After a lot of patience, we finally hit first ice here in Central MN! On Friday, I went out to check the ice and found a solid 5-6" which meant it was time. I went out by myself with the small chisel we have and our ION Ice Auger. I was a bit of a fraidy-cat because I'd never been on the ice alone, but I went out and did what I set out to do. My only regret is not bringing my ice fishing gear and dropping a couple of lines.
Saturday, my husband and I went to the St. Paul Ice Show (one of the biggest ice fishing expos of the year). Despite it being very busy, we found some great deals and had a great time. We walked away with a new spud bar (full-size ice chisel,) and Lucas got himself a nice pair of Eskimo gloves. I did get the chance to try on the new DSG ice fishing bibs and jacket. I was blown away by how comfortably they fit. The knee pads are definitely one of my favorite features due to some old volleyball injuries. We also checked out the single-person ice shacks, Eskimo is still our favorite. We fell in love with the new 13 Fishing Radioactive Pickle rod/reel combo as well. One of the other things we found really hit us by surprise. A Bluetooth activated tip-up indicator. Lucas was a little annoyed that someone beat him to his own idea, but it was still great to see how far tech is coming in the ice fishing industry.
The real excitement happened on Sunday. At 10:30 am we packed up the gear and headed to our little honey hole, Lake Wishicouldtellya. I'm always excited to hit that lake; it's where I caught my PB nearly 3lb 17" crappie last year. Once we got on the ice, we found that the ice had thickened a little over the weekend, now averaging 6-7" consistently. We drilled our holes, set the tip-ups off the weed line in 12' of water, and dropped our jigs in about 23' of water. We chose not to bring the Eskimo hub. The weather was fair enough that we didn't think we needed it. I mean, 32 degrees with minimal wind is as good as it gets this time of year. I did plan ahead and brought Hot Hands toe and hand warmers with though.
As far as bait goes, we stuck to the basics. Sucker minnows for the tip-ups and crappie minnows (flatheads) for the jigs. I used my old faithful red Berkley rod with a Shakespear reel, Lucas used his setup from 13 Fishing, and his dad used my backup rod (also a Berkley). After a while I also experimented with my new Mitchell Avocet Ice R combo rod/reel. We put the Vikings game on the radio, cracked a couple cold ones, and waited for the bite.
When we first got out there no one else was around, but in the next couple hours, we had two other fishermen on the lake with us. As time went on, we had one hit on the tip-ups, a little baby northern that was only twice the size of the sucker minnow he hit. He was the only tip-up catch we got. Jigging wasn't working out great either. We had some nibbles, a few good bites, but nothing taking it. The guy next to us, about 10 yards away, was having all the luck in the world though.
Just a couple hours after he set up, he packed up and came over to us. He said he had limited out on crappies using shiner minnows on his jigs. We were on the very edge of the bowl and he explained that they were sitting right in the middle of it. Luckily, the guy was nice enough and said we should move to the holes he was using. He also offered us his remaining bait but we turned him down on that because we had a ton of flatheads left. Another decision we would come to regret...
As the guy left the lake, we moved our gear and set back up in the center of the bowl. After a few minutes I finally saw that bobber go down. I was reeling with excitement (pun definitely intended) as I pulled my first crappie of the season through the ice. He was just a little guy, but I was still grateful for the catch. I snapped a pic and let him go back through the hole. Not long after that, Lucas pulled in a nice perch. Then, his dad had a bite, but lost the fish. That's when the action died. The bite turned off. We stayed a while longer, until 4:15 pm, but we hadn't brought any lights so we knew it was time to pack up and head home.
Even though we didn't catch the biggest fish, or the most fish, it was a great day of first ice in early December. We might not have the most expensive tech, the newest gear, or even the right bait, but we did have a great time. The memories we made on the ice are so much more valuable than anything else about the sport.
I can't wait to get back out there, and if it wasn't for the Winter Weather Advisory this morning, I'd be out there now. In any case, here's to many more ice adventures this season. Let's get after those tight lines!
Have you hit first ice yet?