Things along the Upper River slow down in the winter, but never come to a standstill. With the first hard freeze of the backwater lakes and sloughs, as the window-pane ice thickens into plate glass just strong enough to bear a man's weight, some rivermen go turtle-hunting. Easing over this thin ice and winter-clear water that is only a couple of feet deep, the hunters watch for snapping turtles that haven't completely buried themselves in the mud. A heavy iron rod sharpened at one end with the other bent into a hook is driven through the ice, turtle, and all. The turtles are at their yearly prime, heavy with winter fat, and will bring top dollar at the fish markets. As the ice thickens on deeper bays and backwaters, there are panfish and pike to be hand-lined through holes cut with auger or ice spud. This can produce quantities of the sweetest panfish fillets of the year.
Up on the River by John Madson