A classic prairie winter day out on the ice: whiteout.
Fitting that it's the Winter Solstice and I'm putting up a post on ice fishing the frozen white north. When in Rome... After several nights of wrenching and speaking my finest German, I finally got the snowmobile repaired. A fishing venture out last winter in heavy powder resulted in my muffler getting a bit hot, melting the main wiring harness on my sled. Not a good situation. The fine folks at Arctic Cat went a little light on the heat shield tape and also thought that it was a great idea to lay the harness down in the belly pan first, and then install the motor, chaincase, clutches, and everything else in the sled on top of it. As I sat cutting apart the melted birds nest of wires and re-taping the bare wire, I was hoping that this was gonna do the trick, as I didn't want to pop the $150 bones for a new harness, nor the hours of labor to install it. While I was in their redoing the wiring, I also gutted the restrictive factory air box and put on a K&N oval filter right on the throttle body and a K&N breather filter on the valve cover. Once I finished taping everything up with heat foil, I turned the ignition on with success. Fixed. Now my sled is as tricked out as it's gonna get as well as turning a few more ponies under the hood. She's an ice fishing mo-chine!
I figured that it was about time my lazy ass got out from behind the vise and put my boots on. I sucked it up and loaded up trailer after topping off its tires with air and re-torquing the lug nuts. Of course, I decided to make the maiden voyage of the season in a gotdamn snowstorm. The wind was a sumbitch, blowing the snow sideways. Nothing says fun like frozen crystals of ice jabbing you in the cornea. I made it on to the highway and drove to a lake on the edge of town. I unloaded my gear and hooked up the portable ice house to the snowmobile. Time to hit the ice. Once I got on the lake I saw how much fun I was going to have; I couldn't see a thing. For those of you who've never ridden a snowmobile before, driving blind into a whiteout is not the ideal thing to do. Hitting a snowdrift my surprise at 40 mph towing a portable is more excitement than one shall be allowed to have. Catching air on a touring sled, especially by surprise, is enough to have to go change your shorts. Lucky for me, I actually learn from my past mistakes, and took it slow on my way out this time. Even with my GPS guiding me at 20 mph, it still sucked.
Ice fishing isn't for the faint of heart. A 20 mph wind on wet hands can make your outing go bad in a hurry. Tip number one is to face your back to the wind. Tip number two is to wear a coat with a hood. Keeping the wind of your face can go a long way to keeping you warm while out scouting. I'd also recommend a pair of warm boots. As a set out making some swiss cheese, I found a nice spot on a flat in 10 FOW adjacent to a few deep water breaks. I grabbed my search rod set up, a small tungsten teardrop jig tipped with a waxie. I set up at the hole and dropped it down, a foot off the bottom. I marked a fish fairly quickly and had an earnest strike. I was figuring that I set up on top a school of small perch, but when I set the hook there was resistance. At first I thought I had hooked a pike. Typically on these flats, a predator will lurk off in the weedbeds looking for an easy meal. Reeling in the fish, it gave me a few decent runs, pulling line from the reel while my drag screamed. When I got the fish to the hole I was expecting a snot rocket. To my surprise, I pulled a nice chunky 18" walleye out from the hole. Bonus! A totally unexpected surprise.
Now don't go sending me hate mail because I posted a photo of a walleye. I know I give the fish a fair amount of abuse and bashing here, but ice fishing is different. Pretty damn tough to fly fish through the ice, so winter is the only time I resort to using bait and soft plastics. In addition, the only time I harvest fish is during the cold water months. I know that I'm the "roughfisher", but walleye is fair game through the ice (even though it is still boring) as are most other gamefish species. I've also been known to pursue salmonids through the ice. Tasty salmonids. I love eating fish, and so does my family. Might as well get my money's worth for my license fees.
And yes, that walleye was delicious.