Three trips were made to two different lakes last weekend and success was had. The ice, however, is getting soft and pulling away from shore so it looks like I just may be done with walking on the hard water for this season. Here’s a brief summary of last weekend’s adventure.
• Early bird gets the fish - We were on the water before the sun came up both days. Wearing headlamps, we never had to use them, as it was just light enough to see where we were going, as we walked out to the fishing grounds.
This particular body of water offers decent crappie fishing early but sometimes wanes throughout the rest of the day. Hence the early start. It was still basically morning when we returned home, giving me ample time to settle in and watch the Twins game.
• Simply sledding - We went by foot, as the ice was deteriorating and pulling away from the shorelines. Fishing of this nature has me wondering at times if there will be enough ice to get off the lake when done. I’ve had that happen a time or two.
I used a small tote sled that was just large enough to hold all late ice fishing necessities, which consisted of a power auger, rod case and tackle, minnow pail, and a multi-purpose bucket that held my Vexilar but also was used for something to sit on and a place to put fish. That’s all that’s needed at this time of the year. Even with a fairly heavy load, the sled glided across the ice with ease.
• Seeking shelter - If there’s a problem at all in using only a sled to haul your gear out onto the lake, it’s the fact that you do not have a fishing shelter to hide from the elements and I needed it on both days.
The first day found us walking out in drizzling rain and sleet. Snow followed a little later. It was a little cool and my legs got wet, as I wasn’t wearing my Clam ice fishing bibs. Luckily I was wearing the jacket. That jacket, by the way, acted as my “shelter” on both days, keeping me warm and dry. I did a lot of bucket sitting, with my back to the wind.
Day two offered better weather except for the fact that it was blowing a strong, cold, north wind. My fingers got as cold as they would have during a mid-winter excursion but I always say: if you’re hands are cold, you’re catching fish” and that’s always a good thing.
• Crappie slug fest - The second day had fish in more of a fussy mood so a slight tackle change was in order. I noticed the fish didn’t seem to want any bright colors so I switched up to make my offering look like a small insect. This came to me from seeing several of the holes alive with greenish colored freshwater shrimp.
My lure choice was Northland Tackle’s “Slug Bug” in “army worm” (dark green) color, stuck on the end of a small black jig. It did the trick and made a huge difference. Now, instead of slowly rising up and checking out the bait, which was previously a brightly colored jig tipped with a wax worm, they were practically fighting over the dark little “Slug Bug.”
I had this tiny offering tied on the end of some 3# Fluorosilk line, which was being worked to precision by one of my favorite rods, a 28” “Al Dente Noodle” made by DH Custom Rods & Tackle. This rod is about as sensitive as they come and I certainly needed the help on Sunday.
• Dead end - Fishing was slow enough on both days that I resorted to using a second rod and in this case it was Gary Roach’s 28” Mr. Walleye “Dead Stick”. Soft and flimsy, it acts like a bobber and slowly sags when a fish takes the bait, which was in the case a crappie minnow stuck on a glow-pink hook. I’ll go to this presentation when things are slow and it certainly worked to perfection on this day.
For line, I used Northland’s 2# Fluorosilk. I prefer going light as possible when dead-sticking, as the fish have all day to check things out. This line has been absolutely wonderful over the past couple of seasons.
• Summary - Ice fishing has basically come to a close in the North Country. Yes, there’s plenty of ice out there, if you can get on the lake, but it’s not worth risking your life for. It’s fast deteriorating and pulling away from the shorelines.
The ice I was walking on last weekend was very “mushy” and the existing holes are getting bigger every day from water running into them. Please be careful my friends, have fun, and good luck!.
~ Greg Clusiau, HSM Outdoors