By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

KEITH SEBELIUS RESERVOIR -- His hay has been baled, his road grader "in the hospital."

So George Ruzicka decided it was time to go fishing, never mind the wet, cool weather -- intensified by the bone-chilling wind blowing across the lake water -- that forced him to don a couple jackets and insulated overalls for the first day of fall.

Unfortunately for him, the fish weren't keeping his fishing pole hot.

That honor fell to fishing companion Hadyn Fawcett. Ruzicka and Fawcett weren't actually fishing together, but they were sharing the floating dock at Keith Sebelius Reservoir just outside Norton on Tuesday, and they were sharing the same fish basket to hold the crappie that were worth keeping.

Ruzicka, who hails from southeast of Oberlin, wasn't being skunked, mind you, but the bites were coming in slow. And several of the fish biting were simply too small to keep.

Fawcett, Norton, threw one tiny crappie over his shoulder, much like a person would do with spilled salt, for good luck. Fawcett said he fishes when he can, especially on his days off.

Ruzicka, on the other hand, is partially retired, "so I come up more often then I should. I've got all my hay baled, so all I've got to do is haul it in."

He's not a big farmer, only keeping a few cows. Most of his grass, he said, is in the popular federal Conservation Reserve Program.

He's a former employee of the Decatur County road and bridge department, and now works part time for Jennings Township in Decatur County, maintaining a stretch of roads.

"My maintainer has been in the hospital for a couple weeks," he said of the Caterpillar road grader that he uses to keep the roads smooth. It's an older machine, he said, and has more than 28,000 hours on it -- high mileage for a vehicle that generally travels only a few miles an hour.

At least it's an all-hydraulic machine, he said. The one he drove for Decatur County was mechanical, keeping him in good shape as he adjusted the settings on the machine.

While the grader has been in the "hospital," Ruzicka has been fishing.

"I think I went three times last week," he said. "This is the first time this week. It won't average that many, maybe two times a week."

Winter doesn't stop him either.

"I like ice fishing," he said. "I didn't go out on the ice last year. I'm not as brave as some guys."

So he found a spot where the ice could be chipped away, and fish pulled up out of the cold weather.

While Tuesday wasn't his best day, he's had plenty of luck.

"One day last week, I caught nine just sitting right here."