I’d have thought that ice fishing was out of the question this weekend. It’s always out of the question for me, since combining fishing and standing on the ice seems like blending uncomfortable with uninteresting, with each reinforcing the other. But since the temps edged up again on Friday, and peaked at about 50 F on Saturday, I’d have thought putting a lot of weight on frozen lake would have been impossible.
But no. Lake ice must not melt that fast. There at Shabbona Lake State Park, in DeKalb County, Illinois, about a dozen ice fishermen were out on the surface of the lake, doing whatever it is they do to coax fish from under the ice. It was the first time I’d actually seen anyone ice fishing.
I didn’t walk onto the ice myself, but I did tool around the edge of the lake, along squishy, muddy trails and the top of an earthen dam that holds in one side of the lake, which is as square a lake as I’ve seen—but then again, it’s a manmade lake, designed for fishing, so that’s not too peculiar. A lot of the grass was still lying down, bend over from the snow, most of which had melted. Not far from the lake were signs along the road and some of the footpaths warning hikers to stay away during hunting season—ending January 13 in this case—since the area was reserved for bow hunting deer. At certain places I saw what I took to be deer spoor, but no evidence of the passage of Ted Nugent.
We’d come this way as a sort of dry run for our vacation, which will involve drives of an hour-and-a-half or two at a go. Also, I was itching for some kind of drive: winter circumscribes you that way. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the vicinity of Shabbona, though about 10 miles away we stopped at a main street restaurant in Hinckley, Illinois, just across the line in DeKalb County. It’s still a small town attuned to the ag economy, but the furthest Chicago suburbs are inching toward it like a sailor toward a bar girl, if the patches of farmland for sale are any indication.
I avoided fast food, and yet fed my family for under $20 (just over, with tip). That’s my kind of eatery. Lilly ordered from the menu like a grown up, or rather like a child that can read most of the menu, talking directly to the waitress to ask for a chicken sandwich and a bowl of soup, with chocolate milk. A first for her.