My ice-fishing tackle box is nothing more than a glorified piece of two-sided Tupperware with enough spaces to fit a seven-course frozen dinner. On one side I keep the hardware (swivels, weights, hooks). On the other side I keep enough lures to fool anyone who doesn’t know me and that I use nothing other than a single lure in a single color.
There’s Big Blue, a lightweight spoon with the big dipper and Alaska written across it in white. This lure has never seen water. It was a gift I keep for luck. I could never bring myself to put it in the water, because if there’s a fish out there that can read and recognize constellations, then it’s probably some kind of mutant not fit for the table.
There’s a little Rapala plug that has never caught a fish. The flat lip and cartoon eyes add comedy to the cast. Even though I doubt plugs have a place in the ice-fishing world, there may be a day when nothing else is working and the fish will take a look at this plug and take pity on me.
There’s a few flies, spinners, spoons, pixies and a couple novel, scented lures and glow-in-the-dark jigs. I don’t use them much, because I am still of the mind that the One Lure in the One Color should be able to catch fish no matter what.
In my defense, the One Lure in the One Color — a No. 2 Mepps Syclops — has caught silvers, rainbows, char, lake trout, grayling, kokanee and pike. It’s caught fish in lakes and rivers. The One Lure in the One Color has caught fish jigging, trolling and casting.
When ice fishing, it’s impossible not to test The One Lure in the One Color in every body of water, on every species of fish at every depth. So as not to stack the odds in its favor, I keep other colors of the same lure and secretly hope they fail, only to bolster my confidence in Old Red.
I was sitting on the ice inside my green hut on Hidden Lake. It had been four hours and the One Lure in the One Color was not working. I reeled up fast, through tables of water I’d already exhausted.
Outside the green hut the wind was blowing and my fishing buddy was sitting on a camp chair 20 yards away. He’d drilled enough holes to make a golf course, and I knew he’d been switching lures and holes all morning. Part of my singlemindedness comes from the fact that someone else is usually testing every other variable in my scientific method.
He hadn’t caught any fish either.
“I’m switching lures,” I announced ceremoniously.
“Good idea,” he responded.
I noted the egg stains on the ice and an open package of herring. He had tried everything, so it wasn’t the One Lure’s fault if fish weren’t being caught, I figured. Nothing could catch a fish that day.
Back inside my green hut, I put Old Red back in the box and affixed a silver Crocodile. At about 30 feet I heard commotion outside. When I have a fish on, I yell and holler like I’ve just won a game show. And if I land a fish, I do something of an awards acceptance speech to whomever is in my proximity.
“I want to thank everybody and anybody who ever had anything at all to do with the catching of this fish. But I especially want to thank the people at Mepps … .”
Not so with my fishing partner. He doesn’t make a scene while landing a fish, and when asked how the fishing was, his answer is always an ambiguous comment about the weather, whether or not he has caught his limit. This made me think the commotion outside was worth looking into.
By the time I reeled up and got unzipped out of my green hut, he was standing above the hole, rod bent, working the fish across the bottom face of the hole so as not to lose it by the lure catching the edge of the ice.
When the fish’s head lined up with the hole, I reached in the icy water and grabbed the lure to pull the fish up before the line broke. This fish was a hog, a seven-pound laker flopping and rolling in the snow. It didn’t matter that my day had been a bust. I felt like I’d caught this fish myself, because dangling out of his mouth was the One Lure in the One Color.
Christine Cunningham was born in Alaska and has lived on the Kenai Peninsula for the last 20 years, where she enjoys fishing, hunting and outdoors recreation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.