Smitten by smelt: Now is a good time for ice fishing

Now that some of the Old Men of the Mountain are in the process of getting the COVID-19 shot, the group is getting anxious to get back together and tell stories back and forth, but the main thing is getting out of the house without worrying about catching anything that keeps the undertaker busy.

This scribe thinks this is not going to happen till the end of the year.

The discussion this week with the OGs that were spoken to, was on the weather. Not the weather outside the window right now, but the type of weather we have at this time of year and how it is conducive to some outdoor activities for the OMOTM — like ice fishing.

It has been cold enough for the ponds and lakes to be frozen long and hard enough so the ice is safe. It will take some time for the ice to thaw at the temperature it is now, but nice enough to be reasonably comfortable outdoors for long periods of time and not moving around much.

One OF said that he was planning to ice fish for smelt on Lake George the last day of February. Smelt are a small fish that are really good.

This OF said he has been jigging for smelt since he was a little kid. The OF said he has some rare smelt fishing tip-ups that were hand-whittled by an Indian guide when he was a youngster.

The OF added that was many years ago (being 70 to 75 years ago), back when the OF fished for smelt on Lake Champlain. This OF said that back then the Indian had a little shanty that they used made out of cardboard. Today, some of these shanties are like homes away from home; back then, not so much.

The Indian also taught this OMOTM how to jig with both hands and not get the lines tangled, especially when the smelt are running and they were catching the little fish right and left. “It takes a lot of the little buggers to make a good meal,” the OF said.

This scribe remembers taking his kids ice fishing at Basic Reservoir and the scribe never got a chance to get his hook wet. The scribe spent all his time digging holes and freezing, baiting hooks and freezing, setting tip-ups up and freezing — but the kids had a good time.

The other interesting tidbit the OF mentioned was that, as time went on, there were more and more people enjoying ice fishing and there were, at one time, 30 to 40 shanties on the lake. One entrepreneurial guy would come around and tow your shanty to a new place for a couple of bucks.

The scribe mentioned to the OF, “Just like the movie, ‘Grumpy Old Men,’ with Jack Lemon and Walter Mathieu.”

The OF replied, “Yeah just like that, except we never met anyone like Ann Margaret.”

The OF added that it is activities like this that shorten the winter quite a bit. Skiing and snowmobiles do the same thing.


Trapped inside

Another OF spoken to is trapped indoors for the most part. This OF does brave an occasional trip out but, like many of us as we age, some of the things we did as kids show up when we get older.

But this conversation has been held before and the summation is that, when the OFs were younger and knew what it was going to be like when they became older, they vowed they would do the same thing all over again.

As one OF said, he wasn’t “going to live in a bubble.”

This OF is paying now for what he did when he was young, that is, playing basketball and getting injured. Back when his injuries occurred, he said, there was not the medical technology around that there is today.

This OF thinks that, if the same thing occurred today, it would be handled differently and, when he got to the age he is now, he would not have the problems he is having.

We, (the OF and the scribe) thought this was true. In many cases, there have been numerous advancements in 70 years. Some of the medicines and procedures were not even thought of 70 years ago.

One OF mentioned, “What do you think it will be like a thousand years from now?”

There is a thinker for you.



The following discussion was in progress when the OFs were still gathering at the breakfast table. The scribe is time-jumping here in one conversation.

One OF interjected, “You mean if we all don’t blow ourselves up first.”

Then another OF suggested medicine will just be a small part of it, and this OF thought we would be traveling through space like going to Aunt Bette’s today for Thanksgiving and medicine will be like Star Trek. Well that’s a thought.

Back to the phone conversation.

The scribe and the one on the phone think that today’s progress is exponential in many fields and, even as old as we are, we still have time to take advantage of much of it, and in our later years lifetime will be of better quality, once we are through this COVID craze.

Aside from Velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can’t see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of $75 per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything, said Dave Barry.

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? — so said Dr. Seuss.

The OMOTM aren’t the only ones to have this discussion in their spare time.