Promise of recreation outweighs concerns about conditions
SUMMERSIDE â Smelt fishing season is in full swing, with fishers hoping for a bit of cool weather to maximize their opportunities.
© Michael Nesbitt / Journal Pioneer
Changeable weather hasn't dampened enthusiasm of smelt fishers. Neil Payne, left, was helping friends Kevin MacDonald and Sean Deighan prepare a fishing shelter on the weekend, watched by Luke Payne, background.
A weekend visit to the shoreline, east of the Waterfront Campus of Holland College, caught Sean Deighan enlisting the help of friends to unload and install a smelt shack.
With the mild weather, a lot of the shoreline snow had disappeared. They were expecting to have to expend some effort to get the approximately 8x10 foot square shed over the softened ground and across the shoreline protecting rocks.
Deighan pulled a 4x4-foot wooden sled, on two wooden runners, supporting the front of the building, while the manpower of Mike Cameron and Kevin McDonald lifted and pushed from the rear. In short order they maneuvered the sled and building over the edge and onto the ice, heading for a spot beside a friendâs hut.
âI figure 2-3 weeks ago (the ice) would have been deeper,â Deighan assessed.
Some of the surface ice was soft, but there turned out to be about 18 inches above the three-foot depth of water below. A chain saw, which Deighan had purchased for $40 for the purpose, sliced neatly into the ice in no time at all.
They manhandled the ice chunks out of the hole, which ran the length of the hut, with minimal soaking of boots and gloves.
In short order, they had the hut replaced over the new fishing hole, raised it on blocks to prevent it from being frozen to the surface, aligned the cut ice around the outside perimeter and packed snow to keep wind out.
Kevin Getson, owner of the nearby hut who has more than twenty years of ice-fishing experience, also noted that they would be tying down the hut to keep it from displacing in high winds.
âIâve seen it before: buddy chasing his shack down the ice,â he laughed, which prompted tales of specific incidents from the others.
It is the story telling that seems at the heart of the enjoyment of the popular pastime. At each stage of the installation there would be one or two more, from conditions of huts and weather to fishers falling into fishing holes or having items do so, including false teeth!
It's a spot to get away. When you're fishing, you're not thinking of anything else. Kevin Getson
And the more, the merrier, it seemed, both while fishing and while setting up.
âThis is the first time I got it done all in one day,â Deighan remarked. Usually it takes him a day to transport and locate, another to finalize the installation, another to secure, etc., though he didnât divulge whether that was by design or necessity.
âItâs a spot to get away. When youâre fishing, youâre not thinking of anything else,â Getson explained.
It doesnât always work, however. Getson had planned to invite some friends over from Nova Scotia this weekend, but postponed the visit because the water was clouded.
The pastime is popular all around the Island, according to Getson. There were a little over a dozen shacks around their installation, and another ten or so about a half kilometer away. A few more were visible near Schurmanâs Point across the bay.
Access, however, is diminishing near Summerside.
Don Gallant, who hasnât yet put his shack up, would like to see the city put a ramp in to facilitate easier access to the ice. Some fishers have torn up grassed areas along the shores when delivering their huts, and adjacent owners have since restricted access.
On this day, however, the fishers prevailed, hoping their siting would prove effective.
âItâs kind of hit-and-miss for location,â admitted Cameron, pointing out spots where discarded Christmas trees marked unsuccessful tries.
High tech might come to the rescue of the low tech activity, however, as Cameron considered recording the GPS location if it proves to be productive.