Steamboat Springs Frank Baird and Ken Meyer were out on the ice at Steamboat Lake March 17 looking board. And that's no typographical error.
Baird and Meyer had no reason to be bored they already had a couple of fat rainbow trout on the ice. They also had their board in this case a 10-foot length of two-by-six with them.
Baird says he considers the plank an indispensable part of his ice fishing gear although it does little to enhance his success rate.
"A lot of people wouldn't have drowned if they had taken a plank with them," Baird observed.
His partner, Meyer, explained. "There are some soft spots in the ice out here because of springs. You can step into one and go right through. Once you fall in, you can't get back out," Meyer said (there are no recorded incidences of people falling through the ice and drowning at Steamboat Lake).
That's where the plank comes in. As long as you're fishing with a buddy, and stay a reasonable distance apart, the plank should represent your salvation, Meyer said. As soon as an ice fisherman goes through the ice, his companion should lie down on the ice and slide the plank over so it spans the hole, giving the endangered angler a chance to extricate himself. Without a board, Meyer said, the weight of water-logged winter clothing makes it nearly impossible to haul oneself out on the slippery ice.
A really big fish
Meyer said he had the experience of a lifetime while ice fishing at Pelican Lake south of Vernal, Utah, this winter.
"This is a true story," Meyer said, "but I should warn you, you're probably not going to believe it."
Meyer said he and Baird had been having a good morning, pulling a string of bluegills the size of dinner plates through the ice. Suddenly, Meyer hooked into something and instantly realized this was no bluegill.
I fought it for a while, but I realized I wasn't going to get it through the ice," Meyer said. "My auger drills a 6-inch hole and the fish was too big to get through the hole."
Meyer's predicament was not completely unheard of, and he realized he was probably going to have to cut his line. But he was hoping to at least glimpse the fish.
"I got down on my belly so I could look into the hole and I cupped my hands around my face to block out the light," he said. "As my eyes adjusted to the light I began to realize I was looking right back at the eye of the fish, and it was filling the hole. The fish's eye was 6 inches around."
Now, Meyer's curiosity was really aroused. He surmised the direction in which the body of the fish was aligned and drilled another hole 5 feet away. He went through the same routine of lying down on the ice and pressing his face close to the hole. He wasn't prepared for what he saw.
"It was another 6-inch eyeball," Meyer exclaimed.
"Can you imagine how big that fish was?"