THE STORY YOU are about to read is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me . . . Ooh! Pow! Bam! That was close. Never saw lightning strike like that so near and out of a clear blue sky on a cold December morning. 

OK, so maybe it’s not the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but then, that’s the beauty of being a fisherman. The whole truth is seldom an issue with any fishing story.

This story began last weekend, with a visit from a friend Saturday afternoon. The friend knows a bluegill hot spot, a little lake where a fisherman could wear out his elbow pulling up big bluegills 9 inches and more.

“The trick is that you have to be there just at the right time, figure an hour before dusk. Anytime sooner is a waste of time and by sunset, they quit biting,” said my female friend. Ever the follower of a wild goose, I told her I would be ready at 2:30 p.m., as directed.

That was the good part. The bad part was trying to find any of my ice fishing gear, which I must dolefully admit hasn’t been touched in five years. Yes, I know it’s shameful, but I have not put a line through the ice in all that time, a crime for which some of my ice fishing fanatic friends would have me drawn and quartered.

Checking the wall rack in my garage I found a little jig rod hanging there that I didn’t even recognize as belonging to me. Apparently, I bought it before my last ice outing for panfish and though it had obviously been hanging there right in front of my nose all this time, I never noticed it.

I checked the line, which looked to me to be about 6-pound test and was a little more curlicue than a good fisherman would tolerate. I gave it a jerk or two and decided a 9-inch bluegill probably wouldn’t break it. There was a battered orange-headed jig attached to it, which I also deemed appropriate for the purpose. A couple of jerks on it convinced me a 5-year-old knot also was good to go.

Next, I found my skimmer on a shelf, covered up by garden trowels and empty bottles of liquid fertilizer that I must have decided had some afterlife value for me to save them for who knows how many years.

A folding camping chair was added to the arsenal, as was my hand auger which, as I recalled, was semi-sharp the last time I used it. I couldn’t find my trout creel, so a couple of plastic grocery bags were drafted to hold an expected bonanza catch of bluegills.

A short trip to my friend’s house took but a few minutes, as did the loading of her gear in my truck. I figured she might want to blindfold me before taking me to her secret spot, but she allowed as how I was driving that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. She did add, however, that I might keep in mind that she was an expert shot with her .357 and that she wouldn’t hesitate to use it on a blabbermouth fisherman.

Anyway, we headed out, she with complete confidence, me with a few doubts, but nonetheless filled with visions of sugarplums dancing and bluegills flopping. We drove north first up Boulder Junction way, but then we turned west, then east, then back south and doggone it all, I can’t really remember just where we did wind up.

I do know that we parked on a hill above a secluded little lake which by the lack of other tire tracks told me no one else had been fishing this secret hot spot. That worried me a little, because in past experience I have found that secret hot spots aren’t always quite as secret as one would think.

“Don’t fret, I guarantee you will catch a bunch of big bluegills; despite your crude equipment, your feeble grasp of bluegill fishing technique and your biggest shortcoming, your failure to bring along a jug of your rotgut hooch to ward off chilblains, hangnails and the like,” she advised me.

With the sun beginning to settle behind the tops of tall balsam fir lining the shore, we cut a half-dozen holes and settled into fishing. She chose a hole cut where the water depth was about 10 feet, while encouraging me to take one in 15 feet. “They usually start first out deep and I want you as the guest to get the first action,” she intoned.

Sure she did. She had the first bluegill on the ice 10 minutes after we started. She had a half-dozen next to her hole 10 minutes later and 10 minutes later, she had another half-dozen. I had zero.

Watching me fish for a moment, she noted “You ain’t holdin’ your rod just right. Your jig is too big. Put a little plain hook on. Don’t use a bobber. Raise the line slowly a little ’til you find what depth they’re at. Look like a fisherman, anyway.” Then, she added for good measure “I think the bluegills just don’t like you. Maybe you should have taken a shower sometime this week.”

Hah! I may be a little slow on the uptake, but it didn’t take me much time after that to figure out I needed to be in shallower water like she was fishing. My semi-sharp auger cut a hole about 10 feet from hers and wouldn’t you know, all of a sudden I was catching bluegills.

The pile of bluegills around my hole was considerably smaller than hers, but as dark began to settle in, I had 14 dandy ’gills to take home, enough for two good meals for me and my lovely wife. 

It had been a good start to what will be a new beginning of ice fishing for me. A member of the old retirees club now, I plan on several more meals of bluegills, northern pike, perch and walleyes before this winter is over.

All I need is for my friend to show me a few more of her secret spots.