Monday, January 9, 2017

First Fish of 2017

Plans to fish happen organically for me.  A Facebook chat with fishing friends centered around the desire to fish a body of water back in my old stomping grounds.  I explained in the chat how to get sleds and gear to the water easily since I'd fished this lake before.  In our circles knowing key pieces of info often means you're going fishing. So plans were made quickly in the hours before bedtime Saturday night and the alarm went off way too early Sunday morning.  But it's amazing how quickly I popped out of bed knowing I was going ice fishing!

After getting on the ice last week, New Year's Eve I'd caught fish this ice season.  What I haven't done is catch my first fish of this calendar year. Hopefully we'd change that this outing.

Pondboy and I arrived to the spot within minutes of one another. Greetings were said, strategy discussed, gear loaded so we'd each only have to drag one thing and we headed to the ice.

Holes were drilled.  Actually Dan (Pondboy) drilled the holes.  I followed with the flasher.  I saw some marks on the bottom so I dropped a jig tipped with three white spikes down the hole.  I could tease the marks up but couldn't get them to bite.  About the time those marks lost interest I saw a weak green signal mid-column in 10 feet of water.  I reeled up to the mark and teased it into biting.  My first fish of 2017 is....

...a crappie!  A nice, thick-shouldered crappie for my first fish of 2017, not bad at all!  This lovely speck posed for a groggy early-morning photo with yours truly before heading back down the hole to swim and grow larger.  Now that the pressure is off and we got multiple marks at this depth we decided to set up the shelter because it was 15 degrees out and we were getting chilly.

Once we parked in the shelter Brim from the Facebook chat showed up dragging his sled.  We chatted for a few minutes before he drilled his own holes close to ours and set up his shelter. This is where we sit and catch a few small bluegills for longer than we'd care to admit until Dan decides to switch things up.  He bites off a marmooska jig and ties on a Hali spoon with a drop-chain.  Almost immediately he catches a much nicer bluegill.  

I had just purchased a similar style lure; a Lindy Perch Talker.  It's a chain with alternating gold plate, ball, plate, ball down to a drop chain and small treble hook. I put waxies on the trebles and dropped down my hole.  I teased a mark up and got it to hit, I set the hook and the fish pulled a little drag.  Dan was pumped at the thought of a larger fish.  He turned on his Pivot Head recording eyewear to get video of the catch.  It's a good thing he did as this is the best shot we have of a VERY nice crappie.

The hook let go at the hole and Dan got there just in time to see the big girl slip back down it.  Crud!  Oh well, I'm not one to get down about losing a fish.  I just became more focused on catching my next.  That said our bite died down and our marks became few, far between, and not interested in eating.

Fortunately Brim got his first fish of 2017 too before the bite turned off. Here's his first fish which also happens to be a crappie.

Brim decided to head home to projects he had queued up and Dan and I decided to head to the basin at the other end of this lake to see if anyone had told the fish over there they weren't supposed to bite right now.  We drilled and had mixed luck at the other basin.  Both of us caught small bluegills but I wasn't excited by the size of what we caught versus all the marks of small bluegills that filled my screen and started the walk back to the basin we started out in.

I started kicking open the holes we'd drilled earler while Dan drilled a few in 7 feet of water to see if we could get on any other bite.  I put my flasher's transducer in one of these holes and dropped down a green marmooska jig with three white spikes impaled on its hook. I saw a big mark separate from the bottom.  I teased it up and felt the peck of a bite and the bend in my rod as I set the hook.  Drag pulled and the fish ran several times.  This was the bite that settled a conversation Dan and I had been having earlier.

I guess there ARE bass in here too.  Dan helped me land this nice, thick backed largemouth, shot its picture, then I unhooked the Fiskas jig from the bony upper lip of this bass before releasing it back to the lake.

I cycled off the shallower holes back to the deeper ones and was playing with marks on my flasher.  Dan stayed shallow.

When I looked up at Dan he had his hands above his head.  His ultra-light jigging rod was bent in an upside down U.  I ran over to assist.  The fish ran one direction, then another pulling drag then POP....up came the jig, sans-bait, sans-fish.  I left Dan alone to re-bait his jig.  I walked back to my flasher hoping to set the hook on a monster from the deep.

A pretty little largemouth.  Fun but not what I had hoped for since the mark looked bigger than the fish.  Still, catching is catching.  I hope Dan hooks into a better fish.  Correction: I hope Dan hooks a better fish and hooks more than the front edge of the top lip so we can land it. Wait....Dan has his arms up over his head again....Jason for the assist!

That's a better fish and further proof that we have at least a breeding pair and a second year class bass in this lake we weren't sure had 'em.  After some pictures the bass was released and we both went back to jigging.  I'd get the last fish before we decided to call it quits for the day.

A good handful of crappie bookends the day nicely!  It's a great thing to have a multi-species day on the ice.  Pondboy even caught a bullhead from his seated bass-hole.  It means there is more than one forage base for each species.  It was clear these fish were getting enough to eat with their thick backs and varied but decent size.  

It has been a few years since I fished this lake.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  I'm pleased to say that the lake exceeded my expectations.  I would have liked for this to be less the Darkstar show and a more balanced fish tale but sometimes that's how things work out.  

The old saying goes "That's why it's called Fishing and not Catching".  We did a lot of fishing today.  We both did some catching today.   I guess that's what we  set out to do; go fishing.  And first fish of the year catching I did.  Here's to a great year fishing, and a better year catching!