Much of this winter has felt like a search for ice. Where, oh where are you, frozen water? Finally, we had enough of a cold snap to put a skim of ice on the lakes, and from there it was just a matter of biding time until the inches were thick enough. When Island Lake was thick enough to open for fishing, I was surprised how eager I was to get out there. I had not been looking forward to the ice as much as usual, but a lack of other fishing options was leaving me in the doldrums, and the idea of wetting a line found me with one hand on my floater suit, waiting to jump inside it.
Of course, life is busy, and despite trying to get out for Island Lake’s opening weekend, Darrell and I found ourselves busy at home. This past Sunday we finally managed to clear our schedule, pack the truck, and head to Orangeville.
We weren’t the only ones eager for a day of ice fishing. The main parking lot was full and for the first time since we’ve been fishing there, Darrell had to drop me and the gear by the lake before heading to one of the other parking lots and walking back.
Ice huts created a near solid rainbow of colour on the ice – blue, black, yellow, red, green, orange. With our favourite areas being full, we headed for some of our less-desired spots, drilled holes, had a look with the camera, and setup the hut. We hadn’t spotted any fish on the camera, but chose to start on a small drop-off. Since no panfish had been observed, we dropped down big, flashy lures, hoping to entice Big Momma pike.
We jigged, jiggled, dead-sticked, and ripped those lures, but eventually I found myself staring more at the camera than the rod, playing with my phone, and noticing the chill in the air that we could not remedy since we left the heater at home. Darrell went to a friend’s hut to visit while I rotated through a variety of lures for pike and perch. Then I got bored and decided to move.
The next spot had healthier looking vegetation, but despite drilling several holes, we still didn’t see any fish on the camera. Deciding I would rather be warm in the hut than continuing to search for fish (and let’s be honest, I was really searching for crappie), I told Darrell we would setup up on some of the holes he had just drilled.
As fishless time continued to add up, my technique became less about skill and more about fooling around. I was using a Lunkerhunt Bento Minnow for the first time and was having fun watching it in the water. At one point as I was erratically ripping it around, I felt a slam, tried to set the hook, had weight for a few seconds, then felt the line go limp. I jumped up to look down the hole and there was small pike just chilling under the middle hole, watching my lure. I tried to entice it in, and Darrell followed suit with another lure, but the pike clued in and swam away.
Not long after, a perch started swimming into view on the camera, unbeknownst to me. Darrell said I scared it away with my jigging.
It was a slow day for us, but when the conservation officer stopped at our hut to check licenses, he mentioned that he’d seen a fair number of fish caught. We talked to a few other people that fished the lake over the weekend and most of them had a flurry of success when a group of pike went through, landing three or four, and then little to no action after that.
Despite the slow start to our ice season, it ended up feeling wonderful to get out there again. It was nice to get out the different gear, spend time watching the camera, and have a good reason for drinking a thermos of hot chocolate.
I’m looking forward to the start of the Annual Island Lake Ice Fishing Derby that runs for the month of February. It’s always fun to have another goal to strive for while fishing.
Hopefully the weather cooperates now and gives us a nice ice fishing season. Get out there and enjoy it!