Posted: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The family dog has been called man's best friend, but at times I wonder about that label. For years I have fished with children, both in my boat and out on the ice. So when there just happens to be a day when I can sneak off all by myself, and not have to deal with children, what do I do? I took the new family dog, Aspen, a golden retriever that still happens to be a pup!

No, there were no children to have to help untangle poles, deal with cold feet, tie on Jigs or the multitude of other things that come up as the day goes on. At the same time, there were no helpers to help dig out the poles, the ice auger, bait, load the snow machine and sled. I had to do most all of it by myself, except for a few things my oldest son Brad helped me with.

I chose Elephant Lake as my fishing spot, because of poor ice conditions at Kenai Lake, and also because of the 2 fish limit on some of my other favorite lakes. (Please don't get me started on that again!)

I slowly worked my way past the HEA trucks that are working on the end of Strawberry Road, and started down the hill with my F-350 4X4 crew cab truck. I pondered if I should stop and chain up, or if I even should have tossed my 12,000 lb. winch into the truck, just in case I got stuck or slid off the road. I finally decided that my cell phone was a whole lot easier to carry and use, than the big heavy ol' winch!

I was able to drive all the way to the lake with no trouble at all, and I unloaded my snow machine and Alaska bush sled. I then started loading all my gear in the sled and drove to the edge of the lake where I called for Aspen to climb on with me. Now he has never been on a snow machine before, and was pretty sure he really wanted no part of something that made noise, smoked and had a seat on it. I finally coaxed him over to me after turning the snow machine off.

I half drug him up on the seat in front of me, and with one hand I held him while starting the snow machine with the other hand. There he was, cross ways on the seat, and slowly we started out across the ice. Lucky for me, the over flow and rain that had been on the lake was refrozen by the time we arrived, so travel was a little noisy, but at least it was dry.

About half way across the lake, the dog slid down off the seat and now had his butt resting on the running boards between my leg and the seat. He obviously is getting too big to ride like he was originally positioned, but I was very uncomfortable with him in his new position. I could almost envision taking him back to my veterinarian wife and try to explain how his tail got caught in the track of the snow machine and was now about 15 inches shorter! So I stopped and repositioned him, making sure his tail was nowhere near the track, and we started out again.

We finally made it to our first fishing spot, and I drilled two holes while being watched very intently by a dog that had never seen, nor heard, a jiffy ice auger before! He instantly learned a new game as each time I would scoop out the ice from the hole - he would bite on the scoop while knocking more ice back in the hole! I decided I would just fish with ice in the hole, and if the fish were biting, I would finish cleaning it out later.

I took out my first pole, and when I turned to locate my bait, I felt a tug on my pole and I thought, "Great! I don't even have bait on, and I already got a bite!" I looked back at my pole and saw that what I really had, was a potential tug-o-war match with Aspen, who had the tip of my pole locked firmly in his mouth. For fear he would either bite off the end of my line, or worse yet - my pole, I hollered at him to let go! I thought to myself, "The kids don't even do that!" He quickly obliged and I went to baiting my hook while we shared a piece of beef jerky. I thought the jerky would keep him busy long enough to enable me to get my jig in the water before he chose to bite on that too.

Aspen enjoyed being on the lake, and he ran across the snow patches as free as the wind, but learned the hard way how slippery the bare ice was. Time after time, he slipped and fell on the ice, until he learned to run only on the snow where footing was better. After each run he made, he would return and stand sideways so I could pet him before running off again. Each time he left, he turned the same way and fell into my fishing holes, while kicking them full of ice and snow before running away.

I wanted to check out another spot, as I couldn't seem to find any fish in my usual locations, so I loaded up my gear and called for Aspen, who wasn't really crazy about climbing back on that old Arctic Cat. Each time I reached for him, he would lie down, so I decided I would just let him run for a while. I took off across the ice with him running beside me, but he quickly grew tired of that and as I got further ahead, he simply went back to our previous fishing spot and sat down. I drove back to him and he was more than happy to ride this time!

I never had one bite that day, but I did learn a few things about fishing with dogs compared to children. Take the children it is a whole lot easier! Besides, you can trick them into watching the dog! See you next week!

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