Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 First Time On Ice

ICE!!!  We finally have ice!!!

Living in northern Illinois I often watch ice reports from North Dakota and Minnesota.  Those are the first states I see ice reports from.  I start to get excited when Wisconsin and Iowa have ice thick enough to fish.  I wait semi-patiently while weather gets cold, skim-ice starts to appear on ponds and lakes, my fellow ice anglers and I turn into weathermen as we watch extended forecasts waiting for the water to get thick enough for us to feel comfortable walking out on the water.  This year we had a few weeks of cold, then warm, then cold, then warm, then frigid, then finally frozen!

This past Saturday was my first opportunity to get out and ice fish.  My friend Alan was just as excited as I was and we met shortly before sun-up to take our first steps into the 2015 ice season.

I started drilling holes; the first to test ice thickness which was 7-10", the rest to find weed edges, and the depth transitions I knew should hold fish.  Alan followed with my Vexilar flashing depths and checking for fish activity.   As often happens to the person following the hole-driller Alan hooked up with his first fish of 2015!

Ok, a little underwhelming but the skunk was off Alan.  I kept drilling holes with my ION until I heard Alan say, "Hey, a big mark is chasing my jig."  Yeah it was!!  Alan set the hook when he felt a mushy sensation and was rewarded by his straight line reel handle spinning backwards and whapping his palm several times before he could use his hand as drag. With pressure on the line the fish knew it was hooked and began to massively bend Alan's panfish rod toward the hole.  After five minutes of back and forth Alan turned the fish and got its head up the hole.

Alan seriously upgraded on his second fish for 2015!  A very nice largemouth bass with a tiny, perch-pattern Fiskas jig tightly embedded in its upper lip.

We decided to set up my shelter over this hole for the obvious reason being held by Alan above. We were sitting on top of 7-8' of water right off a transition down from 5'.  It didn't take long before I was able to jig up my first fish of 2015 using a small Salmo Chubby Darter lure.

While it isn't a huge crappie I'm glad my first fish of 2015 was a nice chunk of a speck.  I enjoy catching the wily crappie and I released this pretty example back to the cold water to swim, eat, and spawn.  

It turned out this would be the only fish I caught my first outing of 2015. Alan started moving around a bit bouncing from hole to hole outside the shelter when he hollered for me to come check out what he caught.

Alan hooked into a very nice perch!  There is probably a good reason the perch-pattern jig caught the nice largemouth bass earlier today.  This perch was also released to eat, spawn, and grow.  I feel it's the right thing to do in small, un-managed lakes and ponds and so does Alan.

The sun was high in the sky, the ice surface was getting sloppy, and frankly I was tired.  We called it a day around one o'clock.  It was a great day getting out on the hard water!  Alan had a fantastic day of catching and while I only caught one crappie it was enough to get my skunk off as well as give me a taste of ice fishing again.  It had been too long since I last walked on water to do one of the things I enjoy most.  I'll be sure to get out again soon.