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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
we want YOU to think...if you dare...


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Incoming Featured Writer: John Angus Carter

Every once in a while it's a pleasure to do something different.   
Once again, we introduce and feature a guest writer and friend. 
At Incoming Bytes we're always amazed  at the  incredible variety of content available to us in our daily forays into  the art and business  of writing.  I have the privilege, and am honored to interact with incredible people with the same interests;   excellent writers with very diverse styles,  true life wisdom they so generously share, and perhaps,  most fascinating of all,  stories to tell.  
John Angus Carter is one such writer and a good friend.  At  Incoming Bytes, we are honored to feature one of his many true life stories.    Please welcome John, sit back and grab a hot cup of coffee,  and enjoy  " Smelt Fishing on Lac Shampoo". 

                              Smelt Fishing on Lac Shampoo
                                                         * By John Angus Carter

        “The wind she blew on Lac Shampoo and the smelt he went into hiding.” 

 This bit of doggerel alludes to what some mythical Frenchman in Canada called Lake Champlain, a large lake between New York, Vermont and Quebec, Canada at the north end of the lake. 

Photo by Andrea Pokrzwinski

It was during February 1952 as a seventeen year old high school student I was invited by some old time smelt fishermen to go fishing for smelt on Lake Champlain in a place called Basin Harbor, Vermont,  --a bleak and dreary place at best.

 We left for Basin Harbor around nine o’clock on a bitterly cold night with the temperature well below zero and drove all night to reach Basin Harbor in the early morning hours on a very cold Saturday morning --with the thermometer on the door of an all night restaurant in Vergennes, Vermont showing -40o   below. 
 The  restaurant was in a building that was below street level and although the restaurant was alright the accommodations left much to be desired.  When Phil came out of the “John” his advice to the rest of us was, “You’d better not be faint of heart when you go in there.”
 The toilet was on a high platform with thirteen steps leading up to the John just like an old time gallows.  Not only that, but there was no guardrail on the stairs. 
 The restaurant included in its bill of fare,  fishing licenses.  I had to buy one, and being a non-resident had to pay $10.

We then repaired to Basin Harbor where we were going to spend the day fishing for smelt in fishing shacks just off shore.  The problem was,  as the new fish,   they wouldn’t let me into one of the shacks, so instead I settled for the downwind sides of  one of the shacks,  and proceeded to chip a hole into the ice.   

The ice was about six feet thick, so cutting a hole was like digging an open pit mine.  First you cut into the ice with a chisel welded to a length of pipe for about three feet,  making the hole large enough to stand in. Then you chiseled your way until you struck water.  The trick was to get out of the hole before it filled with water, because it came gushing up,  completely filling the hole.

 Ice fishing hole
Photo by Bruck–Osteuropa

By that time the temperature had risen to about -30 F, --a real tropical heatwave
 I settled down behind the shack, and could hear the guys inside arguing about where their Ginger Brandy was.  I swiped the brandy because I didn’t want to freeze to death outside the hut. 
 So, there I sat jigging for smelt.  It was too cold even for the smelt, they weren’t biting.

Ice Fishing Rod
Photo by Kallern
After about an hour of fishing,  a big fire broke out in a sawmill in Port Henry, NY,   across the lake from us. Every fire truck in Vergennes came roaring across the beach where we were and roared  across the lake to the fire.  All the time the wind was blowing about 60 MPH and I noticed that a dock at the edge of the lake sometimes was lower then we were.  Other times that damned dock was higher then we were.

We fished from sunup to sunset.    I caught one smelt that weighed about an ounce.  This critter altogether cost me $20.  At that rate I’m glad I didn’t catch a pound of the critters. One of the other guys caught a couple of  smelts  and one whitefish that looked like a smelt on steroids.  Then we drove most of the night to get home.  
 Helluva a fishing trip,---- it takes a certain amount of patience to be an ice fisherman!


Ice Chisel     photo wikimedia.org  

This is what we used to cut  holes in the ice except ours wasn’t so fancy ----it was only a chisel welded to a piece of iron pipe.  



Is that incoming I hear?

                                         About our featured Writer

John Angus Carter is a geologist that has had many adventures in life. He is an avid fisherman, helicopter pilot, prospector and finally a free lance writer & photographer.  For almost 30 years he was the head of an environmental consulting firm in Connecticut.  His  latest task is trying to establish a processing plant for recovering metals from the wastes from metal finishing. 
 John has an extensive writing portfolio and currently  writes TWO  highly successful blogs,  Gems and Gemstones, and Gold Mining and Prospecting. John also operates the John Angus Carter School of Prospecting in Barkhamstead, Ct.                             

 *All rights to "Smelt Fishing on Lac Shampoo" (c) 2012 remain the exclusive property of John A. Carter and may not be used without permission. 


  1. I know little about ice fishing but I still enjoyed the read. John is a busy man writing, I am glad he stopped by to partake in the Incoming.

    1. hi Christyb, thanks for stopping by! Ice fishing is a fine sport as long as you have ice that is safe! I am sure glad John stopped by to participate in the Incoming! ":)

  2. John Angus Carter, a great storyteller, historian and geologist, passed away in Summer, 2012. We miss ol' John and his many great stories like the one we read here.
    Winsted, CT

    1. Thank you for remembering John Angus Carter. He was a good friend of mine--and he is missed. Thanks again! ~R


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