GRAND FORKS, N.D. — It’s a well-known fact in my circle of fishing friends that I’m not the most meticulous guy in the bunch.
• I change fishing line about once every five years, even if it doesn’t need to be replaced. Trust me, it does. I learned the hard way when a big catfish snapped my line one day last June on the Red River in Grand Forks.
• Winterizing the boat means backing it into the shed and hoping for the best the next spring. The approach has served me fine to this point)
• “Summerizing” the snowmobiles means backing the trailer into the shed and hoping for the best the next winter. The approach has served me fine to this point.
You get the idea.
So it should come as no surprise that my portable fish house, which has a sled base with compartments to store my gear, spent the spring, summer and fall in my garage — exactly where I unceremoniously left it late last winter.
Best I can remember, the last time I used it was early March during our annual snowmobile-in ice fishing trip to Oak Island on Lake of the Woods.
Ice fishing enthusiasts in these parts began taking tentative steps on hard water a couple of weeks ago, so I decided last weekend I should probably take the cover off the portable house and start getting my winter gear in order.
The cover hadn’t been off since last March during the aforementioned snowmobile-in ice fishing trip to Oak Island on Lake of the Woods.
One of the compartments in the sled base is just large enough to hold a 5-gallon pail. In this pail, I store my Vexilar FL-18 flasher, a slick piece of fishing electronics I wouldn’t be without.
The pail also serves as a fish bucket when I’m on the ice, a place to store walleyes, saugers and perch until I clean them.
Fish being what they are — wet and slimy — the meticulous angler generally gives the pail a thorough rinsing at the end of the day.
That little bit of maintenance can prevent a lot of problems — and odors — down the road.
That little bit of preventive maintenance is exactly what I neglected to do last March when I unceremoniously dumped the portable in my garage upon our return from Oak Island. It was late at night, after all, and I was tired. Removing the pail and rinsing it would keep.
And keep it did — until last weekend.
All things considered, the gear inside the fish house came through the summer in pretty good shape.
The exception was my Vexilar FL-18, which spent the summer stored inside the 5-gallon pail that still was wet from the water and slime left by the day’s catch that early March afternoon near Oak Island on Lake of the Woods.
Nine months, that pail had festered — out of sight and out of smell — in the base of my portable fish house.
At least there were no fish in the bottom of the pail.
The Vexilar, though, was slightly worse for wear. Its blue, nylon carrying case was covered with mold. The plastic frame on which the flasher mounts was covered with mold.
The screen of the flasher even had mold.
I never realized plastic could get moldy. Now, I know different.
I removed the Vexilar from its carrying case and scrubbed off as much of the mold as I could.
I then ran the case through the washer and am happy to report it came through the rinse and spin cycles looking — and smelling — almost as good as new.
The Vexilar, too, got a good scrubbing and is ready for action.
I could say the encounter taught me a lesson, that I’ll be more vigilant when winter ends and the time once again comes to store my ice fishing gear for the season.
I could say that, but I’d probably be lying.
It just wouldn’t be my style.