ANYONE FOR FISHING?
Wednesday was absolutely beautiful up here in Phippsburg. There was a soft snow cover everywhere, and a sparkling sun with next to no wind. The comfort level was high! I started out with my garbage on board for a stop at the transfer station. I didn't get far, since as I passed the Town Hall I noticed an ice fisherman had set up "shop". I decided then and there to check out this seasonal activity that has just gotten underway. Though the ice fishing season begins on January 1st, it has been too warm to freeze the ponds. Recent cold temperatures have changed that, and it is now safe to walk out onto Center Pond. These fishermen drag their paraphernalia out on sleds, complete with fishing gear and various items to eat and keep themselves occupied between catches. Holes are drilled in the ice, and traps set up that have a tipping device to indicate a catch. On this day, the fisherman that caught my eye, had set up about 6 such traps between the shore and that small island. Robin (the fisherman) kept running to the traps to pull up his fish. I saw him catch about 3 Pickerel and one Brook Trout, all good sized. The Pickerel have sharp teeth and care must be taken in removing the hook and rebaiting. Small, live, Shiners were being used for bait and kept alive in that white bucket. Robin prefers the Brook Trout for his eating. He just piles snow on top of the caught fish to keep it fresh. That's one of the Pickerels he is holding to the right.

While all this was going on, a large Bald Eagle flew overheard to see if there were some extra fish for his dining. Earlier, Robin said that he had seen that large bird land and consume a fish he had used as a lure. Gulls, too, hovered to observe if there were extras, plus a few inquisitive Crows. Robin said that crows, however, do not go after his fish for some reason.

Robin told me that he is part Native American, and enjoys remembering his ancestors. On board his sled of belongings were no less than 5 handsome wooden flutes. He pulled one out from its protective bag and started playing (while the fish considered his baited hooks). The music was somewhat mystical. Robin says that sometimes he goes into the woods and plays these instruments, and the animals respond - either giving a second look or chirp! We wondered if the fish could hear the soft melodic sounds. See that pile of snow to the flutist's right? That has a fish underneath!

The snow has been almost perfect for tracking up here, though one has to be aware of potential ice underneath that neat 2 inches of snow. I headed out to Small Point following what I think were fox tracks. The tracks seemed to have a purpose, and deviated once to make a catch of a small rodent that crisscrossed the trail. There was a drop of blood, and diverted tracks, but no further signs of ingestion. Did it eat the animal whole, hide it for later, or lose hold? There are a lot of puzzles in tracking. You do get to see where the squirrels take cover, and feast on cones. I did follow a more trench-like trail that led down to a small shack. These were likely made by a porcupine. Surprisingly, I found no deer tracks, let alone moose. (I am always hoping for the later!). Most of these animals are busier at night. As for me, I was enjoying abundant sunshine under untold layers of insulation. I saw no boats heading out to sea, just a large tanker on the horizon reminding me of the magnitude of our waters.

1/26/07 Snowy, but not snowbound, Ronnie