Angling for Eelpout: Minnesota’s Most loathsome Fish

330px-Lycenchelys_verrilliiLast week a friend called.

“Wanna go ice-fishing?” he asked.

The question raised conflicts.

First, my wife had the day planned. No, that’s not true because planned is too mild a word. She had my day fully scheduled.

Our house is small, about 1,000 square feet. It has no basement and no second story, thus there is nowhere to hide. So for mutual protection during the winter months, my wife schedules our weekends at opposite ends of the house. The only escape is outside, beyond shouting distance, hence the appeal of ice-fishing and the root of my second conflict.

People who do not live where men walk on water, imagine ice-fishing as something enjoyable. They have romantic notions of a hut on skids, a place where buddies chug-a-lug cheap beer while gazing at a hole in the floor in zen-like meditation.

Sorry – but that is called meditating in a shack, not ice-fishing.

Ice-fishing is best described as squatting on an upturned plastic bucket in a place where fish prefer to be rather than fishermen.

You see, fish know all about escaping from wives. They know all about beer and zen-like meditation – because their very lives depend upon it. After all, who wants to be dragged into a dimly lit den and clubbed with a pipe by guys whose breath stinks of cheap beer?

That is what Biker bars are for.

Which is why fish never congregate below fish-shacks. Instead they hang out in the most miserable part of the lake, preferably under a railroad trestle or a busy free-way bridge.

The real desirable fish, the big tasty ones, have another trick. They hide with their least desirable cousins. Which brings me back to my friend.

He likes to fish, not sit around in a shack. He also lusts for our region’s least tasty and most unappealing fish – namely the Official Minnesota State Fish Of Winter, the eelpout.

Believe me, the eelpout is the only critter God ever disavowed making. Even christian fundamentalists blame the eelpout on evolution so as not to undermine their claim of divine creation.

It also tastes worse than its name. The eelpout is the liver & onions of fish. In case you doubt that, do you recall hearing about parents who forced their children to gag down cod-liver oil? Guess what? A tenth of an eelpout’s body-mass is cod-liver oil.

If ever there was a fish made not to be caught, this is it. So what does my buddy want to fish for? You guessed it.

“So, what you wanna do,” he demanded to know.

I weighed the options: a) trapped in a small house with my wife or b) squatting on an upturned plastic bucket in below zero weather?

“It’s a tough call.