Welcome back everybody! I hope you all had a happy New Year's Recovery.
I am now back in Jyväskylä and have found some time to recount an
adventure I had a few weeks ago.
Remember when I mentioned filleted fish two posts ago? Well, when I was
visiting Kaisa's parents in Timola, I learned exactly how said fish
were acquired. But first, a prelude.
Last Christmas, I received a Finnish Survival Kit from Kaisa's family.
It consisted of a large can of beer, three small bottles of liquor, a
hunting knife, an ice-fishing rod and a pair of what I dubbed "miserable
ice-fisherman's gloves". I called them that because they brought to mind
an image of a cold-looking person perched in a camp chair staring
sleepily at a hole in the ice with those gloves on their hands. They
looked a little like this:
Don't mind the floral print. That was the best picture I could find on
short notice. I assure that mine were much manlier, if less stylish.
I was able to learn just how miserable said ice-fisherman would be
under normal circumstances. I joined Kaisa, her father and her neighbor
(and her neighbor's dog Iita) as they went to retrieve whatever their
nets had caught in the past several days under the ice. Now, I'd like to
ask you to keep in mind that what I'm about to describe could be
accurately called the easier method of ice-fishing. The "hard" method
involves setting up a camp chair and perching over a hole in the ice for
hours and dangling a lure into the water. Nevertheless, this method
required a small car trunk full of gear to retrieve fish from a pair of
nets. The list of gear included, but was not limited to: a heavy iron
spear-like device to jab holes in the ice, a small tin can on legs and
enough firewood to keep it burning for about twenty minutes, lighter
fluid to light said fire, a big garbage bag to carry the catch, a roll
of twine to pull the net back under the ice once the fish have been
removed from it, a variant on the piikki I mentioned in the other fish
post and a dog. The dog, while optional, is highly recommended because
dogs are awesome.
So once everything has been loaded and transported, you arrive at the
If you look closely, you can see a van parked on the ice in the background. Some people take their ice fishing seriously. That or they wanted easy access to a heater.
Three things comes to mind the first time you see a lake completely
frozen over, in roughly the following order: "Wow, will that really hold
my weight?", followed by "Wow, it is really flat out here!" followed
shortly by "Oh my god, that means no windbreak and now my fingers are
useless, icy sausages." It is cold. When we went out onto the ice, it
was -15c (5f) and the windchill made it feel like -100. I was just
wearing woolen mittens because they'd served me well so far, but those
weren't nearly enough for my poor Californian digits. Luckily, someone
had forseen this eventuality, and included in the kit of things was a
pair of thick mitten "shells" that go down to the wrist and slide over
other sets of gloves to windproof them. The downside is that they reduce
your capability to manipulate things to that of a particularly
nearsighted crab's. I struggled to adjust my zipper, or my hat, or just
abut anything really, but at least I could feel my fingers.
The holes in the ice are marked with highly visible orange poles, and
small evergreen branches. They're created in pairs, and the net is
strung under the ice from one hole to the other, and then hangs down
like a curtain, ensnaring any fish that swim into it. The procedure for
retrieving the fish is as follows:
First, find a hole. It's covered by a piece of thick styrofoam which
prevents the hole from completely refreezing. A pair of long branches
secure one end of the net. The branches are removed, and the net is
untied from the branch, but not allowed to slip into the water. At some
point, the heavy iron spear-thing is used to break through the ice.
Check for frostbite.
Second, move to the other hole. Place tin can on the ice, fill with
firewood and light. Then, repeat the process from the first hole. Then,
reel in the net, inch by cold, wet inch. If there are any fish, rejoice,
spoils are yours. Check for frostbite.
Note that in that picture above, Raimo's (Kaisa's neighbor) hands are
bare. He's reaching into the water to better handle the fish and the
net. I have no idea how they weren't literally frozen solid. I watched
some of drops of water on the net freeze before they had a chance to
fall. Finns are hardcore, man.
Third, run the net back under the ice, then cover up both holes. Throw
the fish into the garbage bag (or whatever you have, I suppose. We had a
garbage bag). Scatter the ashes from the can-fire and cool it with
freezing lakewater. Return home with a bounty of fresh fish ready for
cooking. Check again for frostbite, just to be sure.
The blind lead the blind as I teach Itta the finer points of fishing.
During the expedition I took part in, we caught three fish with two nets
and successfully avoided frostbite. We returned home and were rewarded
for braving the freezing wilds* by having fresh fish for lunch.
Pictured: serious frostbite.
We saw the above phenomenon on our way back to the car, and Kaisa
thought it'd make a pretty cool picture. I agreed, and now you can enjoy
the ain't-it-cool factor as well. Also, credit for all photos goes to
Kaisa. I was too scared to take my fingers out of my lobster-claws to
manipulate the camera.
*Not actually the wilds.