Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Panfish Trip of the Season

Ice from the auger was chunky, not shaven
Temperatures have been crazy warm the last week or so which has really changed the landscape of ice fishing from essentially Leech Lake and south.  With various reports of trucks going through the ice and open water, I decided to head to a little lake west of town and try my luck for the afternoon crappie bite.  I have not been out at all this year for panfish and with the ice conditions I needed to go somewhere that it was easy to park and walk out, Little Pulaski Lake by Buffalo is a good spot for sure.  There is a nice parking area at the lakes edge and it's about a 100 yard walk to the "crappie" spot, at least that is where I have done ok in the past.  The problem is that it might be a little late for this specific spot as it's generally better around first ice.  With not too many options, and close enough to home, it was worth a try.  The Ace Hardware in St. Michael is a convenient place to stop for bait and get the low down on the local lakes.  Admittedly they confirmed that there was not much going on but considering the perceived and real ice conditions, it wasn't surprising.  Arriving at the parking area I was surprised by the few amount of people there were, I suppose at this time of year, if you can't drive out people get lazy.  The ice was darker than normal and the shoreline was somewhat deteriorated however it wasn't too hard to get onto the main ice.  A short walk and I was at where it was about 12 feet deep so I punched about 7 holes perpendicular to the shoreline as I like to hole hop. As I drilled the holes it became obvious that the ice was starting to "Candle" meaning that water had penetrated the ice and started to form small columns within it, definitely an advanced sign of deterioration.   See how the ice was chunked and not shaven, like an auger blade normally does. Although it was definitely strong enough to support myself and if you had an ATV, that would be OK however I another surprise was it's thickness.  Less than 14 inches, this ice was pretty thin and even
First Sunnie of the season!
with the warm weather was an indication that it never really got that thick this year as in a normal year it should be about 24 inches or so.  The temperature was 58 so fishing outside was very comfortable however not typical of the third week in February, that's for sure!  Although I was looking for crappies, my suspicions were that they probably would not show up until around sunset, which was at 5:47 PM.  I did catch my first sunfish of the season, nothing big but the way my fishing has been going this winter, a welcome change.  I unhooked the fish and let it back down the hole, then proceeded to catch about 10 more around the same size.  the fish quit biting for a while then a small northern pike slammed my waxie an sort of made a mess out of everything!  No wonder the fish disappeared.  Unhooking it and letting it back down the hole I continued to move to the consecutive holes that were drilled.  A few more fish hit the waxie before the sun finally went down without much fanfare.  No crappies showed up and to be honest, I wasn't too surprised.  I think I need to head further west and north to find any decent crappies this time of the year.

This weekend is normally the weekend for Johnson's Portside Perch Extravaganza out of Hunter's
Point on the east side of Mille Lacs.  This is a very large perch fishing contest where they also give away a ton of good door prizes including a couple of Ice Castle wheel houses.  In the past I usually go up with my friends that have wheel houses, we park in a general good spot to fish, forming our own little group of houses.  It's a good time, we set up a bar, an off the ice fire pit and cook up a meal for Saturday then hopefully catch something to enter yet we are not very good at that part.  At 3:00 they hold the main event and drawing which in order to be eligible you need to purchase a button with a number.  If they draw your number, voila, but you must be present to win.  3 hours later it's done, we may have a few beers in the resort but usually head back to the wheel houses for a couple games of Farkle, the official game of my group of guys before heading to bed.  3 years ago when I first bought my wheel house, there was so much snow that we could not get out on the ice on Friday and Saturday was not much better.  We simply backed into the snow off a main road and stayed there.  There was so much snow and with us parked in one area, the ice started to sag. Although we were in no danger of breaking through, the water came through our holes and started flooding our houses.  It provided for a nice fire drill at 6:00 in the morning on Sunday.  We did get off safely but certainly provided for some entertainment for a while.  This year because of the recent warm weather, we will not be able to get our houses out on the lake.  I may actually drive up Saturday afternoon for the drawing but it's really put a damper on our groups activities for this week.  Also, Sunday is the official day that walleye fishing season ends in Minnesota inland lakes so except for crappies or fishing walleyes in the Mississippi River south of Redwing, fishing season is done.

Mark's book.
Lowrance came out with an update to their HDS Gen 3 units last week which will allow a program called SonarCharts Live to operate on these units.   Essentially it creates a map of an area of the lake that you are slowly driving over.  This is pretty exciting as I am anxious to try this on Lac Seul, the ability to make my own maps of the bottom structure of the areas we fish.  As always there are some issues that go along with this such as having an updated Navionics chip in your unit.  I have loaded the upgrade, updated my current Navionics Chip, and am ready to learn about using this new technology.  To be honest, it seems like I can barely keep up with my cellphone but this seems like a great feature to learn to use.  Secondly I am a frequent visitor to Walleye Central and on their Canada Forum there was a gentlemen selling a book he wrote, Secrets of the Canadian Shield.  I e-mailed him as I am always interested in guys that do this, write about their experiences and ordered a book from him.  Received it last weekend and am pretty impressed as it is totally applicable for Lac Seul and the fishing we do.  If for nothing else it validates my own observations of fishing in these waters and found it quite useful.  I am definitely planning on bringing it up with me to Bruce's cabin this year, it will be a great addition to our knowledge base.  If anyone is interested in ordering a book he has a few left and they are $20, not bad for a nicely written book, drop me a line and I will send you the contact information.  Admittedly it also serves to get those juices flowing as open water is only about 6 weeks away!

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