Coleman Bays looks across the white expanse of Little Beaver Lake in Raleigh County. His view could not have been more different just hours before when he was nearing the end of his shift in a nearby underground mine.
Bays and a few fellow miners, with their faces still covered in coal dust, were enjoying a rare opportunity in West Virginia -- ice fishing. On average, most years in West Virginia provide only about two to three weeks’ worth of days when the ice is thick enough to fish from.
“It needs to be at least 3 inches thick before you dare walk out on it,” said Steven Johnson. Seated on his plastic perch on the far side of the lake, Johnson is surrounded by all he needs: a fish finder, an auger, one can of Dr. Pepper and his daily catch of rainbow trout.
Johnson, a Crab Orchard resident, has been ice fishing on Little Beaver Lake for more than 50 years.
“I like ice fishing because you can fish any part of the lake and you don’t need a boat, as long as it’s at least 3 inches,” Johnson reminds. When asked how thick the ice was at the spot where a photographer had walked out to join him, Johnson said with a smile: “Almost 3 inches.”