In Mid-coast Maine, there's no surer sign that winter has settled in than the arrival of ice-fishing shacks. They may look a little catty-wumpus, made of whatever materials were most convenient at the time -- no architect would admire them. But for many, they are a winter home, and an entire temporary community springs up from them. The main quarry under the ice is smelt, a small anadromous fish that runs up the creeks in spring. Fried up, these are high cuisine during a Maine winter.
In the past week we've had two big rain storms. The first, on Saturday, seemed like it might flood the camp off River Rd in Brunswick, but turned out to be no big deal. I ran down by the shacks on Sunday (wishing I had my camera; the light was terrific). The ice was firm; people were out fishing; and an ice skater was out in the warm sun. But yesterday's storm was too much. As we drove over the green bridge from Topsham to Brunswick yesterday morning, my husband peered through the downpour at the shacks, and said "I'm glad I don't have a shack out there. Won't be many left tomorrow." The water was absolutely tearing over the dam and down the river. It didn't seem like there could be any survivors.
And yet. When I went down this morning before work, there were huge chunks of ice around the shacks, but none looked worse for wear. Some of the fishermen anticipated the storm and pulled their shacks up to shore; belted around the waist and moored to trees. It's going to be a warm week, but you can count on temperatures dropping again, as we have many weeks of winter ahead of us. They'll wait for cold, pull them back out, and get fishing again, cheering as the thermometer plummets. For the rest of us, we'll watch to see when they pull them off the ice for good -- knowing that we can count on spring arriving only once that happens.
Before the storm, a regular little town. Tidy as any gated community:
After the storm. No, the porta-potty doesn't go on the ice, and no fish are pulled up through the hole in it!