Darkhouse spearing, particularly now with our insulated underwear, and warm houses and vehicles, keeps me from ever wanting to be a “Snowbird” during our winter months.
I first remember winter spearing when I was five or six and got to tag along when Dad went out spearing on Pelican Lake.
The main quarry were the big whitefish that then populated Pelican.
A big deal at the time was the annual contest at the Pequot Liquor Store, for the biggest speared northern pike and biggest whitefish.
Among the narrow little circle I knew of, the most avid whitefish spearers included Heinie Schmidt, my Dad, and a shirttail relative, Andrew Ruigh. The entered fish weights leapfrogged through the season, nine, ten eleven pounds and up. Memory is faded, but I remember Dad spearing one over twelve pounds to win one year and Heinie Schmidt winning one of the other early 1940s’ years.
My Uncle Ed was also much involved in the spearing and contesting, but he was more interested in spearing big northerns, as were most spearers.
A very long hot summer killed off most of the big whitefish of Pelican, so my Dad and others moved over to Whitefish Lake.
Dad left me alone in our darkhouse for the first time when I was ten. I speared a small northern and have been hooked on spearing ever since.
My biggest northern was over 21 pounds. It had its exciting story, as did hearing about and seeing Claude Schmidt’s 31 pounder. However, seeing and spearing a seven and a half pound whitefish just a few years ago was more exciting to this old man.
There is no way that I could continue to enjoy spearing’ at my age and diminished vitality, without the best of younger and stronger friends. Brian and Ivan and Jade and Lance and Ian and others move the heavy house out on the lake, cut the holes, drag out all the equipment and maintain the house. Thanks to them, all I have to do is hobble from warm pickup to warm darkhouse, sit down and spear; if there’s any fish to throw at, that is.
The darkhouse fishing hole is my favorite TV screen. I’m fascinated looking at the very silent world below, not too patiently waiting for that flash of sudden movement.
There are no intrusive interruptions for endless commercials It is a great place and time for silent peaceful meditation and reflection, even better than the deer stand. It’s also an ideal place for quiet, uninterrupted conversation.
That serene and peaceful view is always subject to be broken by the flash of movement of a fish attacking the enticing decoy, causing a reactive flash of adrenaline and throwing of the spear.
A controlled and athletic aim is the name of the game. Those moving targets are easier to miss than to hit.
My first darkhouse cost six dollars, at the Arnold Derksen auction sale when they were moving to California. I scraped up another five dollars for a good spear.
As a teenager without a lot else to do during the winter months I literally filled our farmhouse “freezer”, which was an old refrigerator out on the back porch.
By comparison, this current lousy year, from a brand new $5,000 darkhouse with $100 spears, we’ve speared zilch. Don’t ask us to figure how much Brian’s recent little northern cost per pound.
Also, to add injurious insult to our obviously not filling any freezer this season, my non-fishing bride, after hearing a fourth day in a row report of “No fish today”; offered the very unwelcome theory that, “maybe they went South for the winter”.
And, so it may be. Like the Brooklyn Dodgers of yore, we’ll probably have to, “Wait till next year”.