Saturday, March 2, 2024

Inlet’s Frozen Fire & Lights, ice fishing with Grandson Jake

Kites flying before the big Outhouse race

Another “January” thaw is upon us, with temperatures in the forties and maybe up in the sixties before weeks’ end. It is pretty hard to have winter events without snow and ice. Luckily, it held up through this weekend, so Inlet’s Frozen Fire and Lights got through all the events without a hitch. The cardboard sled races at Fern Park were fast for those who kept their cardboard crafts headed straight down the icy hill. Some went across the finish line in a little over six seconds and into the crowd watching at the tail end of the race. Some flipped before crossing the finish line, but dragged their sleds across the line for time.

I captured all the starts [for the sled races], but the crowd was in the way for ending shots. There were some neat expressions on the faces of the racers as they zoomed down the hill. Some taped cardboard fell apart part way down [the] hill, leaving pieces [and] parts along the way and still finished the race. The temperature was about zero [degrees] at race time, but there were well over one hundred spectators enjoying the fun. I remember when I was a kid we had some hills not far from the house that we would pack down with snowshoes. [Then we’d] take a piece of tin roofing, fold up the front, and ride it down the hill like a toboggan. There was so little traffic on our road that we would ride down the hill between our house and Karen’s house on our metal runner sleds.

I went from the cardboard [sled] races to the Fourth Lake shoreline in front of The Woods Inn for the kite flying and outhouse races. The temperature (with the wind chill factor) was way below zero. The big kites were already flying when I arrived and the kids who made kites were just getting out on the ice. It didn’t take long, and the blue sky was full of their little white kites flying along with big kites from the American Kite Fliers Association.

The outhouse race course was set on the snowmobile trail coming on the ice from The Woods Inn. It was a little bumpy, but that didn’t slow down the five contestants in the race. They held three heats (three outhouses in one and two in the second) with the winners going for the gold cup in the third heat. The winners were the Batman Crew, easily taking both their heats and nearly some of the over two hundred spectators along the course. It was hard to stop them once they got going on the ice and went across the finish line. Some of the losers said they learned something…to wear spikes on their boots for traction. I got some good action shots during the races as the riders in the outhouses held on for dear life as to not go down the hole.

[Following the outhouse races,] there was a bonfire in Arrowhead Park with free hotdogs and hot drinks. You would want to eat these fast before the frigid wind took the temperature out of both offerings. The fireworks went off at 7 p.m. and the bonfire was still roaring with sparks flying over the big crowd as the light show began. The wind didn’t affect the fireworks, which were beautiful in the dark sky as the full moon rose in the east over the village of Inlet. There was lots of cheering in the crowd, as most were trying to keep warm and that may have helped. I finally got some good shots [of the] fireworks with both cameras and the batteries lasted in both…even in the cold temperatures.

man ice fishing

Grandson Jake losing the big one. Photo by Gary Lee.

My grandson, Jake Bills, came up on Tuesday, [Feb. 20] with a bucket of minnows to go ice fishing. We got out on Limekiln Lake about noon that day and it was beautiful, no wind and sunny. We had the tip-ups in the water in about half an hour, but not a flag went up…which is unusual there. We did catch three nice splake (12 to 14 inches) and had a couple other long runs, but the fish dropped the bait. We went back out on Wednesday morning and had the tip-ups in before 9 a.m., and never had a flag for over an hour.

The fishing for splake is better along the shoreline in less than ten feet of water, and that is where we caught most of them. A gusty wind was blowing that morning, which tripped a couple flags up. Checking the bait, Jake caught the first one that day that hadn’t even tripped the flag. Then we caught only one more nice one (about 14 inches) before we picked up at noon. We did have a couple flags that the fish ran out nearly all the line on the spool, which normally is a big one. Jake had one of them on and it got off within about ten feet of the hole. The big one got away again, but it was fun being out there with my grandson.

Someone down south said the birds were already heading north, might see a Red-Winged Blackbird any day now, but that’s another story. See ya.

Photo at top: Kites flying before the big outhouse race. Photo by Gary Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

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