A Cold Sweat
How do you know whether a patch of ice on a pond is thick enough to walk across? If you’re Andy Nabreski, first you tie a giant rope around your body. “I’m a big guy, so I’ll be the anchorman,” says Nabreski, a Falmouth resident, design manager at On The Water Magazine, and a lifelong fisherman. Next, you tether the other end to the skinniest friend you can find, give him a power auger, and have him chisel a hole into the frozen edge of the pond. Then he goes out a little further. Four inches of solid ice and it’s okay to drag out a sled full of gear, set up camp, and start ice fishing in the stillness of dawn.
Cape Cod has tremendous diversity in its fishing, but it’s a special time of year when the temperature drops and freshwater ponds become spider webs of ice. Once the Cape hits the doldrums of winter, its fish typically haven’t seen a lure in a long time, which is good news for fishermen. “Across the board, whether it’s trout, salmon, bass, pickerel, perch—you see a lot of the biggest fish of the year come through the ice,” Nabreski says.
In a good year, ice-fishing season can stretch through the end of March. When it does come, it requires an arsenal of specialized gear. After boring through the ice, each fishermen drops up to five tip-ups, devices that are more fishing traps than fishing rods, which trigger flags at the surface to alert anglers to the biting fish on the other end of the line. If things get slow, a fisherman might remove one of the tip-ups and drop in a jigging rod.
Ice fishing isn’t exactly a draw for tourists, but there are more than enough spots on Cod Cod to keep local fishermen sated through springtime. “There’s got to be 500 places on the Cape where you could feasibly ice fish,” he says. Nabreski’s favorite? He won’t name names, but he says smaller bodies of water reputed as good summer fishing spots are usually good bets.
Nabreski loves introducing people to ice fishing, either with the children’s clinics he presents through the Falmouth Rod and Gun Club or just taking friends out for their first excursion. Hauling up the line is only part of the allure of ice fishing: It’s also a social gathering, Nabreski says, one in which fishermen share grills, beers, and stories with folks they might only see on one brisk winter weekend each year. “It’s almost like tailgating at a Patriots game. It’s getting together with your buddies, away from your wives, having some fun, telling some jokes—and the fishing’s usually pretty good, too.”
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