Last month a Minnesota angler pulled a 52-pound lake trout through a 10-inch hole in the ice on Lac La Croix near Crane Lake. Because the fisherman was 100 feet over the Canadian border, he ran afoul of Ontario’s catch limits. His fish, likely a world record holder, was confiscated. Despite crushing the previous record for lake trout caught while ice fishing, the accomplishment will not be officially recognized.
But that’s only what happened … above the ice.
(Sudden wind blows shut a thick, old time storybook. We are underwater. Slowly, the shadow of a large fish grows into view).
Mama never loved me like she did the others. She’d keep the muskies from attacking the clumps of roe on her right, but never on her left where I hatched. I could see it all through the egg membrane. I remember everything.
No sense worrying about that now. It’s been a lot of winters since then. Mama passed through the sky holes long time ago. Them brothers and sisters of mine; I ain’t seen them. They ain’t around. They’s probably dead. Most fish don’t live on way I do.
I see all a fish go up the holes. One after another. The little’ens come on back sometimes, but the bigg’ens n’er do. In the early days I’d ask the ones what come back what they seen. They always got that faraway look in their eye, like they can’t focus on nearby things. They just glub glub. They say nothin.’ They get fat. Go back up the holes. Not so lucky them next time.
Sometimes I wonder what goes on up the holes. Ain’t a fish soul livin’ from my time. Had a man once. He never said a word. Next day he go up the hole. I had a school of minnows. One’s what left n’er came back. One’s what stayed I ate. I all by myself now.
Other things come down from the hole time to time. Hard shiny things. Can’t eat them. One time these these orange crunchy things came down. Them’s ate real good. All it did was make me want to go up the holes.
Somes want to know why I ain’t gone up the holes yet. My turn probably come and gone 20 times over. Sure, I been hungry. Them bait on them hooks looks as good to me as to any other fish. But I always know about the hooks. Since I was small fry, I could see the hooks. Most fish see just bait.
This part of the lake always seems safe, some reason. Like there some line up above, keeps the holes on one side or other. If them holes ever show up here, I think I’d want to go up. I’m an old fish now. I think ’bout this all time. I wonder where mama went, and all the fish I known. I wonder what’s up in the light. It can’t all be cold dark like this. There’s bound to be more. I been down here so long. Maybe it’s time. Maybe time to go up holes. Maybe that’s a hole up there.
It’s a time. Nothin’ here a keep an old fish like me.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This post first appeared in the DATE edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.