Skunked Again: Porter Lake ice fishing

12 mins read

This past Thursday, my friends and I visited Porter Lake after I convinced them that there were plenty of nice brook trout to be caught.

I recently tried Porter with my friend, Alex, and we had great success – landing 18 brookies, two togue, and a small salmon. A brief re-telling of this fishing story was all that was needed to get my other friends rubbing their hands in anticipation to catch the big one. Dan, Russ, Latisha, Jasmine, and Gump joined me for an escapade onto the ice.

There were six of us in all, and we took two cars down Barker Road in New Vineyard to the point where it connects with Lake Street. I spotted the truck of another of my friends, Garret, off to left in front of an acquaintance’s camp, so I parked next to him, way off to one side of the road.

Sure enough, after unloading the cars and stomping through the deep snow that led us over the bank and down onto the ice, Garret popped out of some nearby fir trees he had nestled in so he could escape the wind. He promptly offered his gas-auger after witnessing our slow progress with the hand-auger.

The author attempts to utilize a hand-ogger.

What a day for ice-fishing it turned out to be. We had gotten a late start and reached the lake a little after 9:00 a.m., but the sun was out, the breeze was mild, and though it was a little cold, it was nothing a few sprints to a popped trap wouldn’t cure. The lake was a beautiful expanse of white snow and snow drifts, and the distant mountains that framed the frozen waters were prominent due to their grayish appearance in contrast to what was predominantly and overwhelmingly white.

Jasmine and Latisha had fun running hole-to-hole skimming out the slush before the others came along with pack-baskets to set the traps up. Neither of these girls had ever caught a fish icefishing before, so I made sure to drill the holes close to shore where less than a week before I came across close to 20 nice brook trout. After we had 11 traps running along this shore, in front of the winter-abandoned camps that I couldn’t help but feel were unappreciated, I drilled four additional holes in a line heading out for deeper waters – these holes were for salmon with the bait right under the ice. Trout and salmon should always be fished for just under the ice, whereas togue are usually found on bottom. Brown trout I have found to be more mysterious, appearing anywhere from on bottom to 5-10 feet below the ice. Although there are togue in Porter, the fishing is often terribly slow, and I wanted to show my friends a good time with more consistent flags.

However, despite our number of traps set for brook trout, the fishing started off pretty slow. I even drilled a couple holes to jig lures called Swedish Pimples – interesting name, right? Despite their awkward nomenclature, these flashy metal lures brought up the majority of our fish the trip before – yet they failed to yield any fish this time. I did, however, get a “bite” while heaving on the line, and caused quite some commotion retrieving the tense fishing cord. Once I saw the leader coming up through the hole, I pulled in the last five feet and hauled my catch up onto the ice – a 1 lb., dark-toned, unmistakably native… rock.

It was a clean release, so I pushed it back into the hole.

The snow temporarily became heavy, and practically obscured our vision of the traps. The dark dismal clouds rolled above us, but passed within minutes to shadow the lands more to the south-east. It was enough to make un nervous, but after it quickly departed, it left us enjoying the splendid open skies that we had been enjoying before.

A proud Mainer soon came steaming by our traps in a truck with a lowered plow, and continued down the lake making a drivable path between landings for trucks and cars on opposite sides of the lake. This man, with friend in the passenger seat and woman inbetween, would build up speed and lower his plow until his chainless tires lost grip and sent his back end swinging out of control. It took around forty minutes and three or four trips before there was only glare ice to tread upon. On one of his passes he came a little too close to one of Garret’s traps and pushed a wall of slush into the hole his trap was resting in. Hitting the breaks and jumping out of his truck, he quickly ran over to the whole and politely scooped the excess ice and snow out. Hopping back in to the truck, the engine roared and off they went again.

As the six of us and Garret lingered on shore, leisurely jigging for the trout I had promised to my friends, a trap popped along the shore further down and there was a mad dash for the waving florescent orange flag. Gump reached the flag first and took control of the situation by breaking the ice covering the hole and after seeing the spool running, he ripped the trap out of the hole and set the hook. A few tense seconds later, Gump brought up a 13″ brook trout on top of the ice. Natural-born carnivores, we kept the trout and promptly reset the trap.

Gump with a 13″ brook trout caught while ice-fishing on Porter Lake.

Meanwhile, Garret took off for home and gave a farewell to the group. However, a few minutes later he gave me a call on his cell phone with concern in his voice: “I got bad news, man.”

“Really..What is it?” I inquired.

“All the cars are towed up here.”

“Whaaat….” I sighed.

It turns out that even though we were no further than 40 yards downhill from where we parked our cars, the tow-truck was capable to slip away with each of the three vehicles without detection. The tow-man could have sneezed and we would have known something was amiss. He must have been on tip-toes while latching up our cars. Regardless, the six of us – cold, a long ways from where we live – were completely unaware that we had just been stranded on a giant block of ice. A honk of the horn, a shout from the window, or even a gesture from the plowman the uselessly patrolled the roads and happened to drive by us when we first arrived would have been considerate on their part, for we would have quickly and quite easily avoided the problem altogether. Either of them could have humanely given us the necessary advice as to where we could legally park along this back road at 12:00 in the afternoon.

My mind contemplated the possibility of our cars actually having been stolen, since there was nowhere near an inch on the ground at any point, not even during the ten minutes of heavy snowfall earlier. Garret’s buddy Tom drove from Farmington to give us a lift to drive around and to search for our vehicles. We eventually found where our cars were, and went to the place which was approximately 300 yards down the road. Go figure. But of course, they don’t take plastic – back to Farmington we go for an ATM. After $180 spent and not even a receipt to show for it, we left with some colorful language quarreling the acquisitiveness of the New Vineyard towing company.

When we got back to our friends on the ice more than an hour later, we quickly learned that Latisha (with some help from Jasmine) had pulled up a 17″ landlocked salmon. The sunlight gleamed off its silver body but seemed to sink into the dark black back of the fish. Distinctive grey/black dots riddled the midsection of the fish in typical salmon fashion. Although I was not there, I would later hear several stories of the dramatic capturing of the fish.

We soon left Porter and discussed a returning trip for the near future in order to go after the brookies I had got into the first time, as well as the sampling of larger salmon we discovered today.

The six of us had a wonderful time (despite being forced to spend $120/lb for our fish!) and plus, Latisha got to catch her first fish through the ice! That salmon, along with Gump’s trout, would soon find themselves in the fry-a-later at home, cooked to perfection! Happy Fishin’ out there!

Latisha with a salmon caught while the author was attempting to track down his vehicle.

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