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Warm winter fun



Published: Sat, February 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The unseasonably warm day made skiing and snowmobiling less than perfect.

JAMESTOWN, Pa. -- Warm weather doesn't mix so well with snowmobiles, but it does make ice fishing more pleasant.

Jessica Miller and her boyfriend, Matt Deeter, guided their snowmobile through slushy conditions Saturday at Winter Fun Days in Pymatuning State Park near Jamestown.

Winter Fun Days continues today with breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. at Beach No. 2.

"It could be better," said Miller, 20, who lives near the park outside of Jamestown.

"Yeah, the snow's not real great," added Deeter, 24, who also lives nearby. "We need more snow."

So, Miller and Deeter strolled out into the middle of a frozen Pymatuning Lake to check out the ice fishing.

Joe Slattery of Canfield said he wasn't having much luck. But he added that with warm weather, at least he wasn't shivering.

Slattery, 44, turned a manual ice auger in a clockwise motion to punch a hole through the 8-inch-thick ice.

He then used a sonar device to try to locate walleye. He dropped a line 17 1/2 feet down to the lake floor, using a steel and lead bait.

Then, he waited.

Nothing.

"I've been out here three hours so far today, and I haven't caught one yet. Sometimes you go all day long and go home empty-handed," he said.

The trick, Slattery said, is picking the right spot. Some fishermen seem to have a knack for it, he said.

"If you can find them, you can normally catch them," he said.

The whole process fascinated Miller.

"I never knew what ice fishing was about," she said.

Deeter said his girlfriend took some coaxing. "I had to drag her out," he said.

Miller acknowledged a certain wariness about the ice.

"I stepped out and it cracked, and I was ready to head back," she said.

Big plunge

Eighteen people ended up in the water Saturday -- on purpose. They plunged into a spot of the freezing lake that had been cut open.

Others enjoyed more mundane pursuits on the frozen water. New Castle, Pa., resident Tricia Woods had a snowball fight with her 4-year-old son, Noah, her niece and her friends.

Woods said she comes to Winter Fun Days every year, but this was the first time she ventured onto the ice.

"I was scared to come out," she said. "Look down there. We're standing right in the middle of the lake."

Back on solid ground, Mike Ratesic was trying to enjoy his snowmobile but was finding the conditions a little sloppy.

"It's a nice day, but a little too warm for snowmobiling," said Ratesic, a member of the event's sponsor, the Pymatuning Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club. "It's a great day for this festival, though. Last year was frigid-cold."

Ratesic's 5-year-old son, Josh, is too young to operate a snowmobile by himself, but he said the boy loves riding. He said his 3-year-old daughter, Emma, prefers the horse-drawn sleigh rides.

Ratesic, who lives east of Pittsburgh, said his father owns a cabin on nearby Conneaut Lake. He said his father-in-law got him interested in snowmobiling about five years ago.

"He married into it," said Ratesic's wife, Michelle Ratesic.

Working, too

Not everyone at Saturday's Winter Fun Days was at play; some folks were working. One of them, Steven Nelson, put on wood-carving demonstrations.

It was a chance to show off his entirely self-taught skills as well as try to sell a few pieces.

The 43-year-old Seneca, Pa., man stumbled upon his part hobby, part career by accident. Fifteen years ago, he said, he bought a chainsaw to cut firewood.

But Nelson said he quickly discovered that pine makes lousy firewood.

"I had a pile of pine. I just started messing around and cut a mushroom. That's the first thing I did," he said. "I thought it looked stupid, but my wife wanted it for her garden."

Nelson said he found out that other people wanted wood mushrooms for their gardens, too, and a part-time business was born. Nelson, who also works construction, said he spends most weekends on the road from June to October, traveling to events to hawk his wood pieces.

Nelson said most wood carvers start with a chainsaw and then use finer instruments for the details. Not him.

"I like to think I'm the only one who uses the saw [exclusively]. I don't use any chisels or files," he said.

Other activities today include children's crafts and children's snowmobile rides.




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