Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ice Fishing the Polar Vortex

Today I took a personal day off work.  The intention was to go out ice fishing all day with Pondboy to celebrate his birthday. The weather made us both decide to call off our usual 5 AM start time in favor of not fishing in negative temperatures.

2 PM:  I finished the tasks I needed to accomplish.  What to do....oh, I know you guessed it already.  I got suited up to Ice Fish the Polar Vortex
  • Good quality wool socks
    • chemical warming pack one in each sock
  • Long underwear
  • Undershirt
  • Fleece-lined jeans
  • Long sleeved quilted Henley
  • Columbia Winter Coat
  • Clam Ice Armor ice suit
  • Gore-Tex boots
  • Kahtoola Micro Spikes
Here's a tip.  Open a chemical warming pack when you are unloading your car.  Put one warmer in each glove.  This way you can put the glove on so the warmer is on the back of your hand. This keeps your fingers as warm as they can be in the frigid temperatures.  It has the side benefit of surprising you with warm gloves when you put them back on after time spent fishing in your shelter.

I unloaded quickly since Pondboy had beaten me to the spot and had already called me once with a list of reasons we shouldn't fish, number one being the cold to come.  I don't have the years of experience on the ice that Pondboy does.  He has forgotten more about fishing than I may ever know, that's what makes him a great guide.  What he doesn't have is the little voice in my head that works out solutions to the problems presented by the weather.  

The strong winds blew all the snow off the ice?  Make snow with my 8" ION Auger to pack the shelters in and keep the elements out.  

The temperatures are supposed to drop!  I have a Buddy-Heater that works on small propane tanks.  I'm set up to fish comfortably in most any condition.

Fish may not bite, it's too cold.

They may not bite.........but I'm glad they did!

Happy Birthday Dan!  I'm glad I got you out to fish with me.  I'm sorry I didn't listen to you and leave when it was only -5 out.  I waited until dark and it was -9 when I hauled my gear to my car.  I got it all to the car but ran to the door and cranked the heat.  ANY exposed skin was unhappy about having been out in the cold!

I got less frigid, packed up my gear, and headed home. My feet never got warm the whole way home.  I think my boots were still cold the next morning but I had fun.

I don't know about you, but I know I can say that I Ice Fished the Polar Vortex of 1/27/2014.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bass, More Bass, and Some Bluegills

After my last trip out ice fishing I was happy to be catching fish but I really wanted to catch some bass through the ice.

Pondboy's birthday is this week.  He has a tradition of going ice fishing for his birthday.  I've taken days off and fished with him in past years.  This year things moved forward a day to Sunday for the birthday outing.

The temperature was around 20 degrees and around 4" of snow had fallen/was falling as we drove to the first spot.  The streets were all either un-plowed or partially plowed and driving was challenging but we are an intrepid bunch!  We fished the first pond long enough to all score some small bluegills.  I was fishing with Ted aka SoonerBass. Here he is with the largest of the gills we found at the first pond.

It wasn't a giant but when you're given lemons you are thankful for lemonade.  Sooner had to leave and I packed up my gear.  I headed to another lake that wasn't too far away.  I was hoping there would be a good bass bite there.  I wanted some variety in my ice angling.  Mainly I wanted to catch something other than bluegills.  I was worn out on just bluegills!

Shelter setup was a breeze as I already had an idea of where to find the break from 5 feet to 10 feet.  Very few holes were needed to determine where to set up.  It took a bit of time to set my camera up so it could see my deadstick jig and minnow as well as my ice jig in the next hole over. I don't have a way to record from my Vexilar Double-Vision system yet so you'll just have to trust that I could see what was going on below me.

What I saw were blue gills, swimming along not minding my minnow. Then a fish with a different pattern came up and checked out the camera.  Then it checked out the minnow.  Then It opened it's big mouth and slurped in the minnow, jig and all.  All while I was tying on my jigging setup.  I dropped my jig, set the hook on my deadstick and pulled in my first non-bluegill in several trips out ice fishing.

Not at all huge but boy was it a treat to have something on the other end of my line that could pull some drag out of my little ultra-light reels.

Jigging a tungsten jig with an Aurora Lure Company Maggie in white color, and a white spike pulled up bluegill, after bluegill. Then something that felt like a really big bluegill.

It was a bass!  It's always nice to be jigging up a big mark on my Vexilar and have it bite and be a species I wasn't expecting it to be.  I saw a few big bluegills staring into my camera as I released the last bass.  They were so close to the lens they took up most of the screen on my Double-Vision's screen.  My tungsten jig hit the bottom and made the fish turn.  I slowly pulled the jig up from the bottom twitching it slightly as I raised it up.  The largest gill made a bee-line for my jig. Two twitches and teases up and it bit.

It measured 8.25" which is not bad at all for a bluegill. It was lippable so it passed my test for a big bluegill.  Awesome!  I was exited about catching bluegills again.  A quick look at my screen showed the other gill was still there.  Time for a quick release and the same presentation as I gave the first.  Drop the jig, smack the bottom, raise the jig, twitch, twitch, twitch, SET!  Does that sound like the next big dance craze? Well, kinda, but it's what I did and it caught this slightly smaller 8" bluegill so I'd do that dance over and over again if it produced this result.

Oh, about that last drop.  The big gill got away with my spikes.  The only bait that was there for that gill to eat was my white Maggie. The realistic look coupled with the dirty-scent talked it into eating and coming up for a picture.  Speaking of picture where is my float?

This little guy wouldn't stop flopping around long enough for me to lip it so I let it calm down and took the picture on the ice.

The lake had strong winds and gusts blowing the entire time I was fishing. The hill I had walked down to get to the water had thigh-deep snow drifts there when I pulled my shelter up on to the solid ground. I'm 6'2" and have long legs.  Deep drifts. 

I had a great time celebrating my fishing buddy's birthday fishing.  I got the bass that I wanted.  I got myself right with bluegills again and I enjoyed a day of ice fishing.  I caught today.  I caught lots today.  I caught Bass, More Bass, and Some Bluegills!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Desperately Seeking Bass

I was off work this MLK Day.  I received a tip about an ice fishable pond that was reported to have nice size bass.  I enjoy catching bass and any chance to target a different species is welcome. Not that I mind catching bluegills mind you but today I was seeking bass.

I arrived at the pond and it was exactly as it had been described. A non-descript retention pond like many others I've fished on hard water.  I normally haul my Frabill shelter around with me but I checked the weather before I left the house.  We were supposed to have at least 32 degrees and no wind to speak of.  That made it comfortable to fish light; run and gun style with a sled and no shelter.

Time for bass!  I dragged my sled behind me and walked down to the ice's surface.  My battery jacked in to my ION auger I drill three test holes and check bottom depth with my Vexilar. 9'5", 10', and 9'5".  I was looking for a depth transition and I didn't find one.  I looked for fish on my flasher but none were there.  Only one thing to do, drill more holes. I walked the length of the pond drilling a hole every ten to fifteen paces. Next I followed up with my flasher.  Depths stayed about 10' and all my holes were fishless.  All but one.  Jigging a Fiskas Tungsten jig tipped with two wax worms in this hole made the bottom get thick with fish, well-up, chase my jig and tap, TAP.

I like bluegill but I was hoping for bass.  Still bluegill are fun and this is a magic hole.  It has fish while all others like it didn't.  I put on a red Aurora Lure Company Maggie plastic waxworm and two white spikes above the Maggie for the meat smell.

You can barely see it in the above picture.  The red inside the bluegill's mouth is the Aurora Lure Company Maggie.  I use Maggies in two ways. Either as a complete maggot replacement or as a tool to extend the usefulness of my maggots.  Only the larger bluegill can get the whole jig in their mouth and the whole red and white package should tempt any bass of any size to take a look and perhaps a taste.

More fish fall to the Maggie!  No bass I'm noticing.  So continue my search and to prove the hole was magic I drilled holes all over the rest of the pond and moved my flasher from place to place.  I jigged up two bluegills in the rest of the pond and those two bluegills were the only marks I saw on my sonar at all.  I decided to call off my search.  I knew where my magic hole was and I went right back to sit in front of it.  

The sun shone down and kept me warm and the bluegill magically appeared, chased my jig, and went tap, TAP before the hook sets through the lip and another non-bass comes up for a look around on the dry side of the water.  Each bluegill was released to swim another day. 

Eventually my fingerless glove got wet from handling fish.  Wet gloves mean cold hands and sure enough I was ready to leave in little time.  I just turned off my flasher so I wouldn't be tempted to drop just one more jig and catch just one more fish.

I pulled at least 30 bluegill through that one hole.  Any day I can do that I'd call a good day!  I was wanting to catch bass but catching is catching and I had a good day out on the ice.