Time my grandfather nearly lost duel with fish, auger

Better Than Yesterday

Fishing stories are as old as fish and people. Like many families, mine has a lot of them. Some of my favorite are of my grandfather Ed Aho.

Mornings often started in a mad dash. One day Ed left in a hurry. He gunned his truck and the snowmobile sailed out of the bed. Not to be denied, he then borrowed a friend’s sled. When he started it up, the throttle was frozen and it took off like a bullet and crashed into a tree. He had disabled two snowmobiles by 7 a.m. and decided to stay home that day.

Like most fisherman, Ed was extremely secretive and did not want people to know if they were catching fish. One day on Keweenaw Bay, his son Dale was getting a lot of bites but missing them. Dale was cursing up such a storm that he could be heard down the lake.

Ed quietly moved his tent just up current, right next to Dale’s. Ed proceeded to catch a bunch of fish. Dale stopped getting bites and making a racket. Afterward Dale emerged and asked Ed why he set up next to him and cut him off!? Ed replied that he had to do it so that other fisherman would not know that there were fish in that spot.

Ed was always “hatahousut” (impatient, hasty) and if he was not catching fish, he would move. That’s what happened one memorable sunny day with clear ice. Ed was scouting out a new spot when he heard the faint tapping sound as if someone was knocking on a window. He had left his his wooden “gaboo” (finnish bobbing stick) unattended and, sure enough, a fish had taken the bait and pulled the gaboo under the ice! Panic ensued. The fish was slowly dragging the gaboo around as it floated and bumped underneath the ice.

Ed fired up the big, 2-hander gas auger and started punching holes in the ice like it was nobody’s business. He always had pride and he wasn’t going down without a fight. As the gaboo slowly circled underneath Ed scampered ahead of it, predicting its path and pinning the throttle.

It was a sight to behold. Others recounted that he made swiss cheese out of the ice.

As the sun was setting, Ed was off on the horizon when the auger finally ran out of gas. He slowly came walking back into camp. He had a red hot auger in one hand, and a Lake Trout in the other! While packing up, he stepped in a hole and soaked a leg up to his waist. He looked around and asked who had put a hole in such a stupid spot, and he meant it.

To all the ice fisherman on the lake this winter: If you don’t come home with a catch, at least come home with a good story.

Thank you to my uncle Dale and cousin Zach Aho for remembering these great moments.

Micah Stipech is a counselor at Houghton Elementary School and an assistant hockey coach at Finlandia University in Hancock.