Saturday, February 27, 2010

ice fishing (lake county, il)

I was fishing this weekend with Blake and his son Lucas. Since we were bringing Blake’s son Lucas we agreed we needed a spot with nonstop action. I suggested the same lake I fished last weekend because it had treated us very well. The agreed start time was 6am, They were right on time, and I was late by almost an hour. By the time I got there they were already on fish, and had 2 flags set. I set my 2 flags and took advantage of the youngsters 3 extra lines by setting a few more out for him.

luke with a nice gill
After some non-stop bluegill action the cold got the best of Lucas and we setup camp. Once we were warm inside the shack the fish bite really started to heat up as well. We were hooking fish after fish and passing the rod off to Lucas. There was one point we had a fish on all four of the jigging rods. Lucas was in bluegill heaven and loved every minute of it. I think that “gill billy” is his new favorite word. He also took great pleasure in mocking us when we caught an undersized fish and at the age of 4 he’s already a smack talking pro.
a bent rod and a smiling face
Enough about the pan fish. Finally, the first flag of the day pops and that spindle is humming. With a solid hook set I am forced into hand to hand combat. I see a decent largemouth dart from one side of the hole to the other. I land him and he’s a respectable 17 incher.

tip up bass
After another half hour of Lucas catching bluegills my tip down goes off . At the end of the line was a nice 9inch crappie.
crappie on the artic warrior
 Soon after Blake’s tip down trips, this is no crappie the rod is bent and drag is ripping. Fish on! After a short fight I help lip his largemouth.

another tip up bass
Our great success doesn’t go unnoticed and a local guy from my childhood and his crew show up all on quads ripping power augers. They decide to make the ice between our flags and shack their new home. They setup a small mining town up blocking our view from our shack to our flags. What the hell were these guys thinking? As if that weren’t enough we were soon approached by 2 DNR wardens who briefly checked our licenses and then left to check the other fisherman. Not even a half hour later a 3rd officer comes out wanting to accomplish the same mission as the previous officers. He asks us for our licenses and I told him his twins were just here for the same reason. I pointed to another group on the other side of the lake and said “he never did check those guys”. He laughed and kept moving. I’ve fished this lake since I was 12 and never seen that sorta of DNR activity, maybe it’s a good thing?

Just as we get our licenses back in our pockets “BAAM” my tip down goes off for a second time with another decent crappie. Before you know it Blake’s flag pops. The spindle is burning up its moving so fast. Blake sets the hook, feels some pressure, and then the line snaps. After a quick retie and rebait that same flag flies again. More carefully, he sets the hook. Boom, the fight is on. I could tell this fish was a lot better than the previous fish. It’s another largemouth. We get the fish out of the water and estimate its 20 inches and 4 pounds.
blake's best bass through the ice this year
We didn’t have time to rebait, when another flag flies. Holy crap, things are getting hot and heavy. After a quick run to the flag we see the spindle spinning. The last fish was a short largemouth around 13 inches. We decide that enough is enough and we break down our gear and pack up. All in all a stellar day with multiple species caught. Even though we had to fight through the local hillbillys and the unforgiving rangers we ended with over 80 gills, 4 bass, and 2 crappies. Another great day. Take a kid fishing.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

ice fishing (fox chain of lakes, il)

After work it was time to aug some holes. Planned on meeting up with Blake when he gets off work. I got there first and got started with a long walk across the lake. Sometimes you gotta take the time make the haul. Sometimes it’s on account of the parking situation or it’s to take a hike to crush some uncharted uneducated fish populations. In this case, the fishing destination was about a mile away (one way) over thick slush and uneven ice. The walk sucked huffing and puffin all the way pulling a 150 pound sled behind me. God I wish we had a quad!

Reached my fishing spot and designated meeting location and got to work. Found 12 fow, no fish on the graph. I kept drilling and suffered through some very necessary recon. It isn’t easy to stay mobile when your hand drilling holes through 16 inches of ice. Finally got my 3 rods in the water in an area where I was at least marking some fish.
artic warrior doing its work at sunset
The sun set and the temperature dropped dramatically (about 15 degrees). I had the shack but didn’t see the reason to set it up. Regretted that later. Phone rang, it was Blake letting me know he was getting close. Just as I started talking to Blake, I catch a glimpse of the tip-down flag waving in the wind. “Got a bite” I tell Blake as I run over and set the hook. Fish on!! I reach down and lip a nice crappie. I’m stoked.
fox chain of lakes crappie
7:00 pm, Blake shows up right on time. We continued to move around and look for some more active fish. After an hour of fishing together we decided to eat a pastrami sandwich on rye bread with some muenster cheese. Washed it down with some red-bull and back to fishing. Just after finishing our sandwiches my same tip-down goes off again. This time my reward is a decent chain of lakes perch.
fox chain of lakes perch
Lots of hard work and cold extremities for a small pay-off. At least we beat the skunk and got out of the house on a winter weeknight. It was all worth it.
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

ice fishing (lake county, il)

shannon the bluegill slayer
Hit the ice for the afternoon bite taking my girlfriend (Shannon) on the ice for her first time ever! Weather was overcast with a slight wintry mix coming down and she was wearing her bright pink jacket, and wanting to bring a purse. I advised her this was not proper ice attire as we trudged through the snowy slushy slop. Our destination wasn’t far from the shore and this spot was one I had already run recon on and done well the week before. We were fishing the main and only prominent point on this couple hundred acre lake.

another good gill for shannon
Immediately I set two flags and an arctic warrior all rigged with fat healthy med shiners. I popped a few more holes for jigging and got my girl setup with the vexilar and a wax worm. Man, she was ready to fish. BAM!! Before I could even put a rod in the water had her first bluegill on the ice. The graph, at this point, was absolutely packed with fish. I thought to myself “right on, the fish are still here”. One after another I unhooked bluegill after bluegill, I couldn’t even keep up with rebaiting let alone have any time to fish. What a blast, I’m so glad she was having fun.

After the first dozen fish, things got a bit wet and cold. We decided to setup the shack and it wasn’t long before things were situated and the heater was cranking. The first flag went up, and as I approached I could see the spindle spinning. Fish on! I was a bit flustered, not wanting to look like a fool I took a deep breath and regained my composure. After some precise timing, an impeccable hook set, and a some brief hand to hand combat, I pulled a nice 18 inch largemouth through the hole.
a decent bass for neal
We get back in the shack, only to continue to get showed up by my girl. The bluegill action was hot and heavy for the majority of the day. A tip-down produces an average crappie and the second flag adds another largemouth to our fish count. This lake has to be just packed with healthy fish. I got sick of rebaiting waxies, so I switched over to some gulp (1 inch fish fry white). It didn’t matter what I used they were hungry. It seemed liked they actually preferred the gulp with the added bonus of keeping the smaller fish at bay. We ended up with a total of 70 + bluegills, a nice crappie, and 2 bass. We kept 23 keepers for the frying pan. What a great first ice-fishing trip for Shannon and what a great fish fry!

hungry anyone?
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

ice fishing (lake county, il)

Woke up little earlier then normal for fishing this morning. My friend Mark forgot to get the waxies last night even though he stopped at the bait shop. That was the reason for an alarm early in the 4 o’clock hour. I had to pick up bait this morning 15 minutes in the wrong direction and still be at the dock at 5:45am. Pulled into Triangle right after they opened . Three new jigs and 2 packs of waxies = $10 and some change. Out of there in minutes. Roads were slick so I drove slow and paid extra attention.

Met Mark at 5:45, packed our sleds, and started to walk. First time ice fishing this lake for me. Happens to be one of those lakes where minnows just aren’t allowed. Lake has a maximum depth of around 10 feet and you can find it in a couple spots. Spent almost an hour and a half hole hopping and checking depths. 15 holes and nothing more then 5-6 feet with an empty graph.

Finally, we pinpoint some deeper water in the 8-10 foot range 100 yards out from a creek inlet. Drop in the vexilar and see some activity right on the bottom. We decide to set up shop and stay for awhile. It doesn’t take Mark long to get to work. He smashed 5-6 gills before I get my first. In between me switching jigs for the 4th time, I look over and see my buddy’s rod just doubled over. He hauls a beautiful 3 pound largie out the hole and we quickly snap a photo and release. Fish hit a horizontal pan fish jig and a waxie. Great fight on UL rod. That fish really crushed that jig, literally. We had to pick the broken pieces of the jig out of the fishes mouth.
mark with a nice bass
At this point I’m a little frustrated….. He’s got 5 gills and a nice bass and I still got a goose egg. I decide to change jigs again. Something’s gotta give here. I throw my rod in the rod holder and go for my jig box. Out of the corner of my eye I see the rod tip just barely twitch. I reach over, grab the rod, and take swing. Fish on! Up until this point I had tried 4 different jigs and 2 different types of plastics. One thing I hadn’t tried was setting my rod down. Come to think of it, I didn’t ever stopped shaking the darn thing.

Well lets just say from that point forward we were really dialed in. The bite was super soft and they barely wanted it moving. We both now were getting em. I caught small bass and some more gills. Around 9:00 am we made a small move (20 yards). There was 3 solid feet of fish on the graph. We couldn’t get the bait down there quick enough. I caught 20 gills in those next 15 minutes. All on the same tactic- horizontal jig with multiple smushed waxies practically deadsticked.
Packed up around 11:30am because I had my sons 4th birthday party this afternoon at 3:00 pm. Both of us caught about 30 gills and 1 bass each. Mark takes big fish of the day. I think I won the pan fish derby! Not for sure. All fish released.
my small bass
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