Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Second Ice?!?!

It's been and interesting week to the start of our ice fishing season.  Last week was my first adventure onto Mille Lacs and it was an encouraging experience.  6-12 inches of ice had cover the first mile or so and the lake was completely frozen over.  The first 10 days of December saw nighttime temperatures near zero, perfect for making ice.  A thin but effective snowcover kept the temperatures ideal for freezing up the lake hard.  Last week everything changed as we had a significant rain, melting all the snow, causing the average temperature to increase.  The show stopper came last Thursday as the low pressure front moved east and brought gale force winds from the north.  I am not sure how it all happens but the wind created large areas of open water while piling the ice over 15 feet high on the south shore.  I snapped a picture as we drove by the pile of 12 inch thick ice chunks that were a flat surface last weekend. It's pretty amazing what Mother Nature can do.  The fact is that all week it's been high winds, one day from the west, the next from the south, the next day from the north.  This has caused something that hasn't been seen at Mille Lacs in all the years I've ice fished, almost a complete island of ice has formed around the lake isolating most of the lake from normal travel.  It's effect can best be seen at this MODIS website, a site that displays pictures of daily satellite photos of North America by region.  You can chose the day you would like to see and if it's clear can get a excellent idea of ice cover, useful both at the beginning of the season and towards ice out.  Here is a screen shot from December 20th, 2011 showing the view from space and the large open areas that travel completely around Lake Mille Lacs.  For reference the lake is about 18 mile north to south and 14 miles east to west.  As you can see the ice island encompasses 80% of the surface area.  We are going to need the wind to stop blowing and some below zero temperatures to really heal up those open areas for safe travel.  Pretty interesting for sure.  A picture is worth a thousand words and if you know anything about the current conditions on the lake, this picture says it all.  Be careful out there!

Although we knew there was open water on the lake, the area I fished last week should be safe to walk out to.  Meeting my friend Mark Applen Saturday afternoon we assessed the situation as reports suggested that we stay off the main lake.  They were right!  Walking out to the spot in Vineland Bay the ice was solid and appeared to be firmly attached to the shoreline.   There were a number of wheel house that had been pulled to the area using ATVs, something I suppose I could have used however I do need the exercise.   With more activity at the spot I fished last week we moved down the break to an area we could have by ourselves.  I set up in 22 feet while Mark punched his holes in 15 feet.  The break is very abrupt as he was only about 12 feet from me.  As always I drill a number of holes around the area which allows me to move around, finding the right depth.  Mark pretty well planted himself on his first 2 holes.  The perch were thick in my spot.  I threw my camera down and at any given time there were at least 10 on the screen, all 6 inches and smaller. I caught numerous 6 inch perch while Mark, just 12 feet away was hauling in 10 inch perch.  Well the old saying is where there is perch there is walleyes so I just decided to wait them out.  In the meantime Mark was accumulating a nice pile of fish including a couple of nice walleyes like the 21+ he is holding here.  I did see a few walleyes on the camera, some of them very respectable yet the 7 foot differential must have been the depth where the fish, done with feeding, settled in for the night.  My stubbornness sort of took over and I stayed till dark with only 1 fish to show for the day.  Mark, on the other hand had 10 perch and 1 walleye on the ice, and had released 3 other walleyes outside the slot limit.  Oh well, at least somebody got some fish.  My only solstice is the fact that it was my idea to fish where we did yet reality it was probably the only place to fish that was safe.  While out on the ice we got a call from Bill, the Mille Lacs County Ice Rescue Squad was busy that day.  4 guys had walked out to Sloppy Joe's and got stranded on an ice chunk that broke off of the shore anchored ice shelf.  After resolving that issue another call came in as a couple of anglers were floating away out of St. Albans Bay.  I like ice fishing but have no desire to use trolling as a viable technique.

This weekend is  a special one as I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas.  It will be different without my dad but I know he would be sad if we did not celebrate with our hearts in the season so we will not let him down.  At this time last year we had 18 inches of snow on the ground, today it is as brown as can be.  The winter solstice happens tonight and I am looking forward to the days starting to get longer (more fishing time!).   I doubt there will be time to fish until after Sunday and I have a couple of nice pictures that can be used for fill.  Be good and make sure to leave Santa something special, he definitely deserves it.

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