Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Actual Last Day of Ice Fishing 2013

Last weekend I was sick.  I was recovering while Pondboy and other DuPage Anglers were fishing Harrier Lake in the DuPage County Forrest Preserve District.

I wanted to get out one more time this winter.  I wanted to be able to try for the quality fish the catch and release only rules at Harrier make possible.  Today it was supposed to get to 47 degrees.  The shore ice would be the deciding factor as to whether we'd get to go fishing today.  It was raining when I pulled into the parking lot.  Pondboy was already there.  We figured the rain would blow over.  As we talked Chunsum pulled into the parking lot next to Tim.  Tim was someone Pondboy had talked to on Harrier's ice the week before and got him to sign on to  All of us were itching to get out on the ice so we loaded our sleds and dragged them to the lake edge, then over the precipice of a large chunk of ice to slide onto the lake surface.

Very moist snow covered the lake surface.  We scouted out a new spot then drilled holes when we found green weeds.  I was not thinking it was going to rain much so I hadn't brought my shelter.  My ice suit was sufficient to weather the hour or so of rain we got before the sky got grey then stayed clear.

We were all working different depths but only by a foot or two.  I was in 7 feet, Pondboy in 8, Tim in 11, and Chunsum was off on his own in the background.  I believe Tim scored first with a crappie, then a small walleye.  Pondboy, Rocknfish, and I all scored some bluegills.

Thick gills attracted to the oxygen produced by the green weeds.  Gills attracted to my jig.  Gills, gills, gills, then nothing.  Pondboy and I were planning on fishing until 2 so we wanted to stay on the fish.  We decided to move to another spot.  Along the way we ran into JTC24 and his father.

They were going to explore another area of the lake they hadn't been to yet this winter and we were looking to set up near where we met so after a quick chat mid-lake we said our goodbyes and got back to drilling and checking holes.

Pondboy's new locator marked fish in a hole I had drilled.  I double checked his locator using my flasher and I found there were indeed marks.  Time to jig quickly.   

I swear it took me five minutes to coax this fish to bite but when it finally did it whapped the jig.  Way more energy than size but even walleye this size are fun to catch.  Time to drill holes for Pondboy and Rocknfish and then position my holes behind their shelter.  We talked about what we were seeing on our fish cameras and what our catches were when we got bit.

Pondboy really wanted to catch a species other than bluegill.  I added insult to that injury by teasing a mark up to bite that peeled my drag twice.  Pondboy put on his Pivot Head video recording glasses and got the only proof that I caught a largemouth bass today.

We also proved that ice jig hooks are SHARP when the bass threw the hook my ultra light rod flicked the jig up into my finger.  Fiskas gets a shameless plug. Heck of a jig, sharp hooks and tungsten not lead so they drop fast.

As I mentioned earlier Pondboy wanted to catch a perch or walleye.  Bluegills were nice and he was catching but the pursuit of other fish to catch led us to pull up our lines and move to our third and final spot.  To add more insult to injury I quickly reeled up my deadstick rod and had a small walleye fall of of it  He'd been chewing my minnow but I picked him up and made Pondboy take my picture with him.

Our new spot was closer to the entrance to the lake via the parking lot.  On the flats in 12 foot depths.  Very little structure but we found some rocks in a small pile.  This would be the draw for fish to swim by to see if new morsels had appeared.  Cameras positioned, flasher ready, minnow rod rigged and in the water and hurry up and wait.

After what seemed like hours (probably more like five minutes but time seems longer in the cold) a good gill smacked my jig.  Then Pondboy got bit by a gill then a walleye.

Fishing would be like that until 2 PM.  Nothing for a while then flashes of fish some aggressive  some not, some liking my presentation, some swimming right past to hit Rocknfish's jig.  Pondboy and Rocknfish hooked up with a double.  I hurried over to play photographer.  

I long for better metering and more exposure control than my mobile phone will provide but the two hardcore fishermen show their mettle by lipping the toothy mouths of their walleye double.

One more bluegill came up for a picture before the clock struck two and we had to pack up to go.  We again ran into JTC24 and his father on the lake.  It's not a small lake so that's kinda neat we saw them twice.

On the walk to the shore I noticed the ice looked a bit brown and weak.  I tread as lightly as my 225 pound frame could.  Two feet from shore the ice gave way and my right foot got submerged to just above the ankle with 40 degree lake water.  That was the last event to punctuate the three months and seven days of opportunities to ice fish this season.

While packing our cars we noticed a DuPage County Forrest Preserve Police blazer parked across from our cars.  The deputy got out and chatted with us for a few minutes.  It was nice to see their presence here at this great catch and release resource.  We thanked the officer and said our goodbyes to each other and headed different directions back to our homes and lives.

Looking back on this ice season I've had a great time learning how to use my flasher, building my own custom ice rods and using those rods to catch multiple species of fish.  I got to catch my first bass of the year on New Years Day, got to know my fellow ice inclined DuPage Angler site members and got to meet new people in the middle of lakes then see them create IDs on the site.  

I got to meet two anglers out their first day on the ice who Pondboy found out had decided to go fish Harrier because they found his blog; how cool was that!  I hope we see them on DuPage Angler too!  Pondboy gave them some bait and jigs and pretty soon we heard a cry of fishing victory as they pulled their first bluegill through the ice.

Soon the shore ice will disappear and it will be time to fish for spring crappie and pre-spawn bass.  The winter was good to us.  We had some ups and downs temperature wise but were able to get out on the ice over a dozen times.  That made for a fantastic winter of ice fishing that I will fondly remember as my second year ice fishing.  I look forward to many more!