Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Winding Down

A nice mess of crappies
Last year at this time we were basking in 80 degree weather, the ice was already off Lake Mille Lacs, and ice fishing was the furthest thing from my mind.  This year we have yet to break 50 degrees in the month of March, something that hasn't happened in 30 years.  I guess it just proves that Mother Nature tends to even things out.  So with the continued cold weather comes the chance for late season ice fishing and my neighbor Petey was ready to go.  With significant snow remaining on the ice our strategy was to pick a local lake that should have significant traffic to have packed the snow enough to get around.  Having fished Pelican Lake near Albertville a couple of times, unsuccessfully of course, it seemed a good choice for one last outing.  Minimizing the amount of equipment, we brought Petey's ice house, my auger, our electronics and after stopping at the hardware store in St. Michael for bait, headed out to the lake.  Even with the colder temperatures the sun is getting higher in the sky which is melting the snow.  Expecting the landing to be in some state of slush, mud, and water, I was pleasantly surprised how good it was.  With few on the lake we drove to an area where I have done well in the past, 9 - 10 feet with weeds scattered.  With the wind howling out of the north, we drilled 4 holes using the truck as our wind break.  With about 6 inches of snow on the ice, another 4 inches of frozen slush, there was still at least 26 inches of ice as the auger drilled right
A bonus bullhead!
up to the handles.  After cleaning the holes, the fish started biting right away.  Nothing big but the action was good.  Within a couple of hours we had the bottom of our pails covered with sunnies and crappies, the largest being about 10 inches.  As the sun moved closer to the west it was time to put up the shelter and get warmed up.  The fish kept biting as we sorted through 14 crappies and 11 sunnies, nothing extraordinary but based on my year, I'll take it.  Pelican Lake does have bullheads in it and although I have seen them on the camera, had never caught one through the ice.  Well, there's always the first time as I coaxed a fish to come up and hit my ice jig, a sure sign of a crappie chasing the bait and pulled out this ugly bullhead.  Now, suppose I was from Iowa, this would have been a trophy but it wasn't what I was looking for.  Oh well, it did hit pretty hard.  I forgot my camera so I did this self portrait with my new "smart" phone.  It has 2 camera's, one on the screen side and one on the back.  Although the quality is not as good, the image on the screen allows you to at least attempt to get a good shot!  The other thing that I have enjoyed while fishing with Petey this year is to see him advance in his ice fishing skills.  Now I am not about to say that I am a better ice fisherman than him however I have been able to pass some of the things I do to be more successful.  For instance, I was looking at his depth finder and noticed that it seemed to have the sensitivity turned up quite a bit for 9 feet of water.  Disputing my thoughts, he showed me what we were looking at, the sinker above his ice jig.  Sinker........what the!  Complaining that the ice jig didn't sink very fast, he needed the sinker to get it down, all I could say was Uffda!!  The object of shallow water pan fishing is to slow the lure down, keep it light so when the crappies come up and inhale the bait, they don't get knocked in the head as a result.  Anyway he later admitted that the sink rate wasn't that bad as he started to catch more fish.  On our last trip I showed him how using a Frostie jig with a larger hook would increase his hooking percentage, which it did.  Petey's a good student, at South Stanchfield his catch rate of what we cleaned was 11%.  Sunday's trip yielded 25 keeper's with Petey's share at 8, a whopping 32% of the catch, a 3X increase in adding to the next fish fry.  At this rate I might have to start fishing alone again!

The snow is still here.
As I indicated, winter still has a pretty good grip at the house.  I snapped this picture on March 26th, the snowdrifts are at least 3 feet high along the road and the blanket is a good 8 - 10 inches.  With the temps heading in the 40's this weekend things will start to loosen up.  The weather is absolutely perfect for sap flow from the maple trees as my neighbor boiled up 65 gallons on Sunday and has promised me a pint.  Another advantage of a cold March is the apple trees will have plenty of rest and their bloom should happen as normal.  Last year's unusually warm spring and a colder than normal May raise havoc with all of my fruit trees as the crop was no existant.  I predict a bumper crop of apples, pears, and raspberries for 2013.  The snow will really help the moisture and with the amount up north, the river should get back to normal.  Time to organize the tackle boxes, clean up the reels, replace the line, and get ready for opener which is only 6 weeks away.  We ordered all of the Team Walleye hats and shirts this week as Mark Mayerich and I continue the countdown to the successful organization of our trip.  All I can say is we sure miss Ron Edberg.

No comments: