Every autumn, the water level on Sebasticook Lake in Newport is partially drained, for the winter. Then in the spring the dam is closed, and the water is allowed to rise in time for the summer festivities
Last year the water level was the lowest I had ever seen it since I first started ice-fishing there. I have just learned that this year they intend to drop the water level just as low again this year.
Allegedly, this has something to do with phosphorus levels in the water, and algae bloom. Allegedly….But I think I know what is really going on here.
See, I have said in a previous post that I am the worst fisherman ever, but for whatever reason, I seem to put a serious hurt on the bass, pickerel, and white perch population on Sebasticook Lake. But only when I am ice fishing. Typically, fish giggle at the sound of my approach, but when I step foot on the ice on Sebasticook, wise fish flee!
One time the fish there tried to steal my gear… My auger was in the shop, but warm weather had me convinced that if anybody had fished my spot over the weekend that had passed, the ice over their holes would be thin at best, and possibly non-existent. Turns out I was right, so I decided to try my luck.
Before the sun got up too high, there was a frozen coating of slush sitting on top of the ice, that slowly melted as the day warmed. By noon time, there was a good 6 inches of water in some spots.
The holes I was fishing had been made by an auger with a 10 inch bit, and a couple of my traps were in the water. I got a flag on one of those watery holes, and headed over to tend it. I pulled up an 8 to 10 inch pickerel that I planned to release, however, before I could, I got another flag on the trap that was closest to the shore.
These particular traps have a little bar at the top that hold the flag in place when you set your trap. When a fish takes some line, the bar spins around, so you can tell from a distance how much line the fish is taking, and how fast.
As I tried to remove the hook from the mouth of the pickerel, without getting my fingers ripped off by his enormous, and possibly venom laced teeth, I kept an eye on the little bar of the second trap, as it spun slowly, stopped, and then slowly spun again. There didn’t seem to be any cause to hurry, when all of a sudden the bar spun furiously, and the trap POOF! Vanished beneath the ice!
AH! I couldn’t believe it! Since there was no freshly drilled up ice crystals to rest the 12 inch trap on, and there was water on top of the ice, the trap was able to just slide into the hole, and plummet to the bottom of the lake!
Without thinking, I tossed the little pickerel down on the ice, and ran for the hole where my trap had just vanished. Before I got there, I heard a little splashing sound, and I looked back just in time to see the pickerel make a direct line to the hole in the ice, and I am sure I heard him shout in a tiny little voice, “So long Fatboy!”, as he pulled my trap down with him!
Now I had TWO traps sitting on the bottom of the lake! A lesser man would have been broken. But not me! NO WAY! I dropped down to my knees and sobbed, but I was NOT broken.
Some kids that were fishing out on the point looked over my way, and started across the lake, presumably to see if I was OK. Apparently they had never seen a 6 ft tall 300LB man on his knees in 6 inches of water screaming “WHY!!!? WHY does this kind of crap always happen to me? HUH? WHY!? I just wanted to spend a day out on the lake fishing!”
I pulled myself together, wiped the tears from my eyes, blew my nose, and told the kids that everything was O.K., and that I was just sad because my favorite minnow had just died. They looked at each other, shook their heads and shrugged as they walked away.
I walked over to the hole where the pickerel had been, hoping that some how some of the line the fish had taken when I initially hooked him was still floating on the surface of the hole in the ice, but it wasn’t. HOWEVER! The water level was pretty low, and when I looked down, there was my fluorescent orange trap, with its fluorescent green flag laying on the bottom of the lake!
The water was only about 6 feet deep or so, and I figured I just might have a chance to snag it. I pulled up one of my other traps, and wound up the line, and set a sounding weight on the hook, and went back over to the hole. I dropped the weighted hook down to the trap, and tried to tangle it up, but I just couldn’t manage to hook on to something.
Since I only lived 3 or 4 miles from the lake, I decided to head home, and grab a long pole I had bought one year to help me put Christmas lights up. I pulled my 2 remaining lines up out of the water, and loaded them into my pack bag, and headed home for the pole.
I got to the lake, and headed across the ice with the pole. The pole came in multiple sections, but the locking dial on the pole had snapped in the cold weather, so the sections didn’t lock into place like they were supposed to, but I figured I could make it work. Two sections equaled about 8 feet, the ice was a good 2 feet thick, so I knew it was going to be tricky.
I got to the hole that was closest to shore, and stuck the pole into the water, but it wasn’t long enough. So I lay on my stomach, and put my arm into the water clear to my shoulder, and tried to snag the trap. In the position I was in, I couldn’t see into the water, but I felt the pole bump the trap in the mud. I tried to get the pole under the trap, so I could try to ease it up. And it felt like it was going to work!
That is until the bottom section of the pole dropped off! Now the bottom of the lake was all muddy, and I could barely make out the green flag off to one side of the hole. I had failed! But I wasn’t giving up just yet!
I went back to the car, and grabbed a piece of rope, and bunch of other stuff I found in the back to make a grapple, including a ratchet strap with a hook on it. I ended up attaching the pole to the ratchet mechanism , and lowering it down into the water, and lifting the trap out that way.
Once the trap was back on the ice, I noticed that almost all of the line was off the spool, so I pulled it up, and I was shocked to find a little yellow perch trying to hide in a clump of weeds, with my hook still in his mouth.
I considered releasing him, because he had executed his plan so brilliantly, but there was a hungry eagle waiting for anything I would be leaving behind. The yellow perch sat on the ice for about 3 minutes. When I went over to get the other trap from the bottom, he was there. When I had recovered the trap with ease, he was gone, and the eagle was too.
Last year, before the water level got too low, and the ice depth got too thick, my buddy Zack and I launched an all out war on the fish that winter. I had taken it on myself in recent years to protect the good folk of Newport from the monsters that cruised the depths of their lake.
We slew several dozen yellow perch, known by terrified locals as “Tiger Trout”. They are often found swimming in the shallows in massive schools where children play.
We fought bravely with several pickerel, and even managed to pull out one that was close to three pounds. Most certainly by summer, he would have been up to ten or fifteen pounds, and likely would have taken the hands or feet of unsuspecting folks that dangled their limbs in the water, as they lounged on floating chairs, or sat on docks.
And we even pulled out a mighty bass, the monster weighed nearly 4 pounds, and his mouth opened so wide, he could easily have swallowed some baby ducks, or he would likely have eaten several puppies, and small dogs that people bring to the lake to swim on hot summer days.
That brings me to the conspiracy theory…I believe that a fish, or group of fish, has gotten to some of the leaders of the Sebasticook Lake Association, and threatened them with violence if they don’t drop the level of the lake to a super low level again this year, in an attempt to keep me from seeking them out!
But I owe it to the good people who recreate in the waters of Sebasticook Lake! I make this pledge to you all today! I WILL FISH THE WATERS OF SEBASTICOOK LAKE AS LONG AS THERE IS TWO FEET OF WATER OR MORE! I may not put my shack on the ice there this year. But I WILL fish there!
As for my shack? I bet the good people who recreate on Etna Pond could use a fisherman of my caliber there! If you represent the folks on Etna Pond contact me, and we will discuss my terms!