Wednesday, December 4, 2013

First Ice

It doesn't get any better!
This Thanksgiving holiday turned into a drive fest as Thursday was spent in Lacrosse with my brother Steve and his family, brother Blake, and mom.  I was surprised how quickly we made it, 2 1/2 hours.  While there Steve and I hit Gander Mountain where I picked up a new blade guard for my old auger bit then stopped by Festival Foods to get some Lefse that they offer as private label made in Blair, WI (It's absolutely heavenly!).  My friend Eric lives 1/2 mile so we decided to drop off a few calendars for the guys at his work.  As we got out of the car his son Carter was looking through the window and exclaimed......Hey, it's the guy that went fishing with us!  He's a great young man as his mom said, he never is without the Cabela's small multi-tool that I gave him during last summer's fishing trip in Alma.  Sure enough, it was on the kitchen counter as he set it down to see us.   Eric and Carter wanted us to see their new duck boat so we walked over to his mom's garage to check out the beast.  We left with a standing invitation to take it for a ride next year, something that looks like a lot of fun.  Leaving Eric's we headed back to Minneapolis only to turn around on Friday to attend my wife's uncle Andrew's 75th birthday celebration.  Quite a cast of characters, it was good to see everyone before we left for home.  My friend John Delestry works at Scheel's in Oakwood Mall so a slight detour was in order.  On the way down our friend Greg called to wish us a nice Thanksgiving and give me the inside scoop on John's crazy morning which included stitches in his hand, a result of his earlier attempt to butcher his deer.  Greg, John, are friends of Eric and we have become great friends over the years.  It's a perfect example of the people you meet over the years, who sticks and who doesn't.  On Saturday I headed up to Jack's cabin (another 1 1/2 hour drive) to take down my tree stand and maybe try out some ice fishing in front of his place.  Arriving around 11:00 we decided to ice fish first as the day was perfect.  I brought my newly repaired Jiffy auger to see if it actually worked.  With over 7 inches of ice, we walked about 100 yards off shore to the deeper 16 foot hole in the bay.  Jack and his son Ben already had a couple of northern pike from earlier in the day using tip ups, Ben's favorite way to fish.  Although I was after panfish, it really turned into a test run for the auger, my new FLX28, my new panfish rod, and a simple opportunity to get out.  Well, the auger engine ran great but the blade cut terribly, the FLX28 is going to be great, the jury's out on the new fishing pole but something's don't change, like Ben's enthusiasm for tip up fishing.  Watching the top of the tip up spin as the fish runs with the bait is pretty addicting.  In one of my brighter moments I took a video of the event and you can see it by clicking this link Ben nails a northern pike.  Posing for the victory picture, I'm not sure I have taken a better picture. 

Dan keeping his hole company.
Jack's neighbor Dan, was also out on the lake with his son Tony.  Dan is retired and a permanent resident of Platte Lake and a pretty good guy!  He also loves to fish and with all of us on the lake, it represented 3 generations of avid sportsmen.  I had forgot my camera at the cabin and walked back to get it, snapping this picture on the way back.  While taking the picture I noticed his Vexilar FL8 wasn't in the hole.  When asked him why his response was that he really didn't know how to use it while fishing as it was used mostly to check the depth.  Not missing an opportunity to help I explained that I'd be lost with mine and we started his lesson!  Although the FL8 doesn't have a zoom feature it can still provide an invaluable look at what's happening under the ice.  We first verified what he was seeing and when I asked if he had a sinker above his bait, he was surprised.  Not really as I could see the 2 marks move in unison when he lifted the line up then let it fall.  Pretty soon you could see marks rising off the bottom as I explained they were fish and look for the marks to turn red as the got right on the bait.  A quick hook set and up came a perch, about 4 inches long.  After catching 4 identical fish Dan got the hang of it as I left.  Whether he continues to use it or not, it was fun to help and maybe he will catch more fish this winter.  Soon it was time to head out to the swamp and take down the stand.  Normally I wouldn't be such a hurry to take it down but it is in need of repair and leaving it in the woods just would delay something that honestly, may not get fixed until next year anyway.  At least it's not exposed to the elements anymore than it has to be and should give me plenty of time to get the job done.  I'll probably contact the manufacturer and see if they have a ready made hardware kit for it, or better yet Brett is talking about making some permanent stands, I like that a lot better.

Tom with a few fish already
Sunday was very nice and with the high around 34 degrees and zero wind, it was a perfect day to try Pelican Lake, just 20 minutes west of the house.  My neighbor Tom was running by the house on Sunday morning when he stopped to see how the weekend was going.  Stating it would be better if we got out for a few hours in the afternoon and do some ice fishing as my few hours at Jack's lake wasn't very productive.  Agreeing to leave around 1:30 he showed up as I was loading the truck. Knowing the journey would be walking we packed a tub sled, a couple of pails, my Vexilar, one for Tom, and my old Jiffy auger which I had the chance to sharpen the blades in the morning.  For insurance we also packed the Eskimo hand auger, just in case.  Our first stop was the hardware store in St. Michael to pick up bait.  Dressed like we were going fishing the guy greeted us with a message.....We are all out of waxies and eurolarva.  What!! That's impossible, nobody runs out of waxies.  Well, the early ice caught them by surprise and by 2:00 they were sold out.  Plan B, buy some of the new plastics, they are supposed to work really well.  Arriving at the parking lot there was 1 position left as a well worn path to the lake was already made.  I suppose there was 30 guys on the ice which was a surprising 6 inches thick.  Meeting some of the people coming off they all had fish and offered some locations.  9 1/2 feet is about as deep as it gets so we spread out.  The great news is the Jiffy cut like a new auger as I punched about 10 holes in various places.  Putting on some of the plastic I started catching small crappies right away, and I mean small.  The fish would definitely come and look at the plastic but seemed hesitant to hit it unless they appeared aggressive.  If they just came up to the bait, it would take a lot of movement to get them interested.  Deciding that the fish needed a switch I tied on a Purist, a bait that my friend Kevin is a master at catching fish with.  A fairly large one, black with a white tip the fish, it was the answer to the slower bite.  Ending up with over 25 fish caught, I brought home my limit of less than respectable but adequate crappies.  I'll take it as it was great to finally catch something through the ice.

This week I head to San Antonio, and just in time.  We are expecting a substantial cold front to blow in on Wednesday night with -10 to -15 below zero predicted while the 70's are predicted for the home of the Alamo.  I can guarantee it will be making lots of ice here.  Saturday is the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show and Mark Applen and I will try to check out the latest and greatest.  Sunday could be back out ice fishing, it will depend on the weather.  Either way the winter of 2013/2014 is shaping up to be great for ice fishing. 

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