It’s February, it’s actually snowing today, but the ice fishing season appears to be on its way out. Huts have been pulled off of lakes, fishing has been shut down for the time being in many locations, and events such as Perchin for MS have had to cancel the fishing portion of their days. Pouring rain and record breaking warm temperatures have taken a toll on the ice that did form this season, but at least we were able to have some fun while it lasted.
Our ice fishing season once again started at Island Lake in Orangeville. Though we don’t plan it this way, Island Lake is often our first stop of the hardwater season. We drove through whiteouts to reach the lake and I wondered about our sanity as I looked at the thermometer, -25C with the windchill. However, Darrell and I had just bought a brand new heater for the hut, to replace our fickle and inefficient old one, so I crossed my fingers and hoped we would be warm.
The skies cleared and the sun shone as we walked out on the ice and quickly setup up our older, but still wonderful, Clam hut. Despite the cold, I was able to fish without gloves on thanks to the new heater. The fish were extremely slow but I was content to watch a few perch on the underwater camera. Darrell, on the other hand, wanted some action, so he braved the cold and started drilling more holes outside the hut. It wasn’t long before he came running back to grab a heavier rod, telling me there was a pike down one of the holes. As usual, he was right and only seconds later he was pulling the toothy critter through the ice. I couldn’t stop laughing at the situation – it just seemed hilarious to me that he caught something so quickly after going searching. It also proved, yet again, how handy the underwater camera is, especially when it comes to fishing for pike, since they seem to enjoy the camera time.
I rounded out the trip by catching the smallest perch I’ve manged to hook, then we called it a day and drove home through more bad weather.
The next lake we fished was closer to home. In fact, we actually fished two lakes that are divided by a road. We started at the smaller lake, the one we hadn’t fished before. We ended up being in for a surprise there – the lake was much deeper than we thought, vegetation was almost non-existent, and the only school of fish that we could find in the whole lake consisted of perch too small to fit a hook in their mouths. Despite that, I had fun watching the little guys on the camera and trying to catch them. I figured something had to be big enough to bit my lure, and sure enough, a cooperative creek chub took a bite and came through the hole.
Ice conditions were pretty sketchy on those lakes this winter. We’ve had a lot of snow this winter, so ice never got the chance to get thick before the snow added to it. There was lots of ice, but only a few inches of it was good ice. I’ll admit that I was leery about the ice conditions and wouldn’t venture too far.
We eventually crossed the road to the other lake that we had fished before (and love to fish in the spring and early summer). I dropped a big lure down the hole in hopes of enticing a pike. It took maybe 15 minutes before I felt a tug on my line, followed by a fun fight, and a toothy critter that released itself at the hole.
Both of us will admit that our fishing mojo is off lately. Whether we’re just not getting out enough, or we’re too distracted by the other things going on in life to focus, we are definitely getting skunked more often. That has held true for many of our ice fishing trips this winter. However, sometimes those days of getting skunked can still be a lot of fun. Such was the case last weekend.
Last weekend we made a quick trip to Fairy Lake to see if the crappie would cooperate (they did not). The weather could not have been more amazing for a day on the ice. We left the floater suits in the car so we didn’t sweat to death wearing them, took a couple of rods, buckets, and the fish finder, and walked across the nicest ice we had been on all season. Although I insisted on drilling several holes on the walk out, the first one told us all we needed to know about the ice – it was good quality ice and plenty thick. The auger made that distinctive cutting sound going through it, a sound I hadn’t heard much this year.
We got setup in our usual spot, and though we quickly found fish, we couldn’t tempt them to bite. It didn’t seem like much of a problem though, since there aren’t many times I can unzip my coat while ice fishing and just enjoy being out there without thinking about how cold it is. Not long after we started, a group of father, son, and grandfather came on out. It was an absolute joy to which the father patiently set his son up with a hole and a fishing rod. There was a lot of joking and smiles and eventually they came over to check out our fish finder, so Darrell took it over to their holes and showed them how to use it. I loved watching the way the father and son interacted, because the dad was doing exactly what he should – giving his son a fun outing and not putting pressure on him. Hopefully that kid will get hooked on fishing!
Our last trip on the ice was on Family Day Monday. We finally got our stuff together and headed up to fish Lake Simcoe. Oddly enough, despite living well within driving distance, we don’t ever venture out that way. In large part, that’s due to my phobia of large crowds – I can’t stand fishing around a pile of people unless I’ve signed up for a derby or something along those lines. Fortunately, a friend had given us the name of someone who would drive us out to our fishing spot and pick us up at the end of the day. This was amazing! Not only did we get to avoid fishing in craziest throngs of people, but we got to avoid walking in the slush that was forming thanks to the warm temperatures. Also, coming up the slick hill in the Argo at the end of the day was an incredibly fun way to finish things off. It took a couple of tries to make it up the slope.
The fish didn’t come out to play that day. We marked maybe two fish all day and I took a nap on the ice in the afternoon. But it was fun to get out. Knowing that there was a possibility of catching a big fish, and the possibility of catching different species of fish than we normally do, meant that any action on the fish finder was cause for excitement. We even made it home before dark to do chores and get the horses in.
So although the we once again appear to be facing winter weather, it does look like our ice fishing season may be over. Even though it seemed to be a short one, and we didn’t get out as often as we’d like, it was fun while it lasted. But now I’m really looking forward to launching the boat!