Parker Heinlein

Parker Heinlein

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When I was a kid my dad gave me an autographed copy of a book by Sasha Siemel. He was a professional hunter in Brazil, famous for killing more than 300 jaguars with a spear.

As I sat shivering in a fish house on Fort Peck Lake last weekend, staring down a hole in the ice waiting for a pike to appear, I tried to channel Siemel.

It didn’t work.

Eventually a pike did appear and I hurled the spear with undisciplined haste, missing my target by a wide margin. Had that fish been a jaguar I would have been lunch.

Instead, I simply suffered the feeling of ineptitude that seems to always follow an easy shot missed.

My friend Mike, sitting in the ice house with me, tried to cheer me up saying: “Oh, man, you just missed him.”

But we both knew better. I hadn’t even been close.

I have stuck a few things before. I used to be quite good at gigging frogs. However in that sport, the targets are stationary and the gigger is moving. This was more like hunting from a tree stand where you sit and wait for the target to come to you.

Or so I’m told. I’ve never had the patience to hunt from a stand.

This was more like the entertainment I’m used to: watching television.

The hole we cut in the ice was approximately the size of a big-screen TV. With the door and the windows closed, the only light coming into the shelter came up through the hole.

It was true fish TV, starting with an episode of “the Perch Diaries,” followed by an fleeting appearance of “Mr. Pike.”

Instead of commercials, we jigged a day-glo orange decoy during the lulls in action.

Out of the weather in the dark of the ice house I started to nod off before realizing I’d take a header into the hole if I did. The ice was nearly two feet thick and the thought of slipping beneath it brought me back to full attention.

Then Mike yelled “Pike!” and like a kid trying to shoot his first pheasant, I forgot everything I’d been told, and let loose with the six-pronged spear.

We sat until the light faded, but not another fish appeared. I’d blown my chance, and at least for now I wasn’t getting another.

I suppose that’s the advantage of spearing fish instead of jaguars. If you miss you do get another chance.

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Parker Heinlein is at pman@mtintouch.net