Why do you fish so much was the question that I was asked by the stranger on the lake? I see you out here just about every time I come out. I like to go fishing too but I just don’t have the urge to get out almost every day like you. I replied “Fishing has been a source of relaxation for me for most of my life.” I have used fishing as a form of therapy to escape many stressful moments in my life and also through the years I have met a whole lot of neat people while out fishing.
I have thought about that man’s comments many times through out the years and often wonder what would have filled that space in my life if I had never taken to fishing. Where would I be today and more important what would I be doing if I never used any of the long Alaskan winters up by going fishing.
When I left Wisconsin over ten years ago to move to Alaska I made a quick appearance at one of the local bars perhaps finding one more friend to tell good bye too before leaving. I noticed one of the local guys sitting there and thought I wonder when the last time this guy ever did anything for entertainment besides going to the bar to play pool and drink. Don’t get me wrong I have no problem with anyone going to a bar, having a drink or playing pool. However when that becomes your only source of entertainment then I become concerned.
Several years later I returned to that same bar and the same guy was sitting in the same area doing the same thing he was when I left! I am very thankful that I never got myself in that rut of simply spending all my free time in the bars of Wisconsin. I know that fishing is a much healthier and safer environment for me to hang out in and if I went to the bars as much as I go fishing I would be in trouble too.
I watched a rather grumpy looking old guy fishing on Skilak Lake a few years ago not too far from where I was fishing. He stared at me for quite some time before finally getting up off his bucket and lumbering over to where I was fishing. I almost expected to get a butt chewing by the unhappy look on this guys face. But what happened was just the opposite; the guy was very polite and pleasant as he said “Young man I really hate coming over here to bother you but I just can’t stand watching you catch fish after fish!” “What kind of magical bait are you using?” I replied, “Just a jig and a small piece of fish belly and handed him a handful of jigs and bait.” He returned to his fishing spot in within seconds he was pulling in fish too and the grumpy look was replaced by a big smile and few yahoos mixed in too. A few days later I got one of the jigs back as it was in the belly of a lake trout that I caught.
I have been on the other side of that situation too where some guy comes up and shares his cigarette smoke with me while demanding I show him what I am using for bait. The conversation went something like this: “I’m a guide and I have clients over there now, you reel up your lines right now so I can see what your using for bait.” “Nope I’m not going to do it.” “What am I suppose to tell my clients?” “Perhaps when you take that cigarette out of my face and get back over by them you could tell them to hire a better guide next time!” I really enjoy helping other people on the ice as much as I can but hate being bullied by anyone especially one blowing smoke in my face.
Some of my most special moments fishing are meeting and visiting with all the other fishermen and drilling holes for those who do not have a power auger. Many of these special moments involve taking children out fishing for the first time. You can never effectively measure the amount of excitement that a fishing trip will generate when there are children involved. These kids will often times really light up the emotion meter if you can get them sitting down long enough to catch a fish.
Perhaps if someone had taken the time to take that guy back in Wisconsin out fishing when he was a young man he wouldn’t still be sitting in the same spot he has been in that same bar the past 11 years. Anytime you get your kids or someone else’s kids outdoors it is better then having them spend all their free time playing video games and wandering around town. Kids need a little direction in their lives from any early age, please do your part in helping them develop good healthy habits early. I can’t think of a better one then ice fishing!
See you next week!
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