"To catch a fish these days, you gotta put your bait where the sun don't shine," tipped WW&W senior fishing correspondent Ed Wetelainen, drilling through the top eight inches of Lake Fanny Hooe, clearing the slush outa the hole, then lowering his Swedish Pimple tipped with a frantically-wiggling minnow into the frigid, dark water.
"Yooper lakes are the kinda places where you gotta putta extension on your Strikemaster by the second weeka January, and this year is no exception," he added. "Deer have easier going then we do, using frozen rivers for runways."
The ice was only six inches thick when the WW&W correspondents were standing around our annual snowbank bonfire on Sandy Bottom, toasting Winter Solstice's prompt arrival at 7:20 p.m., Dec. 21, bringing with her the first day of winter. It was nothing shorta heavenly in sync with the full moon and lunar eclipse.
"What's the difference between Christian Brothers brandy and fundamentalist Christianity?" asked WW&W religion correspondent Amazing Grace, passing the bottle around the fire.
"The brandy gives you a nice warm feeling inside."
You never know when a joke will be born, but this one had a nice ironic, irreverent, satirical twist to it. With our long, cold winters and short daylight hours, it's important to maintain a sense of humor.
"There's a lot to be said for bonfires and brandy," Grace added. "If we were sipping schnapps, it wouldn't have worked."
The Christian Brothers are true cold weather sportsmen who like to tag along ice fishing, too. Your favorite antifreeze is an important ingredient for beating the chill, aprs ski, aprs snowmobiling and aprs hockey.
"Many Yoopers suffer from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, or the winter blues, when heavy cloud cover moves in and we don't see the sun for weeks on end," said WW&W wellness correspondent Sara Tonin, "and being cooped up in an ice fishing shack where the sun don't shine isn't much help."
"They don't call it (Serotonin) the happiness hormone for nothing," she added, "It's a chemical derived from the amino acid tryptophan, a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being."
Most Yooper snowbirds have already flown the coop for sunnier weather. Some turn to tanning booths and other light therapy, but I need all the help the five muses can muster with Paris Hiltunen's many charms on top, and all the serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, adrenalin, epinephrine and endorphin action I can get to fight off SAD til I get to Florida where the water's warm and the sun shines bright.
"In Tampa/St. Pete, they give the newspaper away free on the two or three days a year the sun doesn't shine," said WW&W beach correspondent Sara Sota. "The Gazette and all Yooper papers would go broke quick offering that deal in the winter."
"You don't have to be a Christian Brother or even a Christian to walk on water these days," said Amazing Grace. With 6-12 inches of ice, even ye of little faith, agnostics and atheists can do it just as well as the frozen chosen. With wide open 33-degree water, Copper Harbor, Big Traverse Bay and Keweenaw Bay present more of a challenge."
"The only ice I've been out on is Dee Stadium," reported Shawn Hagan, Twin Lakes fisherman and hockey player. "It's a good, solid 4-6 inches capable of supporting a Zamboni, but no fish have been caught through it."
Before that lovely three-day stretch of sunshine over the holidays, the closest I'd gotten to ice was the CIBC and a few hockey games. The sun perked me right up, enough to take a walk on the waters of Lake Fanny Hooe and Torch Lake, drill a few holes and wet a few lines. You can enjoy the same therapy Saturday with popular ice fishing tournaments at Vermilac Lake, Covington, 355-2531 or 355-2303, and Otter Lake, Tapiola, 334-2795. It's the perfect time to get outside, suck up some daylight and fresh Yooper air, jump-start your spirits, maybe even catch a fish. It may be sunnier in Florida, but you can't see your breath.
If you'd rather have the lake to yourself, try drilling Alberta Pond, Boston Pond, Chassell Bay, Rice Lake, Parent Lake, Salmon Trout Lake or Gratiot Lake. If you're in the mood for a road trip, try Ontonagon Harbor where "they're catching nice northern in the marina on tips-ups and smelt," according to Larry Greig, Greig's Taxidermy & Tackle, 884-2770, or Lake Gogebic, where Russ Hewitt, Russ' Bait & Tackle, 365-5505, says the walleye and jumbo perch are fighting to see who bites first.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.