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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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March 24, 2018

2/24/2018 7:30:00 AM
The lake where you live
Waiting time
Ted Rulseh

Birch Lake lies outside our windows, through the woods and down the hill, covered by more than a foot of snow and, by now, probably two feet of ice.

It's been beastly cold most days since the ice firmed up just before the first of the year. Since I don't ice fish in such conditions I haven't been on the lake very much. I had promised myself to get to know the lake's winter fishery - a new year's resolution now broken. About two weeks ago I took a long walk across the ice, on snowshoes. A couple of hardy souls were out fishing, one in a shanty, the other in a portable shelter, sensible accommodations.

Apart from fishing, there isn't much to recommend the lake at this point in winter. For me, waiting time has begun. I may get out on the snowshoes a time or two, but I'm done fishing for the year. My aging body won't tolerate twisting holes through thick ice with my manual auger. I fished just three times this winter, on lakes other than Birch, with pal Ted Fifrick. In total, we caught six bluegills. I'm willing now to admit defeat and wait for spring.

Ah, waiting time. If you're like me, you've more or less had it with winter in general. I commonly feel that way this time of year. I'm waiting for the snow accumulation on the house and garage roofs to start declining instead of increasing, as with the storm earlier this week.

I'm waiting for the days to start warming, to feeling the radiant heat of the sun through my coat as I take my almost-daily walks along the town roads. When I go down to the lake I pass the small deck off to the side of the stairway where the cedar pier boards lie stacked beneath a snow-covered tarp. I'm waiting to uncover them and enjoy the annual ritual of pier assembly.

I await the day the lake ice starts opening up and I can call the boat dealer to schedule delivery of the pontoon from storage. Most of all I'm waiting for the first trip out onto the lake, on or just after the first Saturday of May, to jig for early-season walleyes on the rock bars.

All that is a long way off. Here at the end of February, it's probably six or seven weeks, maybe more, until the sun does its work and the ice yields is grip. From the house I still see, from time to time, fishing shelters on the ice. At night the lights of snowmobiles streak along the trail that bisects the lake.

Meantime there's a tackle box to organize and weed out. A damaged spinning rod to retrieve from the repair shop. A pinewood rod rack my son built to sand, stain and finish. A tackle shopping list to make. Old line to remove, new line to install. In short, there's plenty to do, besides sit and grumble, during this winter's waiting time.

Ted Rulseh, who lives on Birch Lake in Harshaw, is the author of the "The Lake Where You Live," a blog where readers can learn about the lakes they love - the history, geology, biology, chemistry, physics, magic, charm. Visit Ted may be reached at

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