from Sharon McPhee at Macannamac Camps on Haymock Lake revealed most of the lakes in the area didn’t freeze over until mid-January last season. But last year was an exception because ice usually is delivered to this neck of the woods by the end of November, she said.
As of this past Monday, lakes hadn’t skimmed over, but if this cold air sticks around we could be drilling holes earlier than last season, McPhee said.
The ground in the area still is holding about a couple inches of snow cover, and the Telos Road is in good traveling condition.
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I visited Rockwood, Greenville and Kokadjo a week ago, and found 4-5 inches of snow in most areas. Looking out over Moosehead Lake from Greenville, there was a thin sheet of ice reaching a few hundred yards.
According to residents, it’s usually at least the middle of January before you hear ice augers echoing across the lake. No matter when this lake freezes, it is a good idea to check the ice for yourself before venturing out.
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Here are a few helpful tips from Appalachian hikers Brad Viles. Although the days are shorter this time of year, it doesn’t mean you have to stop hiking. But you should plan your trips accordingly. This is a good time of year to dress in layers and leave cotton at home, he said.
When cotton becomes wet from sweat, it takes longer to dry than synthetic fabric and can leave you wet and cold in winter.
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Answer to last week’s question: What is the weight of a black bear at birth? Eight ounces or less.
Question: Why do moose prefer bedding in deep snow cover?
– NEWS Staffer Terry Farren, outdoor report@bangor dailynews.net