“Flat Stanley, do you want to go ice fishing on Lake Superior?”

Last week I opened the mailbox to discover a long white envelope with a return address from Connecticut.

It was from an Internet friend, Susan, whose fourth grade students are learning about watersheds and how they can positively impact our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds or oceans. The 88 students are studying the Mill River in Stamford, Connecticut, but are also interested in learning about other watersheds.

That’s where Flat Stanley comes in. How many of you know about Flat Stanley?

Flat Stanley is a laminated cardboard cut-out (sorry, Stanley, I hope that didn’t hurt your feelings) who popped out of my long white envelope and asked to learn about Lake Superior. He is based on a book called Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. Unfortunately, the tale goes, he was accidentally squished “as flat as a pancake” when a bulletin board fell on him. He is very, very flat but otherwise very fine.

(The better to stuff in white envelopes, methinks.)

Barry and Derrick prepare to pull the ice fishing tent out on the Keweenaw Bay

Barry and Derrick prepare to pull the ice fishing tent out on the Keweenaw Bay

Susan’s students have sent Flat Stanley’s to visit watersheds all over America and the WORLD! If you are selected to be Flat Stanley’s “host family” you take him to visit one of your watersheds and tell about the exciting things he saw or did with you while he visited.

You take a picture of Flat Stanley by that body of water and write something about the watershed. Then you send it beck to the students. He will be part of a huge learning display at the school’s science expo in May.

How cool is that?

We're going to walk over a half mile over thick ice until we reach about 250 feet deep

We’re going to walk over a half mile over thick ice until we reach about 250 feet deep

Teachers, students and host families have been experiencing Flat Stanley fun at many, many schools all over the country. Susan thought of me immediately when a) she read about my friends’ tomfoolery when they created a Flat Kathy and b) she saw photos of Barry ice fishing on Lake Superior on Facebook. She put two and two together and mailed Mr. Stanley in the envelope.

Nancy prepares to pull her sled out on the ice

Nancy prepares to pull her sled out on the ice

As you can see by the photos, Kathy had to overcome all objections to ice fishing and take a trip out on the ice, thanks to Ms. Susan. She couldn’t leave this task to Barry and his fishing buddies. She suspected she must accompany them on a trip and make sure Flat Stanley returned home safely. (Plus, she thought, wouldn’t this make a good blog?)

The boys begin the trek out to deep water

By some strange coincidence, Barry and his fishing buddy, Nancy, were planning a trip ice fishing on Sunday with an 11-year-old boy. It would be his first time ice fishing. His name is Derrick and he’s in 5th grade, so didn’t it seem logical that Flat Stanley absolutely MUST accompany them?

Derrick would know about Flat Stanley, wouldn’t he?

It can be heavy pulling the sleds through thick slushy snow. Fortunately, there are many snowmobile paths.

“Do you know about Flat Stanley?” I asked Derrick. He gave a great big grin and nodded enthusiastically.

Nancy augers a hole while Derrick and Flat Stanley look on

Off we walked onto the ice. Flat Stanley was still squashed between two boards, so he didn’t get to see the beginning of our walk. We didn’t take him out until we started to drill holes in the ice.

Derrick and Flat Stanley by Barry's tent

Derrick and Flat Stanley by Barry’s tent

Here are some ice facts. The ice is now 13 inches thick. Ice fishermen first start feeling safe on the ice when it’s about three inches thick.

When it’s 13 inches deep, there are snowmobiles and four wheelers and–sometimes–pickup trucks roaring around on the ice. It’s helpful to have a machine pull your tent and supplies out to the middle of the bay.

Otherwise, when the snow is heavy and wet and slushy and thick one can get quite a work-out! My heart started pounding quite wildly after assisting Nancy in pulling her tent. Both she and Barry seem quite used to the strenuous activity.

I am so proud of Barry for being able to pull his sled and walk through such difficult conditions with his two knee replacements. A year ago he could hardly walk at all.

Barry instructs Flat Stanley all about ice augers and fishing holes

Barry instructs Flat Stanley all about ice augers and fishing holes

As all ice fishermen know, one must drill a hole through the ice with an instrument called an ice auger. There are hand and power augers. We use razor-sharp hand augers.

It can be another workout to drill through the snow and thick ice. We showed Flat Stanley and Derrick how to make a hole in the ice.

Flat Stanley drills a hole with the ice auger

Flat Stanley drills a hole with the ice auger

They caught on very quickly.

Derrick learns how to drill a hole into the ice

Derrick learns how to drill a hole into the ice

After the holes are drilled, one must set up the tents over the holes. Barry and Nancy have two very different kinds of tents. Barry’s is a tepee tent made by a local fisherman. Nancy’s is a plastic get-up that unpacks into a full portable shanty. Each tent has its advantages and disadvantages. I could probably tell you, but could not guarantee any accuracy, so ask them next time you see them.

Or perhaps Derrick or Flat Stanley will be able to better explain these intricacies.

Nancy sets up her tent

Nancy sets up her tent

Once the tents are erected, you climb inside, sit in your chair, and zip up the enclosure. You start the heater. Nancy takes out a bag of pretzels.

You are handed an ice fishing “bobbing stick” complete with a jig and sucker bait and instructed to send the wire down the hole. You unwrap the wire from the stick, carefully counting 125 wraps. You do not think about pretzels. You do not converse. You count. Carefully. Each wrap equals two feet. You are aiming for the bottom where the lake trout glide.

It's always good to see whether the neighbors are catching any fish

It’s always good to see whether the neighbors are catching any fish

One must learn what the “bottom” feels like. Once you’ve hit bottom, you pull your wire up about 3-6 inches. Then you jig your stick. That means you very slowly move your stick up and down several inches.

You do this all day.

The tents are set up over the ice holes.  Heaters are turned on.  Here's what it looks like inside Nancy's tent.

The tents are set up over the ice holes. Heaters are turned on. Here’s what it looks like inside Nancy’s tent.

If you are lucky, a red-finned lake trout will see your bait dangling before his hungry lips.

It will bite.

You will feel the bite from 250 feet down with your jigging fingers and you will abruptly pull to “set the hook”.

Then you will begin to pull the fish upwards from the depths, spreading the wire between your open legs, making sure that the wire falls in big loops. It must not get tangled.

Repeat. It must not get tangled. The fishing wire costs about $25 and you want it to last season-after-season. You do not want the wire to kink and become impossibly tangled.

Flat Stanley checks the bobber to see if it's moving.  If so, a fish might be biting!

Flat Stanley checks the bobber to see if it’s moving. If so, a fish might be biting!

Flat Stanley was utterly mesmerized by the fishing teachings.

So was Derrick.

Kathy’s heard it before, but she always forgets in between fishing trips, so she listens again.

She is also very fearful she will get 73.2% of this wrong because she hasn’t memorized technical details. She will make her husband read this when he gets home from work. He will correct all her mistakes. You may want to come back and read the corrected version later. 🙂

Flat Stanley holds the fishing stick.  He jigs it up and down, trying to lure a lake trout.

Flat Stanley holds the fishing stick. He jigs it up and down, trying to lure a lake trout.

Some days the fish bite like crazy! You can get your limit of five lake trout easily and walk back home with buoyed step and light heart and happy anticipating stomach.

On other days…well, on other days the fish refuse to nibble. They’re picky. They casually mouth the bait and spit it out.

Lake trout go on feeding binges. They will eat anything in sight on certain days. Local fishermen joke that they’ve caught trout with a hotdog during a feeding frenzy.

On their more restful days, well, one shouldn’t be out on the ice.

The trouble is, you never know when they’re feeding or when they’re resting. They don’t advertise.

Nancy tries to get funny and puts Flat Stanley in the hole.  Kathy is quite indignant!  Some people don't take Flat Stanley seriously enough, but I have faith he can catch a fish.

Nancy tries to get funny and puts Flat Stanley in the hole. Kathy is quite indignant! Some people don’t take Flat Stanley seriously enough, but I have faith he can catch a fish.

One thing fisherfolk do while jigging for hours and hours is…you know, don’t you?…eat and drink. Yesterday, Nancy brought hotdogs and we brought vegetarian chili. Oh, yes, and the aforementioned pretzels which the boys in the other tent did not get to sample.

Can you imagine? The boys in the other tent were making a competition out of it! They were making it “boys against girls”. The boys wanted to beat the girls by catching more fish!

(Except, what they forgot, is that Flat Stanley is a boy and he was in our tent!)

Sometimes you can wait a long, long time to catch a fish.  Fishermen have to be very, very patient.

Sometimes you can wait a long, long time to catch a fish. Fishermen have to be very, very patient.

Girls must be especially careful not to drink too much when ice fishing in the middle of the bay. Boys have the ability to discretely “use the rest room” without drawing much attention to themselves. We girls must sip sparingly and make it home five hours later unless we want to “use an ice cream bucket”.

We girls chose to wait.

Do you think you have a bite, Flat Stanley? Let's pull up 250 feet of wire!

Do you think you have a bite, Flat Stanley? Let’s pull up 250 feet of wire!

You are waiting for the grand finale, aren’t you? The question of the day! Did we catch fish? Did Derrick and Flat Stanley catch a fish?

And the answer is– YES! The boy’s tent caught a fish and the girl’s tent caught a fish. Derrick pulled up a lake trout from way down in the lake. Flat Stanley (sorry, Nancy, you’re willing to give this to Flat Stanley, aren’t you?) caught one in our tent!

Good job, Derrick and Flat Stanley!  You caught a keeper.  What a wonderful lake trout!

Good job, Derrick and Flat Stanley! You caught a keeper. What a wonderful lake trout!

It was a wonderful fishing trip. We all laughed a lot. Derrick went home with two fish for dinner. And Flat Stanley is already wondering what he will share with the class back in Connecticut who is eagerly waiting for him to come home and tell about his watershed adventure.

P.S.  John Kuttenberg provided this link so we can view where the ice is in Lake Superior: http://1.usa.gov/ZuuxTe

Thank you, John!

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in March 2013 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to “Flat Stanley, do you want to go ice fishing on Lake Superior?”

  1. Fountainpen says:

    Great story and pictures

  2. Stacy says:

    That is one lucky paper doll.. One day I think I’ll mail myself to you. I’ve never been ice-fishing, but it looks super fun! ❤

  3. victoria says:

    NOW i get it ! thanks for showing me how to ice fish, flat stanley 😉

  4. Barb says:

    What an informative and cute blog!

  5. Elisa says:

    every time you show or speak of that coiling, i see it all and it looks tangled to meeeeeee
    tangling it would be an imperfection that I could not abide, so not touching that lol

  6. CMSmith says:

    Very fun and interesting. I’ve always thought ice-fishing would be a cool experience if I could brave the cold.

    Good to see how well Barry is doing with his new knees.

  7. Lori D says:

    I’ll never complain when my husband asks me to go golfing with him again. Thank God there is no ice in Florida. Giggle. Thanks for sharing your day with flat Stanley.

  8. bonnie says:

    Thrilled for Flat Stanley, that he had such a marvellous adventure. Thrilled for Barry, that his knees are so much better. Thrilled for you, Kathy, that you went on the fishing trip, and finally, after all that, that 2 fish were caught. 🙂

  9. Goodness, Gracious, Sakes Alive! It’s clear that Flat Stanley’s had the adventure of a lifetime. How can future adventures possibly compare to The Ice Fishing Caper?!

  10. Reggie says:

    Love love love this story, Kathy! So thrilled! Flat Stanley is such a good sport! Well done on catching some fish, all of you!

  11. Susan D says:

    This is just too much fun! What an exciting adventure, especially for Derrick and Flat Stanley. Of course, I guffawed at more than a couple of the photos. They’re delightful! I’m so glad you all ventured out and that you shared this terrific experience and the pictures with us. Everyone looks as if he/she heartily enjoyed the day!

  12. I loved your story and chuckled at the thought of everyone including Flat Stanley in the action! I’m not inspired to go ice fishing myself, but that lake trout sure did look fresh for the eating!

  13. john says:

    Thought you might want to add these to your info (or maybe you already did??) This is a satellite picture of the Lake where you can see the frozen bay. http://1.usa.gov/ZuuxTe With my GIS software the contiguous sheet of ice is app. 134 square miles based on this picture from 3/8. The three of you are very cool for making sure the next generation learns the fun of ice fishing!

  14. lisaspiral says:

    I’m so glad your ice is still thick enough to take Flat Stanley fishing! Congratulations, Stanley, on your great catch!

  15. Brenda Hardie says:

    Great fun for all involved!! I’m sure Flat Stanley will totally enthrall the children back in Ms. Susan’s class with his ice fishing story!
    It’s so wonderful to hear that Barry is doing so well after the knee replacements! He can get back to enjoying life!
    Seeing the pictures sure brought back memories for me. I have a few pictures (stashed in a box somewhere) of my Mom and Dad’s ice fishing days but yours did the trick for reviving memories.
    Flat Stanley and Derrick could be pen pals now…sharing adventure stories back and forth 🙂 I wonder if Derrick enjoyed his trout supper….

  16. What a great use of Flat Stanley! — my parents just sent Flat Stanley back to my nephew after he accompanied them on their travels. Very fun way for kids to learn a variety of subjects. (Can you believe I have never gone ice fishing yet after living “up north” for over 20 years!?)

  17. Fun story even though I would be terrified to go out on the ice. I would not even consider going fishing on any body of water. Stanley and Derrick and all the rest are very brave. I hope the students in CT appreciate the endurance test poor Stanley had to endure to catch that fish.
    In all seriousness, it appears a fun day was had by all!

  18. lucindalines says:

    This was a wonderful story. Paulina even liked it. She was in on one of those projects long ago. I may have to write about that this week.

  19. That Flat Stanley REALLY knows how to PARTY!!!!!

  20. Sartenada says:

    Great post and very nice photos. To me it was interesting to see ice fishing, because we live since three months beside the lake. We do not fish, but walk on ice many hours. Some ski, some skate and some bike also.

  21. Dana says:

    Cool! I’ve never been ice fishing before. Flat Stanley gets all the adventures, doesn’t he? 🙂

  22. susanblake says:

    Hi Kathy,
    OMG those pictures made me COLD. I think I’d rather go to the store and buy the fish! I’m thinking next March will find me leaving the northwoods for Florida or someplace. From my lips to God’s ears!
    Hugs
    SuZen

  23. Heather says:

    You were a great host to Flat Stanley! I see he has more patience with fishing that I do. I’m afraid I require more movement to keep me entertained/warm, but ice fishing sure looks fun…for someone else 😉

  24. sybil says:

    I was really expecting to see a comment here from your name sake, “Flat Kathy”, who is currently exploring South Africa. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if F.K. and Flat Stanley met ?

  25. Sheryl says:

    I agree with Heather that you were a great host for Flat Stanley. I’ve gone ice fishing a couple times. It was fun, but I never caught any fish. 🙂

  26. penpusherpen says:

    What a fantastic adventure… and education, via Flat Stanley and friends… Great blog Kathy… and seeing all that ice, made me feel warm here in Middle England, where we’re complaining about a bit of late snow in mid March… sheesh!!,, we don’t know we’re born sometimes…. xPenx

  27. Chris Roddy says:

    What a fantastic story. I’m very familiar with, Flat Stanley’s. They are such a great learning tool. I’m so glad that Derrick and Flat Stanley caught some fish. Thanks so much for the ice fishing lesson, how interesting!!

  28. Brrr… Trout must taste very good after all the effort that goes into catching them! I bet the thought of being able to go ice-fishing again spurred Barry on in his recovery from the knee replacements. Happy to hear he is doing so well!

Although I don't reply to every comment on every blog, I do read all comments with mesmerized interest and try to return the favor by visiting YOUR blog or at least sending you heartfelt well wishes.

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