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Two-ton hamburgers


Benders Fishing Camp, last day.
Limited out in blue gill and walleye, the only thing left for today is to try for northern and they aren’t biting.
I’d lament about the trip being all too short, but Bob doesn’t like lamenting in his boat, he’s afraid that it will ruin the carpeting. He does allow reflecting, however, so I spent the day pretty much doing just that.
In particular, I mused on how much fishing has changed just in my lifetime.
I was too young to remember, but my father talks about fishing with Grandpa Sickler, Mom’s father. He plied the streams of north central Wisconsin with nothing more than a line tied to a hook on one end and his finger or a branch on the other. When he’d catch a fish, usually a small trout, he’d put it in his pocket. That was it except for one other accessory: he had bottles of wine stashed away under rocks at all his favorite fishing holes around Shawano County.
Dad fished with a little more gear but just a little.
Recently, for example, I brought home the old spud bar he used to chop holes in the ice for ice fishing. Essentially a five-foot long chisel, the steel bar weighs about 25 pounds. Dad carried it on his shoulder, a five-gallon bucket dangling on either end containing the rest of his supplies.
To make a hole, the bar was lifted and slammed time and time again into the ice. By rule of thumb, for every inch deep the hole needed to be it also had to be an inch wide at the top. If the ice was three feet thick then the top of the hole was a yard wide. Finishing the hole off was tricky business. A lanyard secured the users hand to the bar, but if it was thrust too hard on the final chop you’d wind up flat on the ice with your hand plunged into the freezing water.
I was smart enough to go easy at the end, but we almost lost Bob a half-dozen times.
When Dad was done chopping, he’d put on his extra large army coat. Today’s ice fishers wear special suits made of space age materials, sit on benches inside pop up tents and fire-up propane heaters. Dad sat on an overturned bucket, his back to the wind and the coat wrapped around his knees. His tackle consisted of his favorite lure, called a Swedish Pimple, and little else. Bait was a small tub of wax worms kept snug in his armpit to keep them warm (not in his mouth as he’d often joke). His one and only luxury was a Stanley Thermos filled with hot coffee.
In the summer on open water, Dad had a little more gear but not much. His pride and joy was a 14-foot used Sears aluminum boat and 10 horsepower, pull-start outboard motor. It didn’t come with a trailer. Weighing a couple hundred pounds, he figured out how to get it up on the roof of the old Ford using an oar as a fulcrum and third hand. That was the easy part, getting the old Evinrude to start was the chore.
He also invested in a small tackle box, rod, reel and a handful of lures. Each purchase was carefully weighed. Part of the reason he fished was to put food on the table so each acquisition was evaluated against how much meat the same amount of dollars could put on the Fleck dinner table.
Fast-forward to this trip, it’s tiring to describe the wealth of gear and gizmos we have at our disposal. We have trailers with winches; boats with adjustable cushioned seats, automatic bilge pumps and cup holders; depth finders, global positioning systems and underwater cameras; live wells and Frobill habitat foam worm boxes with super-grow bedding; graphite poles, Spider wire, a gallery of lures and slip bobbers; cell phones, blue tooth speakers and Pandora radio; four-cylinder engines that start with the turn of a key and electric trolling motors that can be run with a toe; a Honda generator to keep the trolling motor’s batteries charged and an Esky cooler to keep the beer chilled...
I don’t know exactly how much all this cost, but by my estimates we could have stayed home and grilled a two-ton hamburger instead. But I guess I’m lamenting. Bob, we have a cleanup back here.