Monday, November 06, 2006

breaking the ice

Usually, when a skim of ice forms over a small lake, it's a signal that it's time to put the boat in storage for the winter. Whatever fish are out there to be sought with rod and reel will still be out there in a few weeks, when enough ice has formed (4 inches for foot traffic, about a foot for vehicles, although it's always best to be overcautious!) for ice fishing. But when part of your paycheck depends on rearing and stocking fish, a half inch of ice is no deterrent. If I was in charge it would be, but whatever...

My assistant boss told me and John, the only crew who weren't out deer hunting or trapping, to re-set the nets they had pulled out of the pond last week as it was threatening to freeze. There are still a few muskies in there, and I guess the state needs every muskie it can get this year. I thought maybe the pond would have, at worst, some ice around the edges, because it was warm and sunny this weekend. But when we got to the pond, the water looked strangely calm and motionless. It looked thick, actually. And there were no geese resting on the water, which was unusual.

It was funny because I could not tell that the whole surface of the pond was frozen over. The ice was so smooth and reflective, it looked just like a calm water surface. With a half inch of ice or less, and no snow on top, the color of the water below showed thru the glassy ice. I was not sure until I backed the boat in and heard a big CRUNCH.

My coworker took the helm of the boat while I remained on shore; he was going for a preliminary spin to break up some ice. Better him than me, I thought. I watched and listened as he gunned the motor. Everywhere he went on the pond he sent sheets of ice flying, breaking, crashing. The sound of cracking ice was deafening, but the after effect, the sound of waves of water pushing up the ice, breaking it more gently, would have been nice to listen to were it not for the persistent sound of the motor and the boat breaking more ice.

Eventually John came to pick me up and we set the nets quickly, rumbling through ice chunks as we went from site to site. Then, after all eight nets were set, we went around on another ice breaking mission. This time I was on the bow of the boat, feeling every small sheet of ice hit the boat and break into smaller pieces. Like the motor was the blender, and the pond was a giant margarita.

I do not recommend ice breaking in a boat for sheer recreational purposes. It was interesting, but I think when water freezes over, it's Mother Nature's way of telling you to take a break.


pablo said...

I remember going to one of the lock and dams on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis decades ago and finding ice piled up behind the dam. You could hear it grinding against itself. Eerie sound.

the dharma bum said...

deb, sounds like an interesting experience. if nothing else, i would think it would be a neat experience to be probably the last people to boat on that lake until next spring. it's an interesting time of year, with these last gasps before winter really arrives.

any day now, i imagine...

robin andrea said...

I love the description of the sound of the ice breaking up. It reminded me of Marilynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping when she wrote about how the ice moaned. For those of us who don't live near bodies of water that actually freeze, it seems very beautiful and eerie.

Just read your post about playing music. I wish you did have a way to record. I have some ideas that I'll just email you.

Floridacracker said...

So did ya' catch fish?

Deb said...

pablo- it does make an incredible amount of noise, and it is eerie.

dharma bum- now there's an idea for a short story or essay, on being the last one to ply the freezing waters before the secrets are held under ice for another winter. I like that image.

robin andrea- I lived by a 25 acre lake (although I called it a pond) once, and sometimes in the winter you could hear the ice making moaning sounds, and suddenly cracking. It's kind of scary when you're skating out in the middle.

Thanks for the recording ideas; I'll check into them!

FC- I wasn't out there, but they did get about 150 fish, which probably were all scared into the nets by the noise and vibrations of ice breaking.

gtr said...

Brrrrrrrr.... it's starting! Only a few more months of this! But it's got it's own charms, too, eh?