When the forecast calls for little wind and nice temperatures, and it looks like the last weekend for good ice, going ice fishing becomes the number one priority.
After a month where Darrell and I couldn’t seem to stay healthy, the ice fishing season blew by without us. We can count our number of combined ice fishing outings on one hand. That’s disappointing. But there’s not much that can be done when you’re battling illnesses and infections, while still having to stay on top of regular household chores. The desire to go fishing was there, but the ability and time was not.
Today, with a promising forecast and reasonable health, we headed for Island Lake in Orangeville, knowing it would likely be our last chance to hit the ice for the season. Because it was such a nice day, we opted to go light, leaving the hut and the majority of the gear at home, only taking the essentials with us. We were thrilled to find lots of open space in our favourite area to target panfish through the ice, drilled some holes, and dropped down the electronics. Fish were nowhere to be seen on the camera, but it looked like we were in a good depth and there was some decent vegetation, so we dropped down our lines and took a seat on our buckets.
I started the day with a pike rod, thinking a big jig might draw some attention. Darrell went small and looked for the perch bite with the best little spoon we have for calling in panfish. Only a few minutes in I heard Darrell talking to the fish finder – a clear sign that he’s marking something. While the mark would follow his lure, it wouldn’t commit. I dropped the camera down but couldn’t see anything. I went back to my hole and heard Darrell continue to mutter. A few minutes later he had me throwing my line down his hole to catch what he thought might be a pike. When I had a bump but no taker, he grabbed my light rod with a pink micro jig and dropped it down. A few seconds later, up came the first perch of the day. It wasn’t long after releasing that one that he caught a pumpkinseed sunfish and we had a pattern to fish for the rest of the day.
I managed to land a small perch followed by a little sunfish. Slightly jiggling my micro jig and then dead-sticking it tended to get the best results on those first few fish. The bite was slow in the original holes, though, so we drilled a few more holes, and then a few more after that. The last three holes were the winning ones. The first hole was over a dense weedline, with the next couple being on the other side of it. That seemed to be the right area and we had fish coming through the ice for the rest of the day.
Darrell was using the sonar on flasher mode and was able to entice his fish by watching the reaction from their marks on the screen – did they chase the lure, did the mark disappear, were they marking right on top of the lure…all the great things you can discern from electronics. I had the camera, which at first was proving to be useless since I was having a hard time seeing anything. Eventually, though, I got the camera set just right and proceeded to have the most fun I’ve had in ages. Interactive fishing at its best. It was like sight-fishing from the boat, but I was doing it through the ice.
I would jig my lure ever so slightly, then give it a pop to draw attention. The technique worked great and I could watch fish come in on the camera. From there, I could alter my technique depending on the response of the fish. Most of them wanted subtle movement with frequent stops. A perch would come in down near bottom, bump the lure, wait a moment, then gently suck it in. I would start reeling as soon as the lure disappeared and never felt many of the bites. The sunfish were suspended about a foot higher than the perch, so I would have to raise my lure to get their attention, but they wanted the same subtle movement. An occasional pop of the jig would sometimes get a favourable reaction, and on one such occasion a larger perch bolted onto the screen out of nowhere and inhaled the jig. What a riot!
The action might slow down for a few minutes, then another group of fish would move through and we’d each being pulling up several perch and sunnies. I was smiling like crazy and thoroughly enjoying my day on the ice with my favourite fishing buddy. We ended up landing a pile of fish between us and had fun watching them all swim back down the hole.
It may have been an abbreviated ice fishing season for Darrell and I, but this trip is what we’ll remember about it. What a fantastic day on the ice!