Ice-Fishing Memories

January 25, 2016 by  

I was in the garage messing with my ice-fishing gear the other day. I got to thinking about how ice-fishing has changed so much in the past few years, which got me to thinking about some of the memorable ice-fishing trips I’ve been on. In the following, I’ll share what made those trips memorable and what I learned from them.

It was in the early 90’s and I was doing a television show called Fishing Iowa. We were on West Lake Okoboji fishing with the late Otis “Toad” Smith and Kent Hrbek, at the time the first baseman for the Minnesota Twins. We were fishing for panfish with tiny jigs and four pound test line. Hrbek and I were sharing a shelter at the time. The bluegill bite had slowed when Kent said “Uh,oh, we’re in trouble”. I thought he meant we were in trouble because the bite had slowed and he thought we weren’t going to get enough fish to make a show. I looked over and saw his rod was doubled over. In the super-clear water of West Lake Okoboji, Kent had seen a very large northern pike suck in his jig. Hrbek’s rod/reel/line set-up was not geared for pike, but he battled it expertly and, after quite a while, we put a seventeen pound pike on the ice. I know others have taken pike of that size on light tackle before, but this was memorable and captured on tape. Made a great t.v. show.

Big Stone Ice

This South Dakota perch wouldn’t bite until Mike Frisch held the bait a still as possible. Lessons learned through the years on the ice help us catch more fish today.

Another memorable trip was to the northeast corner of South Dakota. I was with my fishing friend Joe Honer. Joe is an outstanding guide in that area. Weather conditions were tough and the perch didn’t want to bite. We could see them on the sonar, we tried all sorts of different colors and sizes and presentations, we were moving from hole to hole to hole to find biters, but we just couldn’t get them to eat.

Eventually, I got tired of moving and just sat on a hole that had fish below. I could see them and I tried everything. Finally, I tied on a tiny jig and attached a small piece of plastic. I rested the elbow of my jigging arm on my knee and held the bait perfectly still as the perch looked at it. Finally he ate it. I landed the fish and got the bait back down there. Another perch looked at my perfectly still bait and after much consideration, he ate it. Once we figured out that we needed a presentation that was small and absolutely still, we caught the perch. Great learning experience.

Last one: Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota had a crappie explosion about ten years ago: Huge crappies and lots of them. Thousands of anglers were on the ice catching these crappies on a weekend. I was fishing with John and Duane Petersen. They had been working on creating a glow paint for lures. We had this little flashlight with a special bulb that made the lures glow when we shined it on them. We would glow the bait up, drop it down the hole, and if fish were there, they bit. We caught them really good. Eventually though, they quit biting. We could see them on the sonar, but they wouldn’t eat. Finally we figured it out. The glow was fading. If we recharged the bait with a shot from the flashlight, the fish would bite it. That trip and others like it were the beginning of a line of UV baits from Northland Tackle that really glow and really catch fish.

Those memories make me eager to get on the ice and create more memories. You should too.

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