Ice fishing for fun, friendship

Group gathers at bay for 25 years

By RYAN OLSON
The Daily Mining Gazette
Feb. 24, 2004; pp 1A

CHASSELL — An eagle-eyed Karen Drahos spots when a red flag pops up from the white ice, and her group of friends rushes to the hole cut into Chassell Bay. Drahos eagerly pulls up the line, but there’s nothing at the end.

The fishing holes are scattered around a few yards away from a simple gray shack, which is the longtime fishing home of the three old friends.

After coming up empty, Drahos puts more bait on the end of the line and puts it back in the water. The bait of choice are suckers and smelt.

On a bright Sunday morning, Joel and Karen Drahos, of Webster, Wis., joined Tom and Rhonda Dykowski, of Gladstone, and Phil Huber, of Houghton, on the ice. Huber’s wife, Kathy, fished with the group Saturday.

“We’ve fished out here since we were sophomores,” Joel Drahos said.

Phil Huber, of Houghton, said they started fishing and hunting together about 25 years ago when they were students at Michigan Tech University.

“It’s a more social thing,” Huber said. “Part of it is the fishing.”

As years passed, the men were joined by their girlfriends and later wives. Joel Drahos proposed to Karen last winter on the ice.

There’s no wind or snow Sunday morning so the group spends a lot of time outside waiting and playing in the snow, tossing around a football. After awhile, the four retreat to the shack for a round of euchre, while Karen Drahos waits to see if her luck will change.

“I do it because of the camaraderie of getting together with friends,” Drahos said.

After a morning of waiting and false alarms, a flag finally pops up. The card game is abandoned as Karen pulls a 5.3-pound northern pike out after a brief, tumultuous battle. The fish, with a slightly depressed head, measures 29 inches.

The spot is a distant corner of Chassell Bay. Huber said they use a global positioning system to mark the spot.

"We never catch anything out here so no one else wants to come out," Huber jokes.

Each angler is allowed two lines which are scattered around the small shack in various places.

The holes cut through about 18 inches of ice and snow to the water beneath. Huber said there's about 12 feet of water underneath the shack.

Although Tim Dykowski has tried to get the group out on the ice earlier in the morning. Joel Drahos says the fish seem to bite the most from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Their experience Sunday seems to prove Joel's theory -- Karen Drahos' fish was caught shortly before noon. Just minutes later, a 7.4 pound pike is pulled from the same hole.

The fish give little struggle as they're pulled out of the water.

"They're pretty lethargic in the winter," Huber said.

Although they've kept fish before for both eating and mounting, the two fish caught around lunchtime were released back into the water.

After an afternoon of fishing, the group planned to take the shack down for the season.