Despite the mild winter so far in our region these days, beating "cabin fever" can be done by attending such annual events as Ice Harvest at Hanford Mills Museum, the Cooperstown Winter Carnival, or this weekend's Polar Bear Jump on Goodyear Lake, to name a few.
Schenevus once had an annual winter event that brought people together, called the Sucker Haul.
It wasn't just a social gathering, it provided fish in many peoples' diets for quite awhile.
Like every year, the 1912 edition of the Sucker Haul took place at the Schenevus Electric Light and Power Co., once found alongside the Schenevus Creek.
This area was good for fishing, but not for sucker fish, as this species was known to prey upon spawning beds of more desirable fish in the area water.
The Sucker Haul was intended to take the less desirable sucker fish out, so bass, pickerel and other game fish could thrive.
The Oneonta Star of Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1912, said the previous Saturday's Sucker Haul "was an event second only to fair days in that thriving village. Fully a hundred men, including numerous visitors from nearby villages and the city of Oneonta, participated in the day's sport."
"This is one of the days in the year when 'Mel' Baldwin forgets all about such a thing as a law practice and dons his felt boots and fur cap and helps 'drive' the fish; when 'Herb' Bernard, ignores the prize offered by the Mutual Life Insurance company for the agent writing the largest amount of new business and equipped with rubber boots and hunting coat, etc., directs the hauling of the net, and when John Graney abandons the road and his bag of drugs for a day's sport with the boys."
To get these sucker fish out of the Schenevus Creek on this festive day, it was first necessary to get a permit from what was then called the State Conservation Commission.
An inspector had to be on hand to observe activities. According to the Star, an "Inspector McAllister" of Middleburgh was present. The small number of pickerel brought out of the water in this exercise was quickly returned to the water, unharmed.
If you envision this as a bunch of men standing around the ice with fishing poles, think again.
As the Star explained, "First a channel is cut in the ice about eight inches wide, directly across the stream, and into this is dropped the net weighted and with poles the bottom of the net is held upstream, while close to the bank the small channel is filed with limbs of trees so that the fish cannot swim around the net. Those not assigned to draw the net or watch the approach of the fish, either at the net or a few rods above the net, then go some distance up the stream and proceed down stream on the ice, drumming incessantly upon the top of the ice with sticks or axes. There were about 40 men engaged … in this operation of 'driving.'"
The noise caused the fish to move toward the net. When a good number were observed to be caught in the net, "Pull," shouted Bernard, "and out comes the net with anywhere from 50 to 200 of the fish from the ice below."
About 10 hauls of this method were made in five hours, netting a reported 1,245 sucker fish.
"At noon a halt was called and all partook of refreshments, provided by the officers of the company. After the final haul was made, the fish were placed in big bran bags and drawn to the plant of the lighting company and dumped on the floor. It was a sight indeed to see the fish piled together. Visitors were first invited to help themselves to what they wanted and the remainder were taken by the home people, after a liberal supply had been sent to all the needy people of Schenevus. There was an abundance for all and a generous number were sent to the Fox hospital here," the Star concluded.
On Monday: A recently retired New York Yankee said hello to Oneonta in 1991.
City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.