It was a Saturday morning, about 30 degrees with a beautiful light snow falling. My father and I were heading onto the ice just as we do nearly every weekend here in Ohio.
The air was filled with an assortment of sounds, from the whistling of duck wings overhead, to the crunch of snow beneath our feet, to the whining hum of nearby power augers as they chewed through the ice.
My father and I headed straight for a spot where we had half-filled a five-gallon bucket with 8- to 9-inch ’gills, perch and crappies the previous morning. We popped a few holes and we were again immediately on fish.
My father, stubborn as he is, chose not to sit in my portable shack, so I quickly set it up for myself. I enjoy the privacy of not letting others know that I’m catching fish!
After about a half-hour, I heard the sound of an air pocket trapped beneath the ice. It was working its way toward my holes. I didn’t give it a thought as the sound was nothing out of the ordinary. But as the bubbles gurgled out of the hole, I couldn’t help but lean down for a closer look.
The next thing I knew, a splash of ice water shot up into my eyes and I found myself face-to-face with the biggest, fattest, meanest-looking muskrat I have ever seen! This thing didn’t just have teeth, either—it had fangs!
I reared back and almost fell off my bucket as my head hit the wall of the shack. And I’m pretty sure I screamed like a schoolgirl. To make matters worse, I accidentally kicked shut the floorboards, sealing off the holes and trapping this saber-toothed muskrat in the shack with me. Like it or not, I was about to learn a few things about muskrats—they bark, they hiss, they growl and worst of all, they can jump about three feet in the air!
By this time, my father could hear the ruckus and hollered, “What’s going on in there?” Meanwhile, every time I would reach for the floorboards or the door, that little monster would bark and hiss at me. When I tried to use my foot, it lunged at me with teeth bared.
After several minutes of terror, my prayers were answered when my father finally came over and opened the door. He wasn’t sure who came bursting out of the shack faster—me or the muskrat! I don’t think I have ever heard him laugh harder, before or since.
Of course, whenever we go ice fishing now, my father never misses an opportunity to crack a joke about me and that muskrat. Looking back, I suppose it was just about the funniest thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m glad I got to share the experience with my best friend, my father. Still, it sure wasn’t funny at the time!
Zach Pyles lives in Logan County, Ohio, with his wife, Kristin, and son, Dalton. He regularly fishes Indian Lake and C.J. Brown Reservoir for walleyes, panfish and catfish.