December 19, 2006

Prime Time Bite

Last night I finally got out. I headed over to my local lake to catch the prime-time bite at dusk. After I unloaded my gear at the public access, I headed out on foot a 1/4 mile to my spot. Luckily, this season I have my GPS unit with the MN Lakemaster chip. I was able to get right on the spot, in not time. I drilled a few holes around the inside curve of a deep flat, adjacent to a break-line and midlake hump. I hole hopped for little bit and then settled into my portable for prime-time. I wasn’t as productive as I could have been, though, as I was tinkering and adjusting my equipment, getting all the bugs and everything worked out, typical for the first trip of the season. I manage to catch two little walleyes about 10-22″. The deadstick was not productive. About a half hour after sunset, I had just charged and dropped a JB Lures Rattling Varmit tipped with the head of a fathead minnow and watched as a fish cam up off the bottom of the flasher. The fish took my spoon hard and a lengthy fight ensued. After a few minutes I saw the slipknot on my line near the hole, I knew the end of my line was near. I watched through the hole as a nice walleye flashed her belly and white tipped anal fins as she swam by. I finally got the fish up to the hole and onto the ice. The only tape I had was my ice scoop and one of those C&R stickers that the DNR had given out years back, 40″ in length.
I brought the fish up to the sticker on the side of my sled tub and I had a rough 23 inches. I didn’t get an opportunity to lay the fish out or pinch the tail, so it could’ve been longer. The girth on the fish’s belly was pretty outstanding, as this was definitely one of the fattest 23″ walleyes, I’ve seen outside of their spawning run.
Come 6 PM, I wrapped it up as the bite begins to tail off. A brief recap on the first official field test of my portable mods is as follows:
The reflectix worked well and cut down on frost quite a bit, only the canvas on the sides had frosted up lightly. The LED lights worked out nice. Plenty of light, but maybe a using the headlamp is in order to tie knots quicker. It is doable, but 2 lb test or smaller could get difficult if you have limp line, especially if you are threading the small eyelets found on light panfish jigs. Taking out the extra seat definitely provided some extra room. The insert I installed in my sled was nice; It’s always nice to have an extra flat surface to lay tackle or or other things on, like my bait puck.
Hopefully we’ll get some snow soon, and I’ll be able to test out the new rigid hitch with my snowmobile.

December 8, 2006

My New Toy

I finally broke down last weekend and bought a snowmobile. With the onset of global warming and el nino threating our way of life up here in the snowbelt, and the assault of four-wheelers everywhere, why a sled you may ask? Even my mom, who is clueless about ice fishing life, asked why I got a sled over a four wheeler. Here are a few reasons.
The Wind. The wind coming off the prairie in Northwestern Minnesota can be quite brutal. Snow drifts can overtake permanent houses in a matter of hours. Passage on big windswept lakes can be all but impassible with a four wheeler under certain conditions.
Slush. If this winter turns out to be anything like last winter, a snowmobile will be the only way around a lake. Due to heavy snowfall early in the year last winter, many lakes had a crippling amount of snow on top of the ice, causing it to sag and flood the surface. This created slush ice. Throughout most of the season until Late February, most area lakes were plagued with 12-18″ of slush. Many a four wheeler were at the mercy of the sled last winter, hoping to get a pull. Conditions were so bad that I didn’t even drive on the ice once last year.
Trails. Simply put, a four wheeler cannot legally ride down a snowmobile trail. Often times, a snowmobile trail provides the only link between two bodies of water, or the only access to a lake. This is critical if you like fishing untapped resources. This is also important if you like to tour several lakes in a close proximity of each other, without having to go through the hassle of trailering your equipment to each lake.
I realize that potentially, I could ride a four wheeler year round. But to do so comfortably in the winter requires a few modifications to the wheeler like a windshield and hand covers and warmers. Also, if you are ice fishing with friends who are on sleds, it may be difficult to keep up with them. I am not interested in trail riding a four wheeler in the summer, as I would rather spend time on the river fly fishing, so it was a pretty easy sell to go with a snowmobile. This has also opened up the realm of fishing big waters now, like Leech, Lake of the Woods, Upper Red, Snowbank, etc. without having to worry about driving a vehicle on the ice. I am excited! I think my mom now understands why I chose a sled over a wheeler.