Thursday, December 24, 2009

Early Ice Pike

Over the course of two recent blustery days, good friends and I spent 24-hours targeting trophy pike through the ice. The lake, an old favorite of ours, locked up last week before the snowfall. By the time we walked on it, there was four-plus inches of black ice with a fresh coat of powder. This was still during what ice anglers term "first ice", but the weather pattern was far from ideal. A strong high pressure system had stalled over Connecticut and we were forced to deal with high winds and low temperatures. Our shelter and heater were worth their weight in gold for the two-day binge.

Ice fishing for pike is truly a waiting game, especially on notoriously stingy body of water like this one. Jigging for panfish on this particular lake isn't all that great either, so we usually kill time in between flags by keeping watch, cooking food, and the occasional swig brown booze.

When fishing with dead bait, if a flag goes up (and you have set your tip-up properly with any wind) you can almost rest assured that a fish was the culprit. So was the case with one of my traps on the first day of the excursion. The spool was spinning when I lifted it out of the hole and there was good weight on the other end as I set the hook. The pike ran at me twice and both times I thought had I lost it. This fish was well hooked though and wasn't coming off. After a good fight, my new personal best pike came through the hole, measuring 37-inches in length. It was not a trophy by any means, but a good fish worth a round of high fives.  After a few quick photos it was released to be caught again down the road. 

Five more pike between 30 and 33-inches were caught and released that day, but nothing really worth busting out the camera for. Still, six pike iced in one outing from this venue was an above average tally for us. With all that action, we should have guessed what we had coming to us the following day.

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson

The alarm clock went off at 3 AM for the second consecutive morning, but there was no time to be sore from the previous day. After another hour-plus drive, we arrived at the lake and dragged our heavy sleds a half mile over snow before reaching camp. The sun had already poked over the hills by the time our traps were all in the water. The only significant change in weather conditions was a temperature drop. The wind stayed the same with gusts up to 30 MPH.

The bite on day two started on a good note then went south quick.  For our first flag, Derrick fought and landed a respectable fish around the ten pound mark. Then things slowed to a crawl with a few more flags interspersed over the long outing. Our theory was that the strong high pressure system put the pike into a very finicky mood. Many of our baits were just mouthed and dropped without much commitment. The same proved to be true for others sharing the ice with us that day. But, hey, that's pike fishing; we all knew what we were signing up for. 

It was a great two-day excursion with awesome company, fantastic wallpaper, a few eagle fly-overs, a new personal best, and many laughs. This was our first real deal ice experience of the season and nice test from Mother Nature. Without some of the gear we lugged out there, it would have been a lot less comfortable out there that's for sure. I think we block out the memories when we ice fished without a shelter. Now we park the thing in the middle of the lake and there are times it feels like you could be in your living room drinking scotch next to the fire.

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