Without a doubt, ice fishing is one of my all-time favorite activities, because it is SO MUCH more than just fishing!
I mean there are SO many things you can do while you are ice fishing: Hang out on the ice with friends, cooking, listen to music, ride snowmobiles/ATVs, sit in a comfy chair and read, sit in a heated shack and play games with a friend, target shooting…I could go on and on!
But freeze the lake, and give me a bucket of shiners, and it is all over for the vicious fish that swim in the local lakes and ponds around me! I almost never have a day where I don’t catch fish, and on most of the rare days I don’t get fish, I at least have flags to run back and forth and tend to.
Because of my prowess on the ice, fish advocacy groups do what they can to prevent me from getting out there to go fishing. They have done things like break dams on my favorite lakes for fishing resulting in thick ice and shallow water, to buying up all the bait in my area so I couldn’t get any.
This year they went too far. She denies it of course, but I am certain they got to my wife. A few years back, I convinced my buddy Zack that he would like ice fishing. He told me he would NOT like ice fishing because he hated being cold.
So I did what any good friend would do, and began the search for a decent ice fishing shack that we could both afford.
His doctors are still hopeful he can have a full recovery…Besides, if he has any setbacks he is likely to fulfill his promise to burn the shack to the ground…And I am kind of fond of it…
I have never actually fished from it…but I am hoping to get the chance this year! (And Zack REALLY does hate ice fishing!)
That is where those fish hugging lunatics, (who might actually have been hired by the local fish population) enter the picture…You see, although we have two sheds in our yard, my wife decided the close proximity of my fishing shack to the driveway would make it an ideal “temporary” storage shed for her yardsale and auction finds. After all, it was taking up prime real estate in the yard all spring and summer, so it might as well be used!
The problem was, as more and more things went INTO the fishing shack, and nothing ever came OUT of it, it started to get full pretty fast. When it came time to find things to come out, it ended up being my ice fishing gear. I mean it was only logical! Ice fishing gear is designed to be out in cold, wet conditions…Antique hats, old leather suitcases, and wooden furniture are NOT.
Eventually, my gas auger wound up outside, propped up against the back wall of the shack with the engine covered by a trash bag, forgotten about, until a few weeks ago when the puddles in the yard started freezing just before that big heat wave we had back in November. I decided it was time to fire up the old auger and listen to it run for a few minutes…Kinda getting in the mood for the fun to come!
I checked the gas tank and found just under a quarter tank. Not enough to drill 10 or 15 holes in the ice, but certainly enough to make me smell like an auger for a few minutes. I gave the primer a couple pumps, set the choke lever to the starting position, and flipped the toggle switch to “ON” and yanked hard on the starter cord.
All that happened was I broke off a piece of the hard plastic handle on the cord and ripped some skin off my fingers. The old auger was seized tight!
You see, sometime between March and November the trash bag “blew” off the auger, and ended up stuck in the brambles on the property line, and apparently some water got into the engine. I was certain it was done for!
I ran into the house, and logged into a small engine repair group and told them my situation. Most of the guys told me I was doomed. A few guys told me there was hope, but only slight.
One thing was certain, though…I wouldn’t be the one to be making the repairs. As horrible as I am at open water fishing, I am an even worse mechanic. In fact, if I claimed to be a lousy mechanic, I would be bragging. I was afraid this was going to cost a whole lot of money to get fixed. I was being told that even after spending $50 or more it still may not be fixable. So I put it off.
I was mad at my wife, and I was certain she had been paid off by the fish huggers, but I was also afraid to tell her that I had broken my auger…I mean SURE! SHE was the one filling my shack…But she never told me I had to take my stuff out. And I could EASILY have taken my stuff down to one of the two other sheds on the property. In addition, I could VERY easily have made certain the auger was covered much better than I had. But I didn’t think the fish huggers would actually come into the yard to take the bag off the engine! Then again I never expected them to pay my wife to turn against me either!
Now that the weather has finally turned colder, I could see the lakes starting to freeze. My thoughts turn to the fun-filled days of fishing that might be on hold because of my seized up auger. There was no way around it…If I was going fishing this winter I would have to have it fixed.
I knew my wife was going to kill me if it cost too much, and I figured it would cover not only my Christmas, but Father’s Day, and my birthday as well. But the call of the ice is strong!
Weeks ago I had taken the plug out and sprayed an industrial sized can and a half of WD-40 in the hole hoping it would free things up, I figured that it was possible the oil had penetrated by now, and that JUST maybe I could get it started yesterday morning, but it was no use. I loaded the auger into the van and headed for an authorized Jiffy repair shop.
I walked into O’Neill’s Power Equipment in Holden, where I had taken my auger in for its first tune up after I bought it used almost 5 years ago. At the time, John, the owner, assured me it would last me many years if I took good care of it. Obviously, I had not.
I was afraid of what John would think of me. I had only met him a couple times, but you can tell he is the kind of guy who remembers his customers…and if not his customers, most certainly their equipment.
I walked in and told him the story. He did not appear to be amused. He told me he couldn’t say for sure if it could be fixed, but it would only be about forty bucks to find out.
I asked him what the odds were, and he told me flat out what needed to be done. To me, it sounded like he was telling me that even a lousy mechanic could handle such a simple project.
He advised me years ago that pre-mixed 40 to 1 canned gas is the only way to go for my Jiffy auger, especially with all the small engine carburetors being gummed up from all the additives in gas station gas. I told him that I had followed his advice so he knew the problem was almost certain to be moisture and rust related.
I asked him if I should junk the old auger if I tried everything he told me to do, and it still wouldn’t run. He looked at me the way I look at my son when he asks me if he can ride one of our goats. He told me to not even think about junking it because there was no way the auger was done for, and if I did as he said, the auger should still last me for years to come.
Feeling a bit more confident about the situation, I headed to my father-in-law’s for some assistance. He is the kind of guy that will help me fix pretty much anything…Problem is, for the first 4 or 5 hours or so of a project he will watch me make one stupid mistake after another and stand behind me snickering. I suspect he has several cameras hooked up in his garage knowing eventually I will screw up so epically that the video will go viral, and make him a millionaire, but in the end he always rescues me.
Today wasn’t his day! The fish huggers failed too! It took him and me longer to find a 6-millimeter socket than it did to free the frozen up engine on my auger, and have it running as smooth as ever! In fact, once it was freed up, it started on the 3rd or 4th pull!
By the way…Mr. O’neill has not paid me to mention him in this blog, I just want people to know that there are still small business owners out there who care about every customer they have, even if that means sending them home to save money by doing their own repairs!