The Bucket List
By Lauren Vespoli, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 22, 2013
Much like life, the sport of ice fishing involves long periods of tedium punctuated by brief spurts of excitement. The action starts when someone yells “FLAG!” This indicates that the little flag on the tip-up, the wooden contraption that rests across the hole in the ice and holds the reel that allows the line to sink in the water, has popped up, signaling that a fish is on the line. When a flag goes up, the fisherman or woman in question will probably run at a pace directly proportional to how competitive they are about the chance to take off their gloves and wrap their freezing hands around a slimy, squirming body, remove the hook and perhaps take a picture.
Though our location may deprive us of cultural variety, Dartmouth is one of the few colleges in the country where learning how to ice fish can help you get your degree. The ice fishing PE class is taught by Ray Crosby, known affectionately around campus as “Collis Ray,” bearer of breakfast sandwiches and master of Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity’s annual Pigstick roast, who will bestow the name “Bubba” upon boys if they’re lucky. Crosby makes ice fishing worth taking for several reasons, not least for his crazy fishing stories, like one about a friend who once stuck his arm into the mouth of a fish because he didn’t want to lose it. But the absolute best part of working under his tutelage is the fact that he brings a grill on the culminating day-long fishing trip and cooks a smorgasbord of meat for the class.
“Any tofu-lovers in here?” He inquired when we met the week prior to the excursion. Silence from this diehard carnivore and the seven other males in the room.
“Good, because it’s gonna be a meat-market.”
Meat-market it was: hotdogs, cheddar-wursts, bacon, venison and hamburgers, plus high-fives from Crosby if you got seconds or thirds. Oh, and a taste of a freshly caught perch. We made Moses Pond in Plainfield into a little camp with a fire-pit for keeping warm, a stove with a kettle to heat water for hot chocolate and the grill for meat, peppers and onions. We carried all of this, in addition to the fishing equipment, by dragging Thule ice boxes down to the pond. Crosby parked his truck on the property of the generous man who lets us fish on the pond. This is a man who also owns two massive, scary oxen that definitely gave us dirty looks as we passed.
We had two drills, a motorized and a manual, which we (i.e. the boys) used to cut through the foot-thick ice. We cleared out the holes and surrounding areas with a skimmer, which basically resembled a large, flat spoon and was used to take the remaining ice chunks out of the hole. Then the hooks were baited, tip-ups set up and we waited for flags to rise. Set it and forget it, as they say. In the first 20 minutes, flags were popping up like crazy. We brought in some big fish, some of which, by my poor estimation skills, must have been around 17 inches long. When the fish were coming, it wasn’t hard to pull them in. For me, the most difficult thing was actually touching them.
Learning how to ice fish is something I might never have done were it not for the College’s three PE credit requirement, but what I got from the trip was a glimpse of New Hampshire that you might never glean from Dartmouth.
Hanover is quaint and wonderful, but it’s not really New Hampshire. Meeting some of the people who lived by the pond, one of whom had risen at dawn for coyote hunting, and stopping at a bait shop run out of someone’s basement, 15 miles from the J. Crew and Starbucks of Hanover, I felt like I was finally seeing some of “live free or die” New Hampshire.