Try The Ice For Winter Fishing Fun
Tired Of The Cabin, Got The Fever
It happened just a few days ago that the weather started showing a sign or two of giving up the cold for something a little more tolerable. To the human population in my area this was a God send. We have had a long, cold, snowy winter. With the dawn of February and the old folk tale of a groundhog seeing it's shadow, it is still safe to say that regardless of the outdoor temperature, winter is still with us.
I always felt this shadow business was some kind of hoax. No matter how you look at it, shadow or not, the calendar is going to show us six more weeks of winter. Add Mother Nature to the equation and it could get more complicated than that. I have to think that the Groundhog Folk Tale was created by someone who was suffering a severe bout of what we call "Cabin Fever". I know for sure that I have had a bad case of it with so much snow on the ground and temperatures staying in the single digits much more than I care to endure.
Temperatures Climb High For One Day
It happens from time to time. In the middle of winter the wind shifts hard from the south and blows us up some warm days. It is enough to make us think it is safe to venture out in the world for a play day. That is exactly how it happened this Saturday. We had winds blowing at 20 to 30 miles per hour and it was enough to drive the temperature out of the teens and in to the fifties. WOOPEE! Summer is here! No not really but it sure feels like something grand when the temperature rises a good 60 plus degrees. Makes you want to go outside and shout.
I have been daydreaming of a nice fishing trip to someplace, anyplace where the water is above freezing and the fish are biting. Thing is, this kind of trip is not in my crunched budget this year as it has been in past years. The unstable economy and price of survival has me working as much as I can and taking advantage of it while it is out there. The extra work has pushed me into overload. I am exhausted and worn and dreaming even more of warmer days. Dreams of fishing and loafing about with not a care in the world haunt my subconscious mind. Dare I skip a day of work to play?
My good fishing buddy says let's go Ice Fishing and I moan about sore knuckles and swollen knees. My body needs a break and going out into the cold to fish trough a hole in the ice does not sound like the proper remedy for what ails me. I go to my van for something, forced to venture outside and the wind sweeps me away. My spirit is lifted by the freshness in the air. The temperature and the sunshine slap my face and knock some real sence into my head. How can I not take advantage and head for the closest fishing hole?
First Time Fishing Through The Ice
I grew up here in cold weather and I have always loved to fish. I use to see people out on the ice in rural areas and I always wondered what was up with this sport? In my minds eye I had this opinion that ICE FISHING has got to be some kind of miserable experience. It had to involve one of three things for those folks I saw out there in the cold. These people are desperate to eat fresh fish, totally addicted to fishing or just plain crazy.
That was my assumption for the longest time. Then, last year I was watching an outdoor sporting show, one early Sunday morning, doing my regular fishing daydream and the program was all about ICE FISHING. I was curious as I had seen somebody out on a local pond just the day before. I watched with eager eyes and was totally astonished when I saw this guy yank a three pound Walleye out of the ice through what seemed to be an awful tiny hole. I thought then that someday I would have to give this a try.
Saturday came with a warm belt that could not help but send me to the bait store. My fishing friend said let's go and within an hour we were headed to the bait shop to gear up for a try at fishing through the ice. I was excited and leery all rolled up in one worn out package.
Gearing Up For Ice Fishing
The most important thing in my opinion is that you must be dressed warm enough to suit the weather and spending a good bit of time out in it. Now the temperature was suppose to climb into the mid fifties and that it did. Thing is you must not forget to factor in the wind chill. With winds gusting up to 30 mile per hour the temperature reading itself is irrelevant. You best be aware of the wind chill temperature and dress according to that.
Pay particular attention to feet, hands and head. Keeping these three body parts warm will usually result in a comfortable day in the elements. It is best to dress in layers so that you can add clothing as you deem necessary. I suggest you add clothing rather than subtracting because it seems to work best for comfort-ability. Make sure you will be dressed properly and then think about your fishing gear.
ICE FISHING SPECIALTY GEAR
It takes a different set of equipment to go ICE FISHING than it does to fish in warm weather. A couple of things that are especially related to this icy sport are the use of an auger, a sled and smaller fishing poles and jigs. It helps to have a special device attached to your shoes for walking on slick ice too.
This first trip out I am not going to say that I was as prepared as I would have liked to be but we did manage. We bought new poles and jigs and that was probably the easiest part. The local bait shop was happy to rig us up with everything we needed to land some fish. The learning elements came with the actual doing. I would say that it is very wise to include some sort of sled on your ice fishing outing and don't forget to attach a good length of rope to pull it with.
The sled serves to load up all of your fishing gear so that it can be more easily transported across the frozen water. ICE FISHING 101, YOU NEED A SLED! We did not think of this but we did think of a cooler and just happened to have a length of rope stored inside so we utilized the cooler as a sled and it also served as good storage for extra clothing and my camera case. When we arrived at our destination on the lake it doubled as a place to sit down. Damn good thing because there is no dry place to sit on a frozen lake. This would be another item to consider taking along on a well planned ice fishing trip. You will get very tired of standing in the cold.
This first trip out proved to me that a sturdy 5 or 7 gal. bucket with a lid was the perfect storage/seat and seemed to be the preference for most of the fisherman. I did note several homemade devices that included a sled with a built in chair and storage. I must say that I was surprised to see more than 100 people fishing in the icy conditions. I overheard one man say that come Sunday evening there could be as many as 500 people out there trying to catch their limit of fish.
Holes In The Ice
Now I had done some research on the subject of ICE FISHING because I figured I would have to break down someday and give it a try. That led me to wonder how they can make a hole in the ice in order to be able to fish. The answer to that is an ICE AUGER. Not much different than any auger I suppose. The blade is probably made for cutting through ice instead of dirt or some other material. All the guys had one and I must admit. We were counting on that when we hit the road. We were in hopes of fishing in someone Else's abandoned hole. That is what we did. It was warm enough to find many holes that did not freeze back and so we skipped the purchase of an ICE AUGER for our first trip. Not to suggest that this item is unnecessary. It is a must have unless you plan to borrow or beg a hole from another fisherman when you get there.
Small Everything For Ice Fishing
The poles are shorter and the jigs are smaller. I guess the poles are designed so that you can huddle up close to your hole and look down in there. This was one thing that I found most curious. When you are out on a regular body of water in warm weather you can toss your line in wherever you want to. That is not the case with this sport. You have a small hole, that is it.
You will use a light weight fishing line. The bait shop attendant rigged our poles with a three pound test. he also picked out a handful of jigs that were the popular color and size. These jigs are very small and it was suggested that the going color was anything chartreuse. We were planning to fish for Bluegill so that was a sure sign for using a very small hooked jig. He also suggested that we put a small Bee Moth on the end of the jig hook. We purchased a box of the live worms (Bee Moth) and off we went.
The one thing that was never mentioned in any article I read or film I watched. It was not mentioned by the bait store guy or the other fisherman we talked to in the bait store. The one item I would suggest you have if you ever decide to go out on a frozen lake, pond or other body of water. Be sure to find some Ice Cleats to attach to your boots. I will say they are as important as the fishing pole and the ice auger. Yes you can make your way across the ice without them. We did.
The thing is it is very slow going and a good fall that could break bones is not worth the trip. I saw at least five people fall and hit the cold, wet, hard ice with a splash and a howl. That ice is hard and I overheard one man say that at least he fell on his other side the second time down. Ice cleats will cost a few bucks but, a trip to the emergency room and the cost of ex-rays are going to run much more than simply taking all precautions to avoid a fall. Buy some Ice Cleats if you decide to take up this sport.
Ice Fishing Is All It Is Cracked Up To Be
I would say that this was a great first trip out, I am sure I will do it again and the results are worth the while. I waited many years and let a bad economy put me in a situation where I would try local instead of traveling. It was a blast. ICE FISHING is a great sport and a good way to ward off Cabin Fever.