Sometimes, though, fishing is about the memories you create during the experience (to be completely honest, this is usually something fishermen say when they fail). And on that January day, family and friends had a chance to catch up, little kids got to run around on the frozen lake, and first-time ice fishermen took up a new challenge.
At one point during the festivities, my best friend and I talked about our favorite memories of the lake. We reminisced about rowing out in the middle of a hot summer day, with him stuck in a full blown leg cast. What would we have done if he had fallen in? We talked about how we once witnessed a real lake monster: a three-foot long snapping turtle swimming with an upside-down catfish in its mouth. From afar it looked like something out of a horror movie, but that didn’t stop us from rowing out and investigating it. We laughed about the time my fishing pole was literally ripped off of the dock, shooting out into the lake like a cannonball. I thought my rod was gone forever, the victim of a largemouth bass’s ferocity. Thirty minutes later, though, we saw the bobber pop up about one hundred yards away. We hopped in a row boat, paddled over to the bobber, and I grabbed the line. Out came a plump 4 pound, 20-inch bass. I tossed it in the boat and began carefully pulling the line with my hands, eventually retrieving my once-lost rod from the depths of the lake. We retold the story of my play-attack on a friend who refused to net a giant catfish for me. My mother heard us yelling from across the lake and thought we were hurt. Finally, I recited the best story of all: the legend of the phantom bass. The phantom was a monstrosity that mysteriously appeared on the end of a stringer hanging off the edge of a dock. A full 8 pounds in weight (enormous by our northern standards), the bass had eaten a 15 inch yellow perch I had placed on the stringer earlier in the day. It got a nasty surprise when it ended up “catching” itself. To this day, the phantom bass is still the biggest bass I’ve ever “caught.” And all I had to do was lift the stringer out of the water!