Murphy, William "Waddy"

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                                     GRUMPY OLD MAN
                      Murphy spends most of his time relaxing in homemade fishing hut
                                     by Joanne Cadogan


Winter has been much more enjoyable for William "Waddy" Murphy over the past three weeks. He's spending endless contented hours bobbing a plastic rod over a hole in the ice from his homemade fishing hut. "It's the most relaxing thing I've ever done. I'm really glad I did it," said Murphy from his perch atop a plastic tub Monday. "I don't know why nobody started it here years ago. Ice fishing is so popular in other areas. In some places in Ontario they have whole towns built on the ice, with street signs and everything.

"Around here, commercial fishermen used to have shacks out on the ice, but they were just there to help keep them warm. No one used them to fish from."

Murphy was inspired by the movie Grumpy Old Men, where title characters Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau ice fish between romantic forays and fights. "I done the plans out of me head. I prefabricated it in the garage. My son and I put it together on the ice in a couple of hours. "I've had to move it a couple of times, but that's easy because I have it up on teflon runners.

"It only costs about $200 to $300 to get yourself in business, if you know where to find things. I borrowed a wood stove from by brother, Jackie. "My neighbor Kenny Walsh has been a great help. He's a real scrounger. He got me the mattress for that bench and a lot of other building materials."

There are no special permits to get and no expensive fishing licenses to buy. "You have to get the shack off the ice by April 2 and you have to put your name and address in five centimetre letters outside the shack. That's about it." Grumpy Old Man tops the nameplate next to Murphy's hut door.

Ice fishing is regulated under the department of natural resources, but Murphy called federal fisheries officials just to keep them informed. It was the neighborly thing to do since their offices are in one of the port buildings next to his home. "Any time they're curious about what I'm doing out here, all they have to do is go over to the window and look," he said with a laugh.

                                   Hang out for neighborhood

Lots of people are curious about Waddy Murphy's new ice shack hang out. Friends and neighbors have been dropping by to visit, chat and try their hands at fishing. "My granddaughter, she's a year and a' half, and she just loves it out here," he said.

The catch isn't abundant. In three weeks of fishing Murphy has caught only 15 smelts. Monday was his best morning ever, yielding six. "But they're a good size and I can't get over how bright they are," Murphy said with a proud grin. Murphy fishes with a barbless hook, which could explain the meagre results. "I've caught about 50 tommy cod. But I release those. With the barbs off the hook, you don't hurt the fish and you can let it go." Murphy said he could use little minnows or tinned salmon eggs to bait his line, but he prefers meat. On Monday it was deer meat. "I keep a little tin of meat and dip it -in a little blood before putting it on the hook. The scent seems to get right through the water and if there are any fish around they head straight for it." Commercial smelt fisherman Paul Kelly has given Murphy invaluable pointers on when to fish and where.

"The best time to fish is on the flood tide," Murphy said. "You can catch them fairly steady for about an hour then. After that, you won't get a bite." Murphy has already shifted his hut three times to find the best location. He's moving it again this week.

"I'm in about eight feet of water here and that's a bit too much. But I can't get too close to shore or I'll be in the mud at low tide." Murphy has no complaints about the small catch or the frequent moves. To him, time spent in his cozy little hut is like heaven. "Talk about a pastime," he said. "Out here on the ice, I don't seem to have enough hours in the day."


Source: Miramichi Leader – February 28, 1995

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