Thursday, December 26, 2013

First Time at Harrier This Season

Those of us who ice fish have been blessed with an early start to our favorite season.  The ice started, almost got thick enough, we had a few warm days with rain, then the deep freeze kicked in.  

I walked out onto six solid inches of ice pulling my Frabill Trekker Max ice shelter behind me.  I was interested in the great mixed bag of species Harrier holds.  I've been itching to catch a decent size perch and I knew I could do it at Harrier.

I drilled holes, dropped in my flasher, and took a "look" around for fish.  I was over 12-15 feet of water and marked fish in several holes.  I dropped a quick line down and tried to jig some fish up from the bottom.  The fish would come up and follow the jig but I could adjust my cadence, twitch, hold still, stand on my head, nothing seemed to make the fish want to bite.  I picked a hole with the most interesting marks on the bottom and set up my shelter.

I was having as much luck in the shelter as I was outside.  I decided to switch gears and rods to jig with a bait I'm really starting to appreciate; the Salmo Chubby Darter.  I dropped a small perch colored darter down to just above the fish I marked on my Vexilar.  As the Chubby Darter shimmied down a red mark moved up on my flasher.  I set the hook and enjoyed the wiggle of some of the first fish I've had the pleasure of pulling through the ice this year.  

A bluegill whacked my Chubby Darter.  It wasn't much of a fight but it was nice to use a different lure and jigging method than I'm used to.  Speaking of the usual lure and jigging method I'm used to I had to go back to it.  The darter stopped attracting fish, it actually seemed to be scaring away marks on the sonar.  I switched to my ultra-light custom with a Fiskas Marmooska teardrop shaped jig tipped with a waxworm.

I jigged and jigged and jigged some more.  The marks just didn't seem interested.  I decided to drop my camera down and watch the bottom activity for awhile.  I saw half a dozen bluegill, several perch, some small largemouth bass, and then everything scattered.  What was going on?   OH...a big walleye slow-rolled past my camera.  That explains it.  In short order there were all the gills and perch and bass back.  All ignoring my jig.  All except intrepid bluegill.  

At least he ate it well.  This fish felt like it fought better than the other but the rod was much lighter so that made sense.  This would be the final fish of the day.  I changed spots, drilled holes, checked for fish, wiggled my jig at them and ultimately loaded up the car slightly frustrated by the lack of catching but completely invigorated by the whole ice experience.  

Walking on water is a pretty cool experience. (get it!) Seriously though I don't dislike walking ponds, wading rivers and creeks, kayak fishing, or taking my jon boat out.  I'm just glad I tried and enjoy ice fishing.  It opens up the fourth season to me.  I get to do something I enjoy alone or with others.  

I can't wait to see what else this ice season has to offer.  We have at least seven inches on some lakes and generally four to five inches on some smaller bodies of water.  I hope to find out soon about a possible new ice adventure for me; perch fishing the Chicago harbors.  If they're frozen and safe I'll go!  Lake Michigan Perch could be the first fish I keep to eat.