Tater and the Spud

“Tater” broke his arm in January. A ghastly break, broken in two places, it required a 10 inch plate and 13 screws to hold it all together. The metal will be in his left arm from now until the end of the line.

He’s almost 13. A break like this puts a crimp in the lifestyle of a Northern Michigan teenager. Whereas before he was spending all day Saturday at the local ski hill (the source of the break) with his friends, he’s now relegated to less exciting pursuits. He’s a very active kid and this has been rough.

Pretty Bad Break For Aidan

With extreme boredom taking hold on Superbowl Sunday, I recommended something that we hadn’t done in years, the most boring of all Michigan winter pursuits: ice fishing. He hemmed and hawed, but eventually relented and after an hour or so of gear gathering and repair, we were off.

It wasn’t half bad. We spent two hours on Arbutus #5 and caught several pan fish and a decent sized large mouth. He asked the following Monday if we could do it again next weekend. This is the highest form of flattery to a dad of a mostly surly, teen-aged, boy. If we follow through on that, I’ll do something I should of done our last time out: take the spud bar.

The spud bar is a relic of the past. It’s a 45 pound, iron bar with a wedge at the end of it. It’s used to basically thump through the ice. It was made before the Internet, before hand augers, and definitely existed before fat fishermen with gas powered augers was a thing. It’s flat out, conceptually ridiculous in this day and age. I look at it in disbelief that I’d ever spent my free time using a mostly blunt object to pound through ice – all for the sake of potentially catching some lower invertebrates. Yet the spud still is.

Aidan had asked me to take the spud bar on our last outing, but we were in a hurry. Also, the bar is in bad shape. It had been misused on some demo projects years ago and is bent and covered in some tar like substance.

I will try to pound this iron bar somewhat flat if possible and I’ll file it sharp again and I’ll stick it in his hand so he can annoy the hell out of the other anglers (if there are any). Why would I do that? Good question.

I think the answer to “why” is because there’s just a slight chance that by giving him the chance to spud through ice with one good arm, he’ll have a small window into a past that has disappeared with an amazing ferocity.

Hardly anyone ice fishes anymore. In fact, the last Sunday we were out, I was sure that we were experiencing Global Warming in February as there was no one on the ice. No shanties, no fishermen, nobody. I was sure no one was out due to two inches of ice and we were going for a cold swim. This was not the case, the ice was 6 inches thick.

If people are still up for ice fishing, they sure don’t spud through the ice anymore. They have hand augers or power augers and these tools perfectly complement their pop-up shanties, fish finders, GPS and whatever other gadget you can think of in this, the Cadillac present.

I hope he does follow through on going fishing with me again and I will put that spud in his hand this time. When he chunks at the ice, with his one good arm, and his teeth rattle, he’ll have a glimpse into the way it used to be. If nothing else, it will reinforce the notion: pops is crazy.

Arbutus #5 at Sunset, Hopelessly Lost in Winter

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