Kevin Tracewski hefts a 36-inch northern pike that his granddaughter, Kate Bingaman, 5, helped catch while ice fishing in the Belgrade Lakes recently. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Tracewski

Kevin Tracewski of Old Town has fond memories of ice fishing trips with his children when they were young, so it only seemed natural, now that the kids are all grown up, to share similar experiences with his granddaughter.

And over the past three ice fishing seasons, Kate Bingaman of Gardiner has helped her grandfather and her mom, Kristen Bingaman, land some pretty impressive fish.

During the winter of 2018, the group iced a 33-inch northern pike while fishing the Belgrade Lakes. A couple weeks ago, Kate, now 5, helped her mom land a 36-inch pike. Both, Bingaman said, are about the same length as her daughter.

“A couple of years ago she had no idea what the heck we were doing,” Bingaman said. “She saw the little bait fish go into the hole and I think that’s what she was expecting to come out of it. So when something comes out that’s as big as you are, she was a bit terrified.”

This year, the 36-incher wasn’t nearly as scary.

“She was more onboard [with the whole process] this year for sure,” Bingaman said. “She helped me haul it in.”

Tracewski worked at the University of Maine, teaching biology for 33 years before retiring recently. He’s also a registered Maine guide who takes clients fishing during open-water and ice fishing seasons.

Tracewski said that when his children were young, he’d often take them on ice fishing excursions on distant ponds, leaving early in the morning and creating lifelong memories.

At least, that’s the way he remembers it.

“I’d tell my wife, ‘The kids love ice fishing,’” Tracewski said. “She’d be like, ‘You’re bribing them with candy and dogs.’”

Yes. Dogs.

The Tracewski kids loved dogs, but the family didn’t have a pooch of their own. That didn’t stop Kevin from making their ice fishing trips as enjoyable as possible.

“We would borrow a dog,” Bingaman said. “He would spend the night at our house the night before, because we’d leave at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Then, the kids would have a four-legged playmate when the fishing was slow. On the way to the lake, they’d stop at a gas station and Tracewski would let them shop for candy.

Then, the work would start: Getting to the fishing grounds without a snowmobile was no easy feat.

“[My dad] had this wooden sled that he had made, and it weighed a ton, loaded down with all this stuff,” Bingaman said. “There was no snowmobile, so we would just get out and drag it who knows how far until he found the spot. It would be miles. It was a much different experience [than what we do now], for sure.”

When he takes this new generation onto the ice, he has developed a much less labor-intensive plan.

“There were no cell phones. There was no GPS,” Bingaman said. “Now, he tells us exactly where to go according to the GPS, you walk 100 yards and he meets you with the snowmobile.”

Bingaman said Kate loves ice fishing for one simple reason: She loves her grandfather.

“She is obsessed with my father. So anything that he does or would do would be perfect in her eyes because she’s absolutely enthralled with him, no matter what the task,” Bingaman said.

And Tracewski has made sure he makes things fun for his granddaughter. The group has had great weather during both of those excursions, which makes spending time on the lake without a fishing shack enjoyable.

“It’s so much fun not to have a shack,” he said. “You could fly a kite. And we had a fire, ate hot dogs and used the same hot dog sticks that we used when Kristen was a little girl.”

Bingaman said that taking fishing trips with her dad and her daughter have brought back plenty of good memories, and she’s happy to be able to share those times with both.

“It certainly feels like things have come full circle. And it’s not just me, but my siblings and even friends of my family that I had growing up that remember [going fishing with us],” Bingaman said. “As I’m living it, they’re reliving it, too. So it’s cool. And it’s a very special experience.”

John Holyoke can be reached at or 207-990-8214.

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...