Last-Place Winner

As we planned for our first ice-fishing derby we had no idea we could have left the tackle box at home and did just the same.

We started early in the morning and had strategically mapped out our best guesses and routes for fishing around Big Lake. As one hour rolled into the next it became increasingly apparent that we would need to start lowering our standards for how many fish we planned on “entering.”

It wasn’t long before I decided to take a stab at it and suggest a new spot I thought might be good. As we pulled up and started drilling I had a feeling I should make the suggestion to double-check the quick-connect between our auger head and bit to make sure it was tightened. But I held back, thinking to myself, how many times have you reminded him and how many times has the suggestion been ruled irrelevant because somehow magically my husband knows its “okay”?

I still feel a gnawing and decide as a last-ditch mediation I’ll bend my knees, slightly appearing to look at the actual part, and hope he sees me and reaches down and checks the connection. He doesn’t but I’m satisfied I’ve done my part.

As I shrug and make my way over to the sled to get the scooper and a rod to test the water depth I feel a pang of disbelief when the next thing I see is my husband carrying only the auger head. Call it shock but I actually asked, “What happened!” Well, that was a question that didn’t require an answer. The auger bit had come undone and was sitting 35 feet below the ice on the bottom of the lake.

The derby just turned in to a search and recovery mission. Needless to say, after rope, tow straps, fish holders bent into the shape of hooks and even my scarf were deployed unsuccessfully it was time for Plan B. A magnet. AIH was closed so we decided to try to use the magnet from a construction nail rake. We lowered the nail rake magnet down the hole and ended up attaching to the bit only to get it partially lifted and then have it fall back down.

Time to regroup: we were ready for Plan C. We headed to AIH and picked up a stronger magnet and headed back out to our hole the next day. No luck; with several attempts the auger bit had fallen free just outside the hole.

On our fourth and final attempt at recovering our auger bit my husband and friend drilled holes around the original hole and ended up clanking onto the bit. This time the magnet was strong enough to hoist it to surface; mission accomplished.

All that time on the lake, and not one fish caught. Still, shortly thereafter I ran into the person who organized the derby and I think I have him half-convinced to offer a last-place winner prize. I know for sure we have that in the bag.