Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Introducing A Bud to the Hardwater


One thing that I've always enjoyed in any of my activities is to introduce someone that activity who has never done it before.  Even more rewarding is that if they have fun and want to go again.  Last weekend, I took a fishing buddy, Rodger, who swore a couple years ago that he'd never do it, out on the ice for an icefishing trip.  Well, never say never because I convinced him to give it a try, and I think we hooked him.  Now we have to reel him in...

When taking someone out for the first time on any outdoor activity, the best way to get them to go again is to make sure that they have fun the first time.  With icefishing, the first thing is to make sure that you pick a lake that has a bunch of willing fish, because catching is more fun than working hard to catch them.  The lake we picked has a reputation of that, with a mix of average sized panfish along with some jumbos, and they're usually very willing.  You can't beat jigging for panfish when the action is hot, a perfect recipe for a newbie to have fun at icefishing.

The next thing is to make sure that you teach them what you know, including how to use your electronics, what to look for, how to read the moods of the fish, and most importantly, to improve the odds that your newbie friend will have a better chance at icing some fish.  That means that you may have to sacrifice your fishing time to do the teaching, as well as the use of your electronics and other equipment.  The purpose of this trip wan't for my icefishing fulfillment, but for the fulfillment of doing something rewarding, putting my buddy on fish and introducing him to the sport.  Fortunately, I had a spare sonar unit so I wasn't fishing blind either.
Rodger watching the fish react to his jig on my sonar unit while we were searching for active fish.  Eventually, we found active fish and Rodger caught a bunch, and had a good time.
Rodger is a little sensitive to the cold anyway, so picking a good day for comfort helps.  I was worried a bit that he'd be too cold to enjoy it, but as the day went along, everything worked out.  He dressed for the occasion, perhaps overdressed a bit, but at least he was pretty warm.  He also brought a bunch of hand warmers and used them as well to help.  I also let him use my Fish Trap pullover shanty for most of the afternoon once we found fish.  Again, that meant that I had to bear the elements like the good old days prior to me owning a Fish Trap.  But, that was OK, except that the wind was a bit annoying, and was a constant reminder of how much I love using my Fish Trap!  Remember about picking the right day?  It's about as much as for you as for your buddy.

My other friend Glenn and I used our sonar to search for active fish.  We both took different directions and cut a bunch of holes and checked them with our sonar.  We were hoping to mark fish, and hopefully, a bunch of them suspended off the bottom.  To me, those are active catchable fish.  I don't mind finding fish on the bottom either, and they're worth checking out for sure.  A faint flicker of the bottom on the sonar could indicate fish holding tight to the bottom.  Those fish are usually a bit more finicky, but not always.  Definetly, they are worth dropping a lure down to.

And that is what we did.  We marked fish, dropped lures down to see how active they were, then either fished them a bit or moved on.  If you want to catch a bunch of fish, you need to be mobile.  It took a while to find fish, and we were looking for biters, not lookers.  There were a lot of lookers early on though.  But eventually, Glenn found a bunch of active fish on a point and gathered us up to join him.
Glenn was the first to find active suspended fish off a point at the channel edge.  After locating fish, he called us over to join him.  Thanks to Glenn, Rodger caught a bunch of fish shortly afterwards.  That may have been the difference if Rodger icefishes again or not.  It works to team up to find fish for everyone, and is a common practice among friends.
I had been cutting all of the holes up to this point (between Rodger and me), so as to teach, I had Rodger cut a few holes so he could learn how to use the hand auger.  He cut two holes and that was all he needed.  We marked a bunch of fish in the very first hole, suspended as much as five feet off the bottom to the bottom.

He used a jigging rod with a spring bobber that I set up with two jigs in tandem about nine inches apart, the top jig being a red glow Fat Boy (namesake of this blog) and the bottom a gold Fiskas jig, both tipped with a few maggots (aka spikes).  On the first drop, the fish hammered one of the jigs and Rodger had his first fish on the ice.

I quickly cut another hole set up my Aqua-vu camera in the same hole as my sonar transducer, so he could fish out of the second hole and reduce fish tangling in the camera and sonar.  Once we had the camera set up, I set up the pullover shanty and had him snug as a bug indoors and catching fish.  I could hear him giggling and laughing a few times, so he definitely had fun.
This is a pic from a prior trip of me holding a bluegill, but shows my setup inside my shanty with the sonar and camera in one hole, as I fish out of the other.  This is what I wanted Rodger to experience, catching a bunch of fish, seeing them on the camera and using the sonar.
Meanwhile, as I ran back and forth to check on him, I cut a few more holes and found some fish, but not as thick as the spot that he and Glenn were on.  At this point in time, they were caught fish about two to my one.  At my spot, the fish would show up suspended, and I could get them to bite, but then they'd leave.  The fish never left at Glenn and Rodger's holes.

At my spot, I caught some medium sized crappie and some yellow perch, and then hooked into a big fish that went ballistic on me at the hole and popped off.  My initial thought was bass or walleye because it was a bronze color, but the fight didn't match, and the fish looked to be about 15-16 inches long or so.  I later found out that there are brown trout in there, so that is probably what I had on.  It was exciting, but it would have been nice to land that fish and get a picture.

As darkness approached, we set up for the night bite, hoping for crappie or anything else.  By that time, I'm sure that Glenn and Rodger caught twice as many fish as I did, and that made me happy, knowing that this trip was a success.  Now it was time to teach Rodger how to catch crappie at night.

I put the camera away, although it is fun and useful, it's not as helpful at night fishing for the suspended fish, at least in my opinion.  The model that I have tends to attract a ton of daphnia and other tiny aquatic life, making it difficult to see your jig or the fish after dark.  Plus, removing the camera reduces the risk of fish tangling on the camera cable.  Plus, fish can suspend at any depth, especially at night, sometimes right under the ice.

I cut a hole just North of Glenn, closer to where the point meets the channel and wow, when I checked it with my sonar, that hole was stacked from the bottom to about ten feet full of fish.  I couldn't fish there earlier because some other guys were close to that spot, and I didn't want to encroach on them.  I explained those ethics to Rodger as well, to not encroach on another angler's spot, whether it be jigging or a set of tip ups (which they also used).

After cutting that hole, I tore up the medium sized crappie until we had to leave.  At one point, I caught crappie on 16 consecutive drops as they were very aggressive.
This crappie was a bit on the small side, but I caught several dozen crappie that averaged about 9 inches or so all night long.  The fish were stacked on a point near the creek channel.
Glenn and Rodger stayed at their holes and continued to catch fish.  Glenn eventually hooked into something huge, and fought it for twenty minutes before the two pound line finally gave out and broke off as the fish made a last charge before coming to the hole.  We never saw the fish.

About an hour and a half after dark, Rodger and Glenn were still catching a fish here and there, but I was slaying them, so I called them over.  I gave up my hot hole and gave it to Rodger, while Glenn fished an old hole that was nearby, and they both marked and caught fish right away.

I cut another hole about ten feet closer to the point and still marked a bunch of fish, and continued to catch crappie one after another.  At one point, about an hour before we stopped fishing, I counted thirty five crappie iced since dark, and then lost count.  I guess I landed a dozen more after that plus one bullhead.  On the day, I caught about 50-60 fish, so it started very slow for me but turned out to be a good numbers day for me.
This bullhead was suspended at ten feet off the bottom and slammed my soft plastic jigs.
Glenn and Rodger probably caught about the same number of fish that I did.  Between the three of us, we caught a total of six species, crappie, yellow perch, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, a creek chub, and a brown bullhead.

Of course, when you bring someone on the ice that is new to the experience, there is an element of fear.  I found it important to talk about ice safety several times, and I have more to teach him on future trips.  One thing that he discovered was that while ice forms, pressure builds up and forms cracks and makes booming noises.  I explained to him that was a good thing, but a couple times, pressure cracks shot past him at a very close range and prompted him to yell out some words that I can't type here!  I told him that was music to my ears, that the ice was building, and is always a good thing.

The fishing was still hot when we decided to leave, but I had a long drive home, and I was very tired.  I considered fishing all night, but was just too exhausted, and I wasn't sure if the other guys could do that or not, so we left the ice at 10 PM.  The fish were still biting.  It is tough to leave fish that are active.

The downside to this trip was that it was a good 3 hour plus of a drive one way for us.  We arrived late, so it was important to us that we caught an active bite, and we did.  But, I'd rather have had an earlier start, several events happened that delayed our fishing start time.  I won't get into that here though.  It was a good thing that we ended the day on a good strong evening bite, because it made that ride home a bit easier.  That is a problem every year for me though, finding good ice close enough to home.  I love icefishing so much that I'd drive further away to do it than I would otherwise to fish during open water.

The bigger story, however, is that I think that despite the long drive home and getting home late, that Rodger had a fun day on the ice, caught fish, and learned why we like icefishing so much.  Both Glenn and I taught him many things that day, and Rodger caught on, and joined the fun.  That's what it's all about.  That's how Glenn and my good friend and icefishing mentor, Jeff Redinger, got me hooked.  I was merely passing that on.  At this point, Rodger is now an ice angler!  Now that he's hooked, let's see if we can reel him in for another trip!
My ice fishing mentor and good friend, Jeff Redinger, posing with a huge sunfish that he caught through the ice.  Jeff introduced me to sonar, and taught me the importance of being mobile to catch fish through the ice on my first ice fishing trip 27 years ago.  




4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great day! Wish I'd have known you were up, we were out Sunday, but I'd have came up Sat night too. Lmk if you go again, hope the ice holds a while this year! Well, if it don't you know where I'll be! Fishdoctor

Fat Boy said...

I thought about contacting you, but by the time we left my house, we weren't sure what lake we were going to hit. But, I'd like to get up there again or the same lake we hit last time (ice is good there too). I'll be in touch!

Rodger Moran said...

You didn’t mention that you and Glenn made me fill in all the holes we cut before we left. LOL
I had a great time and appreciate all the hard work you both did to make sure I got on Fish. The booming and cracking had me shaking in my boots. I actually felt the ice move twice. It felt like mini earthquakes. Thank you for the tight lines!

Fat Boy said...

Thank you Rodg. I can't wait to get you out there again. This is just the beginning!