Monday, April 7, 2014

Ending the ice season with a bang!

While not as sought after as yellow perch or panfish, the white perch for me has been the funnest thing to target through the ice, simply due to the huge size of these fish, and tendency to travel in huge schools.  Not to mention they fight harder than yellows of the same size.  Since they're devastating other native fish species populations, it's good to know every fish that is taken out of the lake helps, even if only a little. 

Last weekend I took my girlfriend out on the ice, and conditions weren't ideal.   3-5 inches of water on the ice mostly everywhere.  We joined up with a few of my friends and got into fish right away.  Every time the jig would drop and sit for more than a second, it was fish on.  I only had brought 2 buckets, which were full in a few hours. It got to the point where I couldn't even put my line in the water because Katlyn was catching so many fish so quickly.  We had our fill of fish, and didn't want to fill my sled up and have to carry everything through the water, so we called it and headed home.  The next day was a day of I didn't want to rush out back on the ice and deal with the lake on top of it.

This weekend was going to be my last weekend out on the ice, simply because the ice was getting weak, and the shores were starting to flood with water.  Looking at the forecast only confirmed that the ice would not be good much longer.  High 50's almost all week with sun and rain...not too good for the ice.

After talking to a few people about the ice conditions, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the water had evaporated (or soaked into the now hone-comb like ice) and the ice was dry mostly.  So Saturday, my good friend Chris picked me up around 9 and we were on the ice by 10.  There were plenty of people already in the hot spot, including my friend Mike.  A few of Erics friends were out there as well, and they'd been there since early morning.  Their sled was almost already full of fish!

We setup and immediately started catching fish.  The action was steady for a few hours, and we were filling up our buckets and coolers quickly.  Chris and his friends decided to go check out a spot where people may have been catching panfish.  A good change in pace over the whites we were getting (they seemed to be much smaller than usual)  I stayed, watching my fishfinder fill up with hundreds of fish from bottom to right under the ice...I was loving it. 

A few hours later, my buddy Mike was passing by me to head back to his car.  He was done for the day - he'd filled up his limit of fish which was 4 buckets!  He also had a cool "hood ornament" which was a 4 lb salmon he'd jigged up through the ice over in the shallows next to Eric and his friends!

 He began to tell me how they weren't catching panfish, but huge white perch over in that area, which was only 8 feet deep.  I packed up and headed over just as Chris' friends were leaving.  They had their sled packed full along with a cooler and two buckets full! 

Turns out, the fish weighed over 340 lbs, wow!  Chris and I continued fishing and started to catch some HOGS!  I had a few that took me a few minutes just to get to the hole because they were so big.  Running 3 and 4 lb test with light action rods is a blast.  We caught probably dozens of Master Class white perch that day, but this one in particular was fatter than others.

Pig of the day on Saturday, a 14" football.
We were off the ice by 6 and I estimate that I had caught about 150-180 lbs of fish!

Saturdays haul between Chris and I at the end of the day
 While we had no plans to get back out there on Sunday, we just couldn't resist.  Chris has ski plans that got canceled, and I needed one more fish filled day before calling it quits on the ice.  We headed out later in the morning, and unloaded mostly all of our catch from the day before at the bait shop before heading back out.  I've caught so many fish this year, I've been giving as much of it away as I can.  Needless to say, people had their fill of fish already, so I was forced to sell mine.  The price was miniscule compared to how many fish we sold, only because the number of white perch being caught lately are astounding. Supply and demand! No bother though, I'm in it for the sport, not the money!

We were setup on the ice around noon, and got into them pretty quickly.  A few others were in our hot spot from the day before, so we had to make due with what ice we could fish.  As they started to leave, we worked our way back into our usual spot.  We got into fish, but they weren't as steady as Saturday.  Later in the afternoon, we took off in opposite directions hoping to find another big school without any success.  We ended up right back where we started and good thing, because the fish came to us.  We once again started picking up big fish in good numbers, RIGHT below the ice.  We were simply dropping our jigs down about 2-3 feet below the ice and we could watch the fish come up and strike it.  We could also move our jigs out of the way of the smaller ones until a big one came and took it.  It was amazing to be able to do this!  After about 5 hours on the ice, we had to pack up to be able to sell our overflow of fish.  We caught our last fish, tipped our hats to the fish gods and packed the car to go unload our days catch.  I kept one full bucket of the biggest ones of the day to give to a family friend, which he loved.  It felt good to be able to give an old timer more fish than he's seen in many years!
My haul on Sunday, not bad for about 5 hours of fishing.

The shoreline while we were leaving Sunday. Notice the open water further out.

Now I get to clean all my gear, pack it away....and start sorting through my river gear for some great Spring fishing in the rivers!  I have some new rods, reels, gear, and flies I'm going to love testing out this year.  Ice fishing couldn't have been better for me this year, and I feel so lucky to be able to have such good fishing all the way up until ONE week from the opening day of trout season.  While many rivers will be blown out, I'll still be having fun on the smaller streams that may be just the right height.