Ice fishing? That was everyone’s first question. And then, in varied order: Won’t you fall through? But what if you do? Won’t you be cold? Will you catch anything? Or, just, per one dear friend: “You mean, on purpose?”
It was my friend Vi’s idea. We entertained no grand discussion. We just, months ago, decided to plan to see each other, and to ice fish. This was acting on the basic premise — confirmed by six hours on the ice — that one should not need a particular reason to go ice fishing.
If one has worked hard enough to justify taking six hours away from email on a Sunday; if one has $80 to spend, plus no qualms about staying in a Worcester Airbnb that turns out to be just a basement with only vaguely functioning locks; if one can find two or three geographically convenient friends to sign onto a masked adventure; if one (here, just the author) finds winter in Wellfleet absolutely stunning but also, at times, deeply crushing, and wants to feel she is using the winter instead of hiding from it; in short, if one has an itch to do something — then what better idea than to ice fish?
So, we called Mike Greene. Greene is a weekday officer at the Worcester County Correctional Facility and the weekend owner of an outdoor guide company called Greene Outdoors. All his branded shirts have American flags on the sleeves. Greene has a chandelier made of antlers in his living room, and posts videos like “Insane Carp Action, Massachusetts” on his YouTube, and bow hunts and fly fishes and ice fishes and normal fishes and mushroom forages and generally appreciates a subsistence lifestyle, “but not in that hippie Earthy-shit way.”
For $80, Mike Greene will take you for a day of ice fishing and make you a bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich. If you catch no fish, you get your money back. I did extensive research: this is far and away the best ice-fishing deal you will find within a nine-hour radius. We took it.
Our day began at 7:30 a.m., when we each strapped on a pair of cleats and released Greene from all ice-related liability. Then we followed him onto 10 inches of ice atop Rutland Pond in Spencer, where eight-odd fishing holes awaited us.
We learned about tip-ups: baited ice-fishing traps that sit in the holes. When a fish bites, a flag pops up, and you run over to the hole and pull the hooked fish out and feel that you have accomplished something primal and impressive, even though all you did was sit in a chair, eat your bacon-egg-and-cheese, and wait for a flag to pop up.
We also learned to bait tip-ups, a process that requires setting aside your sensitivity and using a hook to punch a hole through a live fish, then dropping said bait into an ice hole, then going back to your chair until the flag pops up, indicating that the live, hole-punched fish is now a bitten and perhaps dead fish.
Green kept our 80 bucks. We caught mainly pickerel, not tasty enough to keep, but some smallmouth bass as well. We talked; ate; felt our feet go numb; warmed them up by a personal pond-top heater; watched a bald eagle pry a frozen fish off the surface of the lake; felt, for a day, like we really owned the winter. So much so, in fact, that we needed a nap afterwards.
It was not thrilling, as adventures go. But enough in the world is thrilling now. I’ll save my adrenaline rush for the vaccine line. Sunday on the pond with pickerel seems as good a pastime as any. Take it from Greene: “This right here is what life is all about.” Or take it from Vi, unpeeling the trash bags that converted her Converses into ice-fishing boots: “I’m so numb. That was awesome.”