By: Peter Frey Jr.
As I see it, all good stories start the same way, and this one should be no exception. So there I was … braving an average January day, standing on ice suspended about four and a half feet above the great Beaver Dam mud flats, hoping for some action. What made this day more spectacular than usual was the company; a plethora of friends and three generations of Freys – two of which were out for their first ice fishing experience.
The common goal of all was Perch, and it is well known that Beaver Dam Lake harbors some dandies. Sure, all avid Perch fishermen are “experts,” but I believe it is all about fishing the right spot at the right time. A wise man once told me, “Go fishing when you can, not when you want to.” Since we could go, we knew the time was right, but I was beginning to believe the spot was not with only a handful caught between us. That is when it happened, the long awaited yell, FLAG!!
Everyone rushed the tip-up like a herd of cattle heading for the trough, all for a chance to see a slimy fish. Any fish would do at this point. With the hook set, a short battle ensued followed by an unfortunate snap. The line severed, but not before we got a glimpse of the speckled beast that had bested us. As the rush subsided, everyone went back to gabbing about other times fish were caught, and lost, with the common hope that another fat Northern might be surveying the landmines of bait spread before it.
Our chance came again as that same tip-up flag rose to meet the high-noon sun, standing tall and proud like a sentry surveying the vast, white expanse. This time, the fish on the opposite end had no chance. Our tribe was ready. We all ran to the hole, gaffs in hand fully intending to reap the reward of what was surely another Northern. Everyone carefully watching, waiting – the cross turned, the line was grabbed, the hook was set. Fish ON!
To everyone’s surprise, there wasn’t a Northern on the line – nor a Walleye. It was a massive Perch. We all looked on in amazement to see the completely masticated large golden shiner that had been used for bait … and a fish no one had expected. At this point we must have looked like a strange band of hunters, with chests puffed, all gloating over their harvested prey, gaffs in one hand and foot-long fish in the other.
It is not often one can immerse himself in the warmth of friends and family on a cold winter day and then cap that day off by bringing home a fish of such renown that published bragging rights are not only permitted, but actually encouraged. Life can be unpredictable, and we have a fish to prove it!