Building A Fish Crib

Since this is our first fish crib building effort we had to catch up on how to build the thing without leaving unwelcomed trash at the bottom of Oxbow Lake meet DNR regulations and suggestions so we chose degradable (oxidizing/rusting) cable, hardwood logs (oak and hard maple) and a Doug Fir floor for the natural rocks which act as ballast to hold the fish crib in place.

The crib was handcrafted on shore, drilled for cable then deconstructed and hauled out to a spot in Peaceful Bay. It will eventually sink during ice-out to a depth of thirteen feet.  This will leave eight and one half feet of clearance for boats during high water and six feet during low.  It will also lie inside of the 200 foot go slow distance from shore.  Since ice rarely shifts in Peaceful Bay during spring melt we expect the crib will lie below where it sits on the ice.

Helping in the effort and not pictured are Gary Hughes, Board Member and Martin McDaniel, Volunteer, who braved the cold and did their duty to enhance your pleasure using Oxbow Lake…and to supplement your association’s invasive species mitigation fund through the 50/50 raffle.

Stu Whipple hauling crib flooring out to Crib

Here Stu Whipple is ready to haul out the Douglas Fir for the crib’s floor.

Wow, it looks like the holidays were good for him!  He says it’s all the clothing he’s using to keep warm.  Others are thinking, “I just saw him not too long ago.  How did he put on all that weight?”  Stu’s thinking, “It must be the camera angle.”

Stu Whipple preparing to layout 1st log course

Here’s Linda Novak is playing pick-up sticks with the logs so they are in the correct position when “V” cut, stacked and secured with “easily” threaded cable through the predrilled holes.  Murphy’s law:  Nothing goes as planned. Linda was a good sport and a really hard worker—playing with Stu’s dogs much of the time.  No really, she spent half the time telling Stu not to hurt his back by lifting the logs.  Did he listen?  Your guess.

Linda Novak preparing to assemble crib

Linda is assembling the logs. She relegated Stu to do the pictures to get him out of the way.  Now wait a minute, this log doesn’t belong here and what’s this drilled hole doing chock full of ice?   “Otto, get this thing drilled out again.”  “This hole is whack-a-doodled crooked.  Must be one Martin drilled!”  Good thing someone was absent.  After all, somebody has to be blamed.  Now I think we’re ready to go.

Otto Novak loading boulders for crib weight

Otto’s thinking, “How come I got saddled doing the boulders? “Hey Stu, you think eight is enough?”

“I don’t know.  We’ve got to load enough so it doesn’t float.”

“Well, let’s just put some more in the cart,” Otto says as he grunts to lift a few more thirty pounders.  “How’s that?” he says.

“Here’s a few more to make sure,” Stu adds

Linda lifts in several more no doubt wondering about the precision of her two “engineers.”  We end up with eight hundred pounds of rock.  Each one of us is satisfied.

Stu eases the tractor and cart out onto the ice, seat belt off and listening for any cracking of the ice and ready to jump.  No cracks.  He eases back onto the tractor’s seat and drives out into the dazzling sun and forty degree day.  It just can’t get any better than this.  The muted sound of a snowmobile riffles across the lake and vanishes into the snow laden pines.

Linda Novak filling crib w/ boulders to weight down crib

Remember that thing about letting your wife do the snow shoveling because wives are less likely to have a heart attack? Just remembered that…good excuse for Linda to unload the ballast onto the floor of the crib.  That ought to sink the sucker, we agreed.  It’s another beautiful day in the forties.  Lots of folks are missing this.  We splash around in the snow melt hoping the ice holds.  Nobody would win the raffle if the darn thing melted through the ice today.

Otto & Linda Novak wiring together log course

Murphy strikes again. Yeah, just pass up the cable through the holes and we can whip this together and take the afternoon off.  Only the cable has other ideas.  The ends fray, the holes again are filled with ice, so Linda and Otto enjoy the next hours drilling and shoving the splaying cable through roughened holes as the crib grows one log level at a time.  We pass the time with cryptic comments, attempts at humor, finding things to blame on Martin and making plans for finishing the next day.

Otto & Linda Novak b/f filling crib with boughs

Here’s Linda and Otto again. Always trying to get in more pictures.  Anyway, see how tall the fish crib is.  Wow, what a structure?  What, oh, it’s only four and a half feet tall?  Huh, I guess they shrank in the sun or maybe they’re just crouching down to make it look bigger.  I wonder where they got that idea?

Stu Whipple Fish Cribs

Here we have a study.  “Stu on the ground with a miniature log cabin,” and “Stu on the miniature log cabin with the ground below.”  Anyway, the crib is finished except for the tree material that will provide the hidee holes and caves for the little fishees so the big fishees can’t get them.  But celebrations being what they are, well heck, it’s time to celebrate.  I know the many things a clenched hand has meant over time.  This time it means that it’s time to fight through the arthritis to get my hand flexible again and to show you I can still get my arm over my head.  I want to say the old guy in the picture isn’t me but it is…minus all the “weight” I had in the first picture.

Well, it is a delight to show you what perseverance by some of your Oxbow Lake board members and volunteers can accomplish.  Soooooo,  Ta da.

Finished Fish Crib

It looks like Christmas all over again.  I tell you that we are proud we accomplished the task we so long ago set out to do and that we may end up with more fish in the lake for you to enjoy.  Otto cut out a few trees from his yard and Gary Hughes provided a couple of windfalls out of his to garnish the barren crib with balsam and spruce.  It smells like Christmas too.

Please also note that you can express any wonder at the tasks completed by your very own Oxbow Lake Association and contribute to our invasive species mitigation fund by playing the “Ice-out Raffle” you received in your Newsletter.  Heck you might even win.

Good fishing to you all