I decided to go fishing on a nearby reservoir a couple of days ago. I gathered everything I could think of, including a camp chair, a sheepskin to put on the seat of the chair for insulation, my tackle box, auger, ice-fishing rod, and a new box of soft cheese for bait.
You can use a regular fishing rod for ice fishing, but most people use a much shorter rod. There is no casting involved so the extra length is superfluous. My little rod is scarcely thirty inches in length.
I piled most of my stuff, including a warm coat, hat and mittens, onto a cheap, plastic toboggan, and dragged it out onto the ice. I selected a likely spot and began to drill a hole in the ice with my auger.
Having become an old guy, it is getting to be more and more difficult to drill down through the ice. My auger cuts a six-inch hole. It took several minutes to cut a hole through over a foot of hard, clear ice. If I did more ice fishing, it might be worth the expense of buying one of those motorized augers.
Once I broke through the ice, I took a small, perforated ladle and scooped the ice cuttings and slush out of the hole. When the hole was clear of ice, I mashed some soft cheese onto the hook and dropped it into the hole. The cheese sank on its own so I didn’t have to use any weight on the line.
I played the line down into the hole until it touched bottom, about thirty feet below. I then took in a little line until the bait was suspended a foot or a foot-and-a-half above the bottom. I placed the rod across the tackle box with the tip of the rod over the middle of the hole.
Once the bait was in the water, I set up my chair, spread the sheepskin on the seat, put on my warm coat and hat and settled in to watch the tip of the rod. As I watched the rod, I pinched off a few dollops of cheese and rolled them into little balls. These were my reloads. In my experience, biting comes in spurts. There may be long periods without any action and then there is a flurry in just a few minutes.
You’d think it would be very quiet, sitting alone on the ice, waiting for a bite. But the reservoir sounds like a great beast with a rumbling belly. The ice expands and contracts. It moves, accompanied by great pops, rolling booms and grinding groans. Some are distant. Some are near enough to be felt through the feet.
I caught a nice, fat trout and another, smaller one. Something kept softly bumping my bait and the rod tip would dip just a little, but I could not catch it. I began to suspect crawdads. I changed my bait to yellow salmon eggs. A friend arrived and drilled a hole near me.
Suddenly, I hooked into something big. The drag on my reel was buzzing wildly and the little rod was bent nearly double. When I finally dragged the fighting fish up through the hole it was a beautiful, sixteen-and-a-half inch tiger trout that weighed a little over a pound and a half. It was my first ever tiger trout.
I caught my limit. The sun was going down. It was getting very cold. We quickly loaded things up and headed for the trucks.