Sunday, February 24, 2013

Harrier Lake Last Day on Ice?

If we have to lose ice fishing until next year I'd hang it up happily after my day out on Harrier Lake this past Saturday.

Harrier Lake is part of the Pratt's Wayne Woods Forest Preserve in the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.  Harrier is unique in the system as a catch and release only lake.  This allows fish go grow and reproduce and sustain their own balance while giving the sport fisherman a great place to go catch a variety of species.

I met Pondboy, JC1Crappies, and Rocknfish from the DuPage Angler forums in the parking lot as soon as the gates were opened.  We parked, said our hellos and unloaded gear.

We were working off of a report given to Pondboy from a friend of his.  His friend had a great day catching walleye at Harrier last Sunday night.  Another DuPage Angler member JTC24 caught a fantastic 18" walleye a week or two ago at Harrier.  We went to a spot off a point on the lake and started drilling holes.

It was slow going.  I decided to turn on my Vexilar Double Vision underwater camera to see what was happening in holes we deemed interesting.  

I saw a perch.  Neat!  A perch.  I haven't caught one of those yet.  I hope I'll get one to bite today.

Nothing looked good and that was causing us to worry.  Pondboy walked around and talked up the other anglers.  We would tip them off if we found a bite and several said they'd do the same.  We got our first spot by way of one of these tips.

Quick holes were drilled and bait was deadsticked and jigged near bottom.  JC1Crappies scored first with walleye.

I got my Vexilar camera in line with my holes quickly by using the compass heading generated by the camera.  That enabled me to see my minnow and my jig on the video screen.  I switched jig colors to a more beige tungsten Fiskas jig.  Dropping it to the bottom I saw walleye ZIP across the screen and slam the wax worm and jig.  Camera fishing is cool!

More walleye came up for a picture.  I think the group caught over ten in total.

Mid-jig I heard a voice asking us to emerge from our shelters and bring our fishing licences. This wasn't the first county parks officer we would see today.  All of us were fishing legally and never mind proving it.  A quick chat and we said our goodbyes to the officer and got back to fishing.

Around 11:30 AM the light switch was flipped and magically the walleye vanished.  We were off to scout for a new spot.

If we were lucky we could follow the walleye.  We guessed going shallow near an underwater island would either find the walleye or find panfish to catch.  In five feet of water we found green weeds, decent light penetration, and schools of bluegill that came around every minute to three minutes almost like clockwork.

I shot this short video to show what it was like.  If I would have had a jig in the water it would have been in line with the bluegill in the background.  It would have been a safe bet that I would have caught that fish but I was using both hands to keep the cell phone steady for the video.

And now the bluegill pictures.

We were slamming bluegills in all sizes.  Some nicer sized gills came though and Pondboy or I would announce their presence on screen and on sonar.  predictably thirty to forty five seconds later the other shelter would see bluegills show up under their hole.  

Pondboy and Rocknfish had to leave to go to a family function.  As we were talking about it being time for them to go I got a text from JC1Crappies that he was on his way back with his son Brendon.

Two left, two more arrived and we kept catching bluegills.  Brendon bounced between my shelter and JC1's.  Catch a fish in one shelter, leave to go catch in the other.

Brendon had caught the bluegill in the picture above when we both saw a perch on the video screen  eyeing the jig I had left dangling.  Would I catch my first perch?  Yes, yes I would.

It was cute and pretty tiny.  Not a keeper even if we could have kept it.  It had the cool orange fins on the bottom and the stripes, add that to my list of species caught.

The sky was taking on a rosy hue in the west.  JC and I decided we should move closer to the parking lot to our morning spot.  Walleye like all fish follow their forage.  Our bet was that the conditions in the evening were similar to the conditions in the morning.  That would bring the walleye back to that area.  It did.

It was now almost dark.  We packed up our gear and dragged it to our cars where we found the Forest Preserve truck waiting for us to get off the lake.  

I fished from park open to close, dawn to dusk, all on 6-8 inches of ice.  Personal totals for the day were around 15 walleye, over 30 bluegill, and a perch.  Like I said, if that had to be my last day ice fishing for Winter 2013 I would pack up my gear happily!

Secretly, I'm hoping ice stays safe for one more trip out...but don't tell that to the open water guys. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pondboy's Angling Experience -DA ProStaff: Four Friends and a New Frozen Lake

What a long, strange trip this winter has been for those of us that like to fish through the ice.  Here's Dan's account of our trip last Sunday.

Pondboy's Angling Experience -DA ProStaff: Four Friends and a New Frozen Lake: What a strange winter this has been! The Temperature will be in the 20s, no 40s, um no 30s! With the up and down temps, the avid ice ang...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Private Pond Gills

Pondboy and I made our plans Saturday.  We decided he would drive, we'd take my ice shelter, then drive to someplace he doesn't get to fish very often but has been fishing since he was of high-school age.

As a kid Pondboy snuck in to this pond a few times but stopped after a nightime top-water fishing trip ended with him on his stomach for a hour.  You see the noise from the lures splashing down added to the noise of bass slamming the topwater in the dark caused one house to turn on their outside lights, then the next, then the spotlight from a squad car ended the trip.  Now you see why he ended up on his belly in the weeds.  He was hiding from the police.

Some time in high school Dan met a girl who was a friend of a friend.  They started talking and Dan found out she lived on this private pond where he'd been sneaking in to fish.  He quickly asked if she thought he could come fish in the pond sometime.  She arranged for it to happen but with one caveat; everyone's property line extends to the water so Dan had to fish within the boundaries of her yard.  That brought up the subject of boats and he received permission to bring his 10' skiff and greatly increase the area he could fish.

Flash forward to Sunday January 27, 2013.  Pondboy is now a Facebook friend with this woman who's parents still live in the same house on the same pond.  A short exchange of messages and she alerted her parents to call the neighbors so they wouldn't call the cops on the two guys walking around on top of the lake.

The weather was on a strange trip for January.  That month had flirted with cold weather and embraced it more than December but tomorrow the cold would yield to a warm front.  Who knows how the ice will react to almost 60 degrees and rain so we were taking every opportunity to find fish on this pond.

I drilled a test hole a few feet from shore; 5.25".  Very safe.  The rest of the pond didn't drop below 4.5" of ice thickness and how do I know that you may ask?  Because I walked all over it drilling holes trying to find fish on the edges of weed beds.  Dan was following me with his new fish finder on a Genz Box.  He wasn't sure of the settings and modes just yet so I could drill 20 holes and circle back around with my flasher and a custom ultra-light ice rod.  I did this after my second set of 20 holes and it paid off.

A cute largemouth was fun to watch rise up off the bottom and get teased into biting my jig.  This picture and a quick release later and I was back to drilling.

We decided to set up the shelter and fish seated so six holes were drilled in a line and the Frabill tent flipped over us as we sat in the comfy seats.  A small adjustment to line up the shelter sled-body with our holes and we got to fishing.

In our first spot, in short order Dan picks up this lovely crappie.  He was relieved the skunk had been broken for him.  Now we could work on catching more.  Where there's one crappie there are more, right?

"Dan," I said after 20 fishless minutes "I think that that was a rogue-crappie"

We chuckled about the thought of one lone crappie swimming around the pond but for the rest of the trip we wouldn't catch another one.  No more crappie.  No more anything on Dan's fish finder and nothing below my holes in my flasher's cone.  Time to move.

Flipping back the tent let out all the warmth we had trapped in the shelter.  Quickly we put on gloves and started flashing and fish finding in holes to try to find fish.  Then we tried to find weed edges as no fish seemed to be near any of our holes.

We parked in our second and final spot.  I used my ION electric auger to drill three, eight inch holes with an inch of ice between them for my long custom rods and three more just like them a foot closer to the shelter for Dan's standard size ice rods.

We noticed the temperature drop and got the shelter and Mr. Heater situated to make our time on the ice comfortable.  It was at that point the freezing "Wintery Mix" started to fall.  It was at that point another thing started to happen; we started marking fish.

Big, beautiful Brim began biting!  (I couldn't resist the alliteration)  To make things even better the only thing the big bluegills would bite was the tantalizing tail of the Little Atom Nuggies we each were jigging with.

The one fish we decided to measure was 8.25".  That's a nice bluegill!!!

All Little Atom, all afternoon.  Quality gills kept combing the weedline we were sitting above and Nuggies were what was for dinner!

We didn't want to go but both Dan and I had to be home for different reasons so it made sense to end the day.  Aside from the one bass which was caught on waxworms everything else we caught wanted Little Atom Nuggies!  The Nuggies saved the day for us, turning a slow day on the ice to a fun time jigging for bluegills.  Litlle Atom bluegills from a private pond.