On my second day home from work I loaded up my ice fishing gear and headed to Watson Lake. Watson Lake is always one of the first lakes to freeze up on the peninsula each year and a great one to fish rainbow trout on. I took along Mike Edwards from Oklahoma whom I also work with. Mike had never been ice fishing before so this was going to be a real treat for him too.
I like to fish in about 5-feet of water on Watson Lake and also put up my black fishing shack which enables us to watch the fish down the hole. You can greatly brighten up the lake floor by either crumbling up some eggshells or dropping down some sliced potatoes making it easier to spot the fish.
I used cut up pieces of cooked jumbo shrimp for bait with a fluorescent orange jig on this particular day. If you’re going to use shrimp for bait don’t buy the soft cocktail shrimp, as it is too hard to keep on your hook. Jumbo shrimp is firmer and works so much better then cocktail shrimp. If the store gave me cocktail shrimp free to use for bait I still would not use it.
I normally don’t mind getting checked for my fishing license however on this day it made me a little grumpy. Mike and I had to go to 5 different places just to find Mike a non-resident license. Most places said that they were out and Fish & Game had not brought them any more. I feel that if the department of Fish & Game is going to be adamant about checking us fishermen every time we go fishing perhaps they should also be just as adamant about doing their job in keeping the license vendors stocked.
A huge rainbow made three swipes at my orange jig shortly after we got set up and on his third attempt I set the hook. A nice rainbow about 22 inches long was landed and threw out on the ice after Mike snapped a few pictures of the first fish he ever saw caught through the ice. You really have to be careful leaving your fish on the ice here in Alaska or the eagles will steal them from you. I have had eagles land five feet from me on the ice begging for fish.
We caught close to twenty fish that day and took home enough for a nice meal of fresh trout. Mike caught several nice fish that day including one that stole my shrimp first and one that had all three of our jigs in his mouth by the time he got it in. He was very excited about his first ice fishing trip ever besides his first chance to go fishing in Alaska.
We were about done fishing for the day when we heard a knock at the door of the shack and opened it to find a guy by the name of Felix Martinez standing there. Felix asked if we had a long fishing pole he could borrow as he dropped his glasses down the hole! He could still see them resting on the lake floor but could not reach them. I told him I only had short ice fishing poles that we use inside the shack. He then asked if I had some type of knife he could use to cut a willow stick to try and reach them with. I borrowed Felix my filet knife and he went to shore and cut a willow stick.
I watched him try to snag his glasses in about five feet of water several minutes before deciding I should go try to help him. I know first hand what it is like to be without your glasses as I have worn glasses since I was in first grade. I also know how expensive they are too. I took my auger over there and drilled him another hole right over his glasses. I then went to my truck and found a piece of wire about 14 inches long and doubled it up making a rather stiff hook and fastened it to the willow stick that Felix had cut. Using a pair of pliers I was able to twist it all together pretty securely.
I gave the new snagging device to Felix and watched as he unsuccessfully tried to fish out his glasses. After a few minutes he looked up at me and said, “It looks like I just had a $300 fishing trip today. Now either I have pushed them down in the mud or made it so muddy down there I can’t even see them. I’m going to have to come back tomorrow with a flashlight and try to find them.” I watched as he once again laid flat on the ice looking down the hole I had just drilled for him. I picked up his willow stick and made one clockwise twist of it and pulled it out of the hole only to discover there wasn’t anything on it except a pair of gold wire rim glasses!
I must admit I was shocked to see them hanging there and thankful that my new friend was going to get them back. I said, “Felix (which by the way means happy) your glasses are not down there any more.” He never looked up but said, “I know I got everything so muddy now and the little fish are so thick I can’t even see them.” I said, “Look up here,” and he briefly glanced at me and said, “Oh you took the stick out,” and went back to staring down the hole again. I again said, “Felix they are not down there look at me!” He looked up with sad eyes and I said, “Look at the end of your willow stick!” His eyes danced with excitement as he spotted his glasses dangling from the stick. Felix was so happy and thankful to get his glasses back that he wanted to pay me. He even told Mike “your buddy did a real favor for me today by snagging my glasses for me!” Mike who is a stand-up comedian who has made a comedy CD called Mike the Roughneck responded with, “He snagged onto just about every fish that came through under the shack today, if anyone was going to snag your glasses I knew John was the guy for that job.”
Later that night Dick Hultberg called and when I told him about my fishing trip and meeting Felix he asked, “You mean Felix Martinez from Anchorage, the great sports fan and coach? I’ve known him for years what a wonderful guy.” After hearing about all the kids that Felix had coached and helped in Anchorage I felt honored to be able to help such a neat person. I also believe that God had as much to do with them glasses ending up on that stick as I did...... See you next week!
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