The morning's first grudging light had just begun to slip over the land as our train of anglers ventured forth. Four of us, well-Thinsulated and wearing ice cleats for purchase, trundled onto the surface of Fish Lake seeking crappie dinners.
We knew the ice was good where we were headed, to the little island maybe a half-mile away. Some among us had been there a few days earlier. A skim of snow covered much of the lake, but where it had blown the ice clean, we inspected the cracks. Yep. We could see the ice was a good 6 or 8 inches thick.
We know this making of ice happens every year, but still, on these early trips we cannot help pausing to peer down through it. It was mostly clear and black, with intersecting fractures of white. It was like looking at a really big X-ray.
We set up over about 16 feet of water, each of us holed up in our personal shelter. We might have all fished from one larger shelter, but that is not our style. We value independence and flexibility. If you're not getting enough fish, you just pull up stakes and move.
This created an interesting social dynamic. We were all fishing together, sort of. We were alone in our one-, two- or four-man shelters, just within shouting distance of one another.
"Whattay have for depth over there?"
"Saw a couple. Wouldn't bite."