Monday, January 21, 2013

Shabbona - The Day of 50 Holes

Some may have noticed I started this blog after my first trip out ice fishing with Dan Byrne aka Pondboy from DuPage Angler.  

Some may have noticed my excitement about ice from my posts here as soon as the weather started to get cold.

I wanted to go somewhere to ice fish that would be challenging to me. I have a poor record when it comes to fishing Shabbona Lake in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area.  I'll own my record.  The sidebar on the upper right side of this page tells my introductory tale as starting fishing again in my adult life on July 3, 2011.  On July 3 and 4th of 2011 my friend Dave and I decided to start fishing and picked Shabbona to be the first lake we'd fish.  On the first day I believe I caught my first largemouth bass ever, then nothing more in 4 more trips.

Now that I see this picture again it's a larger largemouth than I remember it being.  Still after reading the ice reports on Shabbona Lake State Park's Facebook page I was taking a leap of faith that I'd have ice to fish on when I arrived.  The weather had been gradually getting warmer since last weekend's fun out on the ice and today was forecast a high of 47 degrees.  It looked like it would hit it too.

After buying a map and chatting with a man at the bait shop counter I learned there were several patches of open water but 4-6 inches on most of the rest of the lake.  I spent the next 5 hours drilling holes.

Last weekend a stop to check out a lake that I had never fished through the ice caused me to realize my 8"  Strikemaster Lazer Sharp ice auger was a great hole driller but my arms stopped being great human-auger power after 15 holes or so.  To remedy this problem I purchased an ION lithium ion electric auger.  The auger is rated to drill 40 holes through two foot thick ice on a single charge.  I doubt I'll ever see two foot thick ice so I should be able to punch a few more than that.

Today I did.  Today I'm calling the Day of 50 Holes.  I changed locations three times.  In the first location I punched 15 holes.  No signs of life at all on my flasher in any of them.  I stopped and worked a hole when I marked something mid-water column but nothing bit my jig.

Time to move again.  As I was moving spots I got a text from my friend Jason Coyne.  He was going to bring his son Mathew to see ice fishing and all that is involved.  I punched at least 10 holes here looking for a fish crib.  Judging by the number of jigs I lost that got hooked on something wooden I'd bet I found it.

Matthew liked the water puddled on the surface, the rocks people placed on the ice marking locations, the pita chips I had for a snack and a little bit of the ice fishing experience.  Unfortunately the fish just weren't biting.  Jason and Mathew left and I contemplated a third and final move to a spot closer to my car.

Now I know I'm calling this the Day of 50 Holes but I'm pretty sure I drilled at least 30 in this final bay.  It was just so easy with my ION power auger.  I was looking for a fish crib that was centered in the cove and flanked by brush piles on either side. 

It took almost all 30 holes in this last bay to locate my first fish.  I jigged a Fiskas tungsten jig tipped with two wax worms.  Dropping the jig down to near the bottom caused the bottom to move up to check out my jig.  I teased it up, then up some more, then I paused and wiggled slightly until I felt the tap and light pull on my custom ultralight ice rod.  I raised up a hook set and my rod bent with the weight of a nice bluegill.

Hooray for beating the skunk!  It took what seemed like forever but I can now say I've caught two fish at Shabbona.'s getting colder.  Time to flip over my shelter and get away from the wind.  I drilled a few more holes to fit within the width of my shelter.  I slipped my transducer into one hole and dropped in a Fiskas jig tipped with a Little Atom Micro Nuggie in Glow Pearl color.  

Dropping the jig into the brushpile I was over yielded a blip on my flasher screen.  It chased my jig's tail up, and up, and up and SET!  TWO fish!!  

I wanted to get a shot of the Micro Nuggie in its mouth but it really didn't want to cooperate for the picture.  This was a better sized gill than the first one.  I could actually lip this one.  (and I did just to see if I could)  Like the first gill I caught I let this one slip back into the chilly water of Shabbona Lake.

No more fish would come up for a picture today.  I was happy sitting in my shelter relaxing for a moment.  The orange glow of the sunset through the trees behind me bled through my plastic shelter window.  I thought about ice fishing and what I have learned between last year when I started and now.  I reflected on the pleasure of fishing and time spent with friends.  Not everyone can say they have walked on a lake and that's kind of neat.  

When I packed my gear in my shelter's storage areas and collapsed the tent I saw the vast field of  holes I had drilled.  I'm sure the last area had more than 30 holes but the Day of 63 holes doesn't have a cool a ring to it.  I'll stick with 50 holes, two bluegills, upping my catch total to 3 fish in 6 visits at Shabbona Lake, and a great day on the ice successfully locating and catching a few fish in what was a tough bite for everyone I talked to.

I think I'll soak in the sunset for a few more minutes before packing up the car.