With a grandfather and father who were avid outdoors men, fishing and hunting whenever they could, and a mother who learned to fish in self-defense (besides, at that point she was smitten with the guy), is there any reason to doubt that I would love to fish? I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand. My fondest memory of fishing with my dad though was the time he took me--just me, the daughter, not the son, out on the ice of Lake Erie to go ice fishing.
Our winter weekends were spent at Put In Bay, OH, and once the ice was thick enough, a village of ice shanties would appear on the ice covered water. People actually had old cars usually with doors removed for a quick exit that they would use to drive onto the ice, plant their shanty, and return to fish in it until the ice began to melt as weather warmed.
When my dad invited me along, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. A whole day on the ice with my father fishing! We took the old car out onto the ice and parked it a safe distance from the shanty. Grabbing our gear, we stepped carefully to the door and stowed what we needed inside and out. Dad had brought a few pieces of wood and a couple of large chunks of coal to stoke the fire he started in the little tiny potbellied stove inside the shanty.
The ice shanty was about the size of a playhouse for kids. It was framed in wood that was covered in treated heavy duty canvas and had runners on the bottom. You couldn't stand up in it. The stove sat in the middle of the floor at the back wall, a hole in the floor on either side of it and a bench opposite each hole to sit on as you fished. Heavy white twine was anchored to the beam above each hole and looped with a rubber band that allowed you to see the matchstick tied at eye level bobble up and down when a fish bit on the hook.
Live minnows were the bait of choice. I was careful to hold on tightly as I baited my hook since I knew Dad would get frustrated if I let too many get out of my hands instead of on the hooks. We dropped our lines in the water shortly after our arrival and just about the time that the little stove began to pleasantly warm the shanty. Eventually we sat in shirt sleeves in the pleasant little shanty.
We caught a lot of fish that day and tossed them into the burlap bags that hung from hooks in each corner opposite us. When we ran out of bait, Dad showed me how to pop the eye of a fish out and use it for bait. This girl was no prima donna. Whatever it took to fish, I was ready for it.
At noon, Dad pulled out a small iron skillet from the sack beneath his bench and reached in a little cooler for some kielbasa. We ate warm sausage sandwiches, munched on chips and apples and held each other's meal when a fish needed to be pulled in.
All too soon the day ended and we headed home. I think he was proud of me that day. He always grinned when he was proud and that day his grin wide, he said to Mom, "She's a real fisherman." I could not have received a greater compliment.