Monday, February 17, 2020

Cooney on ice

I’d forgotten how scary the sound of ice settling is, and how slippery a frozen lake is. That little ice shanty over there has to weigh more than me, right? It'd go down first? Phew... I grew up in Minnesota, but haven't fished "the hardwater" for probably 20 years. 

I recently took a road trip to Cooney Reservoir south of Columbus, Montana. Cooney is known as an excellent walleye fishery, and also has rainbow trout and good-sized yellow perch. What they don't tell you is that it's well within view of the Beartooth Front and is absolutely gorgeous. 


So I borrowed some gear, bought some worms and minnows, and scoured YouTube and online fishing reports. Excitement was high.  

But so was my alert level. My dogs wouldn't follow me onto the ice, and I made frequent trips to terra firma so I could breathe. I felt better upon hearing the hardwater continue to pop without me, and  before long, a couple of friendly retired actual ice fishermen showed up, giving me confidence that I wasn’t probably going to fall through. The ice, as measured through my hole, was indeed about 10 inches thick. 

Fishing was "slow." I read a book, admired the mountains and took in the moment. 

Later, a polite 82-year-old struck up a conversation about the fishing. His best morning on Cooney involved catching four 10-pound walleyes, and his biggest ever was about 13 pounds - a testament to Cooney's potential. But he hadn't had a single bite in the past two winters. (I moved on after the conversation devolved into why I wasn't afraid of eternity in hell...)

It seems no one is catching fish on Cooney this winter and no one knows why. I also didn't get a single bite, but I got a sense for Cooney Reservoir. And a reminder of the experience of ice fishing. 

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