For years I’ve heard stories of big fish coming through the ice at the back of Island Lake in Orangeville. “I caught the big crappie on the edge of that hole” I was told. “There are some monster pike back there” said others.
This one deep hole in the entire lake is a decently long boat ride with an electric motor, so I’ve never felt the desire to hike back there on foot, with an ice hut and fishing gear. But today Darrell wanted to give it a shot, and failing to find a good excuse, I found myself trudging through the snow, towing the lighter of the two sleds.
The hike would not be so bad when the ice is clear and the sun is shining. As luck would have it though, a good 15cm of fresh snow blanketed the ice, rendering the ice cleats useless except for the odd occasion when my legs would slide out from beneath me and only the chance encounter of a cleat on the ice kept me from going down. Add in the ice pellets that scraped my face, weighed down my hat, and turned my mitts into icicles, and you had less-than-ideal conditions for the walk.
Only the sight of the bridge convinced me to keep going, knowing the hole was just around the corner. Park staff had done a great job of setting up stakes to guide anglers on a safe path under the bridge and around the island. I was grateful to see those stakes, they made me feel like we weren’t the first to venture this path.
Upon reaching our destination, I was in need of a break, so I let Darrell drill several holes while I took a very leisurely time setting up the fish finder. Depths started at 9-feet and dropped to 14, then 20-feet. We had definitely reached the hole. The finder failed to mark any suspended fish – a shame really, since I would have loved to spend the day targeting crappie. It did, however, mark movement on the bottom, and dropping the camera down the hole I suddenly saw several perch swimming across the screen. Perch are really quite adorable on the camera.
We setup the hut and started fishing, with Darrell landing a nice perch on a spoon. After seeing several perch back there, I have to say that the average size seems bigger than in the main lake area. Unfortunately, the perch were not in the mood to eat, no matter what else we tried tempting them with. I settled for watching them on the camera (which is the greatest invention ever and my only real form of television).
Darrell was eager to search for active fish and drilled an insane amount of holes with the gas auger. I, on the other-hand, did not feel like greeting the cold and chose to stay in the hut, fighting with the heater every time it decided to quit working. That heater is getting replaced.
While the fishing was slow, I have to say that it was super nice to have that part of the lake all to ourselves. There was no one to be seen, no other huts in view, no other augers running. It was just snow, trees, houses, and us. I loved it.
I did get a scrappy little pike while fishing for perch. I had wondered what I was marking on the finder since it was rare for a mark to follow that high if it was a perch. My ultralight rod bent right over and let me have a nice little fight with the fish.
The hike back succeeded in reminding us that we’re not as young as we once were. Both of us were absolutely done by the time we reached the truck. I have a feeling that a few muscles will make their presence known shortly.
Was the hour-and-a-half round trip worth it? Hard to say. Though the fish didn’t cooperate today, I do think there’s a chance to get some very nice ones from that area. And though the hike was a pain, it was also good exercise (that we both clearly need) and it let us having a fishing spot all to ourselves, something I never take for granted. It was quite beautiful and peaceful out there. Will we do the hike again next weekend? Nope. I need a crappie fix and we’ll either pick some waypoints from previous trips to Island Lake, or we’ll head to one of our other crappie lakes.