Last month, I was asked by J.R., one of the leaders of a local veteran's group called Casting Vets, if I would be willing to help some members of their group with an on-ice trip. I jumped at the chance and said yes immediately!
What an honor it would be to help these guys out who sacrificed so much to keep our country safe! If there was even a small way to give back to them, to show how much their service was appreciated, this was a way.
So, we planned for up to six members to join me, our local fishing plastics maker Anthony (who is also a veteran), and a couple of helpers with the trip. Stockade was chosen because of its proximity to the group's location in Hot Springs. Last Saturday, Anthony and I scouted the lake for spots. While finding fish wasn't a problem, getting them to bite was another matter.
The panfish were extremely finicky, most likely due to a pressure system that was coming through the area, causing high winds and a rising barometer. With the hard bite conditions and knowing that most of the members hadn't ice fished before or didn't have much experience, I came up with a backup plan to head to Legion Lake three miles east of Stockade for some trout action should the pannies not cooperate.
On Sunday, with holes drilled and rods rigged up with Clam Pro Tackle jigs and plastics provided by Anthony, the guys showed up and were ready to go. I gave them all quick lessons on ready their Vexilar screens and the fish showed up again, providing quick lessons to the guys, though they weren't in much of a biting mood.
Some of them caught several bluegills and crappie, but after a few hours, I had the group move to Legion, where a decent trout bite gave everyone a chance to catch some fish through the ice. They all seemed to have a good time and good camaraderie on the ice, and it was fun to listen to their stories and hear the chatter and see the smiles when they brought in a fish. After we were done, we all chatted about the experience and are planning another trip sometime later this winter and I, for one, am looking forward to it!
Our veterans and current service men and women have done so much for us to help keep our country safe and allow us to lead the lives we do and enjoy the activities that we love. This trip was just a small way for me to say thank you to them though nothing can truly repay them for their service.
Be sure to thank veterans for their sacrifices they made for us and get involved with groups in your area. These groups are around to help veterans stay active in their communities, to provide places to discuss any problems or issues they may be having, or keep them safe as their war experiences may have left them with physical disabilities or mental traumas that most of us will not understand who weren't there with them. Give back to them and show them your appreciation, even if it's something small. You might provide them with a new experience and a great new memory!