February 19, 2008

Okay. Today I have a "fish story." Here's Matthew, the new winter intern at Wood Lake Nature Center. 8:30 AM, he and I head out on the lake with our ice auger, two underwater video cameras, long pvc poles to attach to the cameras so they can be manipulated from above the ice, ice skimmers, sleds, etc. The mission is to auger two decent holes to drop the cameras down to show the school group arriving in about half an hour what it looks like under the ice, so they can experience life as a muskrat, the program theme is "Muskrat Safari."
The lake bottom is extremely variable at Wood Lake, you can drill your hole where you think there should be deep water (13 ft. is the deepest I have recorded) and you can drill thru a lot of ice only to hit stinky muck and no water. That's basically what happened to me with my try, so I gave the auger over to Matt and he is doing his best. It's no small task getting thru the ice either, the temps here have been below zero for a pretty good stretch, and where I tried, the ice was about 25 inches thick (!) measured off the skimmer handle. We have a battery powered auger, but eh, it's still a bit of a workout. So as I'm pulling my gear over to my next likely spot to try, Matt's hole is just breaking thru to water, and he's kind of narrating the proceedings, interspersed with fishin' stories from last weekend... "Jeez, that's alotta ice.... Did I tell ya last weekend I caught a 41 inch Northern? Yeah, man, biggest Northern I ever seen. Me an my buddyz zup on this lake by Eden Prairie. Whoap, got some plants here... More plants... Breakin' thru... Hey, where'd that fish come from?!? Aww man, I just hit a bullhead with the auger and pulled him right out of the hole!!! Needless to say, I had to run over there to witness this firsthand, and sure enough, the guy drills a hole in the ice and the fish literally pop out of the lake and swoon at his feet. I said, "Matthew, you are a born fisherman."
Matthew holds up his "trophy."
An entire lake full of water and the guy skewers a six inch fish with a 30" ice-auger. Maybe he should think about a career in the pro anglers tour.

I guess between the Muskrat Safari and Cross-country Ski instruction for preschool - 6th grade, I didn't get enough wind-chill today so I had to take the pup out for a walk when I got home. Nice sunset down at the Lagoon.
I think folks are getting a bit testy about the long run of cold weather we're into tho. The drying effects are taking their toll on hands, lips, eyes and throats. It's a chore to take your nineteen layers on and off all day, and part of you is inevitably sweating when another part is getting frostbite. It's always a crapshoot when you insert that car key into the ignition with your biggest mittens on and play the "Will it Start Lottery." If it does start it usually grumbles about it for the first few blocks while your tires gradually get round again and that molasses mixture you call 5W-30 warms up enough to reach all parts of your engine. Soon you are scraping frost off of the INSIDE of your windshield (at the stoplight of course, why bother until you need it) and your heater fan (misnomer) is blowing it into a continuous loop so that you feel like you are in a life-sized snowglobe.
This is the kind of weather that induces previously sane, well-adjusted people to zip-tye large pieces of cardboard over their radiators to get that last bit of heat into the cockpit (hey, it's -20 and you're worried about it over-heating!?) and as long as you're out there you might as well strap something onto the grille to enshrine as a mascot, say an old Christmas wreath, your kid's favorite stuffed animal, a duck decoy, maybe some deer antlers, you know, something to bring a little "class" to a 15 year old Buick. When the weather preaches, you must heed. Desperate times, require desperate measures. Kind of like Richard Dreyfuss building a Devils Tower out of mashed potatoes at the dinner table. Things must be done, gods appeased, ids quelled. Spring is just around the corner. Just around the corner. Just around the corner...

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