Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Night Prowlers

Instead of the original plan of targeting pike on Sunday, we tagged along with some diehards who were dialed in on a walleye bite. We were excited to fish a new venue, especially with anglers who've had success there in recent past.  This beautiful, natural lake resides within a large Connecticut state park. The water is gin clear here, with 28-feet of visiblity during the summer.  The lake also has plentiful forage for walleye to fatten up on. 

Since walleye predominately feed in low or no-light conditions, we decided to target the late afternoon and evening hours.  Getting up at 3 AM to be on the water for first light was out, which was a nice for a change. Instead, we met at the lake at 1:00 PM and had ample time to set up before the onset of dusk.  The diehards we accompanied were pulling yet another all-nighter, but our crew had obligations that would send us packing earlier (a little too early we would later find out).

The rain over the previous two nights turned out to be a double-edged sword.  It helped us by melting the ice's snow cover, easing the pull of our gear-filled sleds.  It hurt us by eating away some of the safe ice too, creating small open holes in some areas that can be difficult to detect in darkness.  I will be honest in saying that the walk out was a little hairy.  After some uneasy moments, we ended up making a B-line for the shoreline and hugged land for the rest of the walk out and the entire walk back.  For the rest of the outing we fished in comfort however, as our campsite was situated over four inches of strong, black ice.   

Our arrival hours before dusk allowed us to relax, drill holes, set our traps, and get ready for jigging--all before the so-called magic hour of last light.  For night fishing, our tip-ups are equipped with red lights that blink when the bait is tripped.  These lights let us watch for flags from a distance, keeping noise within our spread to a minimum.  Using the gas auger, I drilled plenty of extra holes on the outskirts our traps, which we used to jig for walleye.  We tipped our lures with the heads of minnows and small wax worms, but our sonar fish-finders remained quiet through the night, marking no interested quarry. 

Even if the fish weren't going to feast, we certainly were. Our hosts brought a Coleman grill and a one-burner as well.  Both groups brought an abundance of food, ranging from left-over prime rib to spinach and broccoli-filled pierogies. Hot food on a cold night surely enhances the ice fishing experience. The search is still on though, for a newer Coleman that can actually last an entire session without freezing up. They don't make them like they used to. 

Although that night was relatively wind-free and the temperatures were bearable, it was still nice to have shelter to retreat to for a break from the elements.  A warm cup of coffee and a quick burst from the propane heater and you feel like a new man. 

The action wasn't fast and furious by any means, but there were undoubtedly trophy fish roaming the area that night.  Our crew went 0 for 3 on flags, but we can't say we didn't have our chances.  Our hosts however, put three walleye on the ice that night, two of which were very respectable fish.  The first was a dink, but it got the skunk of our backs.  The next, caught a few hours later, measured 28 inches long and weighed in the neighborhood of eight pounds.  The night would have been a complete success if their catching ended there, but it wasn't over just yet.

As the hour approached midnight, we reluctantly began picking up our traps one by one, knowing our hosts would be fishing for another 10 hours or so.  While packing up, I noticed one of my flags was up, but the light didn't activate.  Line had been taken out and there was weight on the other end.  I set the hook and connected with something heavy, but it just didn't feel right.  Who knows how long that flag was up for, but the clever walleye that tripped it, stole the bait and wrapped me around a 10-pound log that I brought to the hole.  My knots held up and I actually had to cut free the hook that was lodged into the water-logged wood.  It was an unpleasant way to end my night, knowing that I missed another opportunity.  The lesson learned was to always keep an eye on your flags, as all equipment can fail, even lights you bought only hours earlier. 

About twenty minutes into my long drive home, I received a message from one of our buddies, who was still on the ice. They had just iced a 32-inch, 13+pound trophy walleye. I could only laugh at that point, happy to have shared the ice with them that night, even having a shot at a fish of that caliber.  Keep in mind that the beast, which was released, was just shy of the 14.8-pound state record walleye that was caught 68 years earlier. Put your time in and you will be rewarded. Congrats, Dave & Deano, on two great fish!

1 comment:

  1. Dude,
    awesome job. I have been meaning to get back into the ice game, I miss it dearly. Only problem is the last time I did it was back home in Massachusetts. Hopefully this year I can get back on the ice. Nice fish and great job buddy