Smooth Ice and Plenty of It, For Now
Ice Fishing Down South
"I caught a big fish! How big was it? It was so big that when we went ice fishing, we had to pull the ice auger with a bulldozer. It was so big; we had to use 1000-pound test steel cable for line. It was so big; we used a power winch to haul it in. It was so big; it took 4 people to carry the live box. Does this sound like a fish story? It is and it is all true. This fisherman never lies."
Well, not much. The fish described above did not come out of Lake Michigan or even from Wisconsin. This quote came from a blog I wrote in 1999. We did not call it a blog back then, of course. The word had not been created yet. I think it was just called writing stuff. I was relating my experience ice fishing in Antarctica. Yep, you got it, the land of ice, snow, cold, a small group of researchers, and an even smaller group of ice fishermen. But before we go there, I did get out on the ice a little closer to home this week, Kangaroo Lake and Green Bay. After all, this is a Door County fishing blog.
After a period of very warm temperatures and gusty winds last week, the ice conditions on the Bay got a little dicey. There were reports of yawning open water cracks developing and winds creating ice-shoves on the west shore. Much of the fishable ice was covered with water, making for some pretty sloppy fishing. So, I stayed home. Finally, the temperatures dropped, the ice firmed up so I decided to venture out on the north end of the 'Roo Monday. I had seen some guys out there over the weekend, so I figured the ice must be safe enough. By the way, that is an important ice fishing safety tip. Don’t be the first guy out on the ice. If you are forced to go out on virgin ice, then make sure you fish with a guy that weighs more then you do and allow him the courtesy of going first. I'm just sayin', better safe then sorry.
Anyway, my outing on Kangaroo garnered the usual batch of tiny, tiny perch and no pike. It was a beautiful night though with a wonderful sunset. I can report that the ice is a good ten inches. I also noted some shacks out on the larger lobe of the lake south of the island. So people are getting out. Bolstered by that experience of not falling through the ice, I decided to try the Bay near Egg Harbor. A large crack had developed off shore that even the guys with ATV's couldn't cross with portable bridges. I checked it out over the weekend and noted that there were a several shacks "stranded" off shore. By Tuesday, the crack had healed and seemed solid enough to give it a try. I loaded up my sled and man-hauled it over the ice ridges and onto the open ice. Turned out the ice was in great shape. In fact the rain and warm temperatures has turned the former rugged, jagged ice surface into a sheet as smooth as glass. Good move to wear my ice grippers. Drilling down I found at least twenty inches of solid ice. I set up in about 35FOW and immediately marked fish on the bottom with my flasher. They were not as aggressive as earlier in the winter. It took a little coaxing, but I eventually put seven whitties on the ice using a Rapala jig tipped with a minnow. They were biting pretty lightly. I lost another eight or so fish while reeling them up. At the end of the morning, I kept three of the nicer fish for a fresh whitefish dinner. I also got off the ice with no serious mishaps.
Well, back to Antarctica. I have already noted my love-hate relationship with ice fishing. I love fishing, but freezing my butt on a sheet of ice, not so much. Because of that I am a somewhat reluctant ice angler and have not sought out a lot of different ice fishing opportunities. When it comes to soft water fishing, I have chased fish from Montana to Florida, Scotland to Uganda. As to ice fishing, I have not ventured much out of Wisconsin; well, maybe the UP. One reason, of course, is that the opportunities for ice fishing are limited by geography and season. Not a lot of ice fishing in Minnesota in June or in Kenya any time. That's what made the chance to go ice fishing in Antarctica an opportunity I did not want to pass up. I even brought my ice-fishing pole all the way from my home in Appleton to McMurdo Station, Antarctica just for that purpose. Have I sufficiently aroused your curiosity? Want to see what ice-fishing is like in Antarctica? Well, I'll let the 1999 Bruce relate the account first person:
Yes, there are pictures. Be warned however, the fish are really ugly and I'm a lot younger looking. The experience did establish a life goal for myself to catch a fish on all seven continents. I figured Antarctica would be the tough one. I have five so far and two left on the bucket list.
I hope you enjoy the tale. And remember, it's not a blog, I’m just writing stuff.
Tight lines, Bruce
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