January 6, 2007: With the holiday season finally over, my ice fishing buddies and I were looking forward to the first big ice fishing trip of the season. Hauser Lake has a good solid foot of ice on it, and last Monday my friend Dave the Monk had caught 3 nice trout at Black Sandy. At one point during the week, we had eight guys ready to come out. I purchased a Boston butt pork shoulder and smoked it, thinking that pulled pork sandwiches on the ice would be a good way to start the New Year.
But the ominous weather forecast looked worse and worse as the week progressed, and slowly we began to lose members of our party. The forecast called for snow, heavy at times above 5000 feet, but less than an inch in the valley. That wasn't too bad. The forecast also predicted 20 - 30 mph winds. Now that is bad.
After listening to a phone message from a friend who lives in Gold Creek saying he wasn't feeling like driving over MacDonald Pass, I called Wapiti Bob and told him I was thinking of bailing. However, Bob convinced me to go, pointing out that we only live 20 minutes from Black Sandy, and we could always turn around and leave if the weather was bad. So, I finished smoking the pork, and called Dave the Monk to make arrangements to pick him up in the morning.
Dave and I arrived at Black Sandy shortly after 8:00 a.m. While the wind was blowing during the drive out, it was calm with only a slight breeze at Black Sandy. So we unloaded our gear and walked (well, Bob drove his 3-wheeler while the rest of us walked) across the Causeway bay about a half mile to a rocky point where we have had success in previous years fishing for trout and ling. Only four guys from Helena showed up, everyone who lived out of town did not.
A large rift zone had formed in the ice, and unfortunately it ran across to the tip of the point where the best ling fishing was. I went and drilled a hole near the rift zone, and could see water pulsing under the ice. Not good. However, the ice right next to the rift was a good 8 inches thick.
We started drilling holes and while I was tying up my second rig, I heard a "sploosh", and turned my head and saw Bob's idiot dog, Jesse, had walked over through the rift zone and had fallen through the thin ice. Jesse was frantically paddling around, while Bob was oblivious to the whole event, since he was drilling holes at the time with the power ice auger. Not feeling like risking my life to save Bob's dog, I walked up to Bob, shouting the whole way, until Bob finally heard me and shut off the auger. Lying on the ice, with Brian holding his boots, Bob was able to get his hand around Jesse's collar, and with a mighty tug he pulled the idiot retriever from the frosty waters. Shivering a bit, Jesse looked fine.
We then got down to the task of getting our poles in the water. Shortly thereafter, the first giant gust of wind arrived, with a bit of snow. We resolved to get the ice huts up after the wind relented a bit, and we did. I set mine as close to the crack as possible, hoping to catch ling. Bob put his about 20 feet upwind of mine.
The wind did die down, and then stopped altogether. By this time Brian had left, leaving Dave, Bob and I on the ice. When the wind did start up again, Dave and I went inside my ice hut, while Bob and his shivering dog went in his. To keep the huts from blowing away when we were not inside them, I tied mine to the power auger, drilled about 8 inches into the ice. Bob tied his to his 3-wheeler.
Meanwhile, we had our one and only bite of the day. Bob caught what I believe may be the largest trout I ever see come through the ice on Hauser - a 5 - _ pound male rainbow. Nice fish.
The wind slowly grew in intensity. But it was nice and cozy inside the hut. I could see two of my poles through the ice hut window. Dave said, "Too bad the auger is staking down the hut, or else I would go drill a couple of holes where I could see them." I told him to go ahead, as long as I was sitting in the hut, it was anchored down sufficiently.
Big mistake. No sooner had Dave drilled his second hole, when the mother of all wind gusts came up. It started moving the ice hut, with me in it. The scary part was, the wind was blowing me right towards the hole where Jesse the dog had fell in. I leapt up, spilling my can of PBR, and frantically unzipped the hut. I got my foot outside the door, and the traction from my cleats stopped the hut. Meanwhile, Wapiti Bob was undergoing a similar experience. The wind was so strong, it started to blow his hut away, dragging his ATV with it! Fortunately, the intensity of that gust only lasted for a matter of seconds.
While Bob and I were having a harrowing experience, it was nothing compared to Dave's. Fortunately for Dave, he had the auger to hold onto to keep from being blown into the open water. Unfortunately for Dave, his duffel bag and bucket blew away. Fortunately for Dave, his duffel bag lodged against a chunk of ice poking up from the rift zone. Unfortunately for Dave, his bucket sailed right into the open water! Fortunately for Dave, the bucket landed upside down, and the air trapped in the bucket kept it floating.
Dave was most upset about the bucket, as it contained the most expensive item of his gear, his prescription glasses. Following a similar procedure to the dog rescue, Dave lay flat on his belly and used a cross-member conduit pole from the ice hut (by this tiem we had broken them down) to slide through one of the rod holders on the side of the bucker. When he pulled it onto the ice, lo and behold his glasses case was still floating inside the bucket! A couple of things were still floating in the hole. Using a rapala attached to a pole, Dave was able to snag a Ziploc bag full of tackle from the open water (earlier, I had used the same approach to snag one of my gloves that blew right next to the crack, but too close for me to retrieve it.
That about took care of our enthusiasm for ice fishing. The wind did die down a little again, so I got the grill started, and heated up the foil packet of pulled pork I had brought. While it was heating, we observed another ice hut being blown across the lake out in front of Black Sandy. After eating the pulled pork sandwiches, we pulled stakes, walked back across the bay, loaded up, and headed to the Causeway Chalet. When we got back to town, we found out that the wind had blown over several large Colorado blue spruce trees, and caused widespread power outages.