Sunday, January 1, 2017

First Ice 2016-17 In More Ways Than One

To say the year and a half since I last penned a blog has been full of events would be an understatement.  I've had a great year and a half that sadly hasn't included very much fishing.  It HAS included me moving to Palatine, IL with my wonderful Lupita.  We've added a sweet pit-bull we call Otis to the household and settled into the beginning of our life together.  I've been doing a lot, just not a lot of fishing.

That's why I was looking forward to ice season coming around.  I knew that I'd at the very least be able to get out ice fishing.  Since my move most of my things have ended up in the garage as a direct transfer from my old storage unit.  I knew where my shelter was.  My spud bar and flasher were accessible, rods and reels checked out, I even ordered a pair of Mickey Mouse boots for the ice season to come.  

Well the ice season came.  My friends who took time off work around the Christmas holiday were getting out on safe ice most every day.  This made me get the itch with only one problem.  I don't know where my box of ice jigs got to.  

Fortunately I was completely unaware of the fact that when I moved I set down roots less than a half mile from a fantastic bait and tackle store!  I got waxies, spikes, jigs and plastics in no time and was ready to go.

Planning happened earlier in the week but honestly I've been prepping Lupita for ice fishing since the first time I took her open water fishing.  I just had to wait for the right time to get her hooked!  I wanted to go Friday night after work.  I know Lupita had expressed interest so I shot her a quick text that basically said wanna go ice fishing tonight after work?  This was her one-letter reply.

Still, that wasn't a no!  :)  But things didn't work out for Friday so we planned on fishing together Saturday; New Years Eve.

We had four to five hours before we were to pick up Lupita's mama for dinner and all our gear was ready.  I gave Lupita pointers on which of her boots to wear and general guidelines on clothing.  We loaded up and arrived at our destination.  The whole drive I explained ice fishing and answered her questions.  She felt comfortable enough (more on that later) to help pull sleds of gear to the shore, strap on Kahtoola micro spikes, and follow me out a few feet onto the ice.

Pita's HEY, I'M WALKING ON A LAKE selfie!

Pita loves shoes.  No surprise we've got a picture of her feet safely on ice.

I showed Pita how to spud for safe shore ice, drill a test hole to measure thickness, and then we walked out to where a spring was still bubbling up through the ice.  I drilled a test hole to flash for marks.

10-11 feet of water, I was marking fish on a narrow flasher cone setting on my FL-20.  Of course I had my ultra-light rod rigged up with a Fiskas Tungsten jig and an Aurora Lure Company Magic Maggie in red.  I dropped down and teased the mark up but it didn't eat.  No meat on the hook so I can't say I blame the fish.  We decided to set up here since I knew the pond and had a tip from Pondboy that he did well near that spring earlier in the week.

Setting up the underwater camera. (surprise photo)

Hey, there are bluegills!

Pita's "I'm sitting on a comfortable seat after walking around on a lake for the first time look."

And of course the in the dark shelter couple selfie.  Now let's fish!

I originally was going to have Pita use the camera on my FL-20 Double-Vision system and I'd use the flasher in another hole. That plan went out the window when it got dark. The spring stirred up the water a lot and all we could see on the camera were dots of whatnot moving around, not her jig and not fish.

I explained the basics she'd need to know about fishing with a flasher. Signal strength green to yellow to red.  That's the bottom, that's your jig. That line moving between the bottom and your jig is a fish.  See it come up to your jig?  You'll feel a tap when it....steals your waxie. That's ok.  I have 99 waxies at this point so we'll put another one on.  Also this is the first time Lupita's felt the tap of a fish biting a lure.  Now she'll get the next one.  Not before I catch the first one however.

It's not a big bluegill but you can see it got my whole jig, Magic Maggie, and a few spikes in it's mouth.  It felt good to catch, no matter the size. Soon Pita was ready to drop down the hole. She read the flasher, saw jig, saw fish, saw fish move toward jig, then reeled like mad when she felt the tap!  Not convention ice fishing form but it was effective.  I present to the world wide web Lupita's first ever ice fishing catch.

It was a wonderful moment punctuated by a lot of loud and joyful "YAYs", some clapping, and big smiles!  Pita was happy, I was happy, the fish...the fish may have been happy, I'm not sure. Pita admired the blue colors on the gills and the iridescent purple colors on the bluegill's back before she leaned forward and let the little swimmer go back down the hole.

We fished, talked, laughed, and enjoyed each other's company.  Lupita was very excited and happy with this new experience.  Now the only thing that made her uncomfortable was the shifting groaning of the building ice.  I explained it's below 32 degrees so the ice isn't going away from under our feet, rather it is growing and grinding together like the plates that make up the earth.  No phaser-sounds were heard today but audible groans and vibrations felt through our feet were slightly unnerving for Pita.  I told her if she came with me often she'd get as nonchalant as I am about the noises the ice makes.  

Now, I promised more about how comfortable Lupita initially felt.  In a word, she was terrified. She told me afterward the idea didn't make sense to her how it would be safe but she trusted that I knew how to keep her safe and that I wouldn't put her in any danger.  Once she took her first steps onto the ice she said she relaxed and it became more of an adventure than something to fear.  It became fun!  I knew it would (I was pretty sure it would, at least).

This was a fantastic New Years Eve 2016!  We spent it together on the ice, together at dinner, and then as we've both discovered since we aren't in our 20s anymore we fell asleep at 10PM. We only knew it was 2017 because someone in the neighborhood shoots off fireworks to punctuate special events.  My father used to light off a Cherry-Bomb or 1/4 Stick every year at midnight on NYE so I zonked back out quickly and had happy dreams of Lupita's first ice fishing experience.  I'm pretty confident it won't be her last. :)