Sunday, 30 March 2014

Personal Best Northern Pike (2lb line)

I was invited along for a mid week fishing excursion and happily obliged. We were on the road around 6 AM and had lines in the water as the moon was setting and sun rising. Instantly the perch were on fire, it honestly looked like a repeat of our last outing. Since most times the action is so hot two lines can be a pain, we decided to set out a few tip ups with some bigger dead bait on a quick strike rig to see if a pike would commit. After throwing back well over twenty perch each, the action continued although not so furious. A few smaller eater sized pike were landed and then it happened ...
From out of nowhere something slammed my PK spoon and it was instantly clear it was a Northern Pike. I was using the same uglystick light action rod with 2lb mono and it went for one hell of a run, each time I would gain line back only to have it run again. Experiencing a few handfuls of pike fights on Ultra light or light gear this winter (while targeting perch), I was able to keep my heart rate under control and the shakes down ... until we saw its head at the bottom of the eight inch hole. After a few more runs and retrieves, it just hung out at the bottom of the ice , looking up. With a bit of slack given and a tug on the line by Jay we were able to get it up the hole and onto the ice for some measurements and pictures. I know they get way bigger than this, but this was on a pressured body of water in the southern division. I caught a 37.5 incher last season on the Red River in December but this one was clearly ALOT heavier. We got it back in the hole and after a few seconds it swam back down. A roughly twenty pound, 38 inch northern pike on 2lb mono, we were all ecstatic!!

We were constantly keeping an eye on the tip ups and after about two hours we got our first flag, Jay ran over and set the hook but some how it wasn't a clean hook set, and the weight was gone. We reset the flag and bait and waited it out for the next one. 45 minutes and a dozen perch later the flag popped again, I ran over and  set the hook, feeling good weight below and then the fish realized what was up. It peeled off on a run and we had to feed out a few meters of line. Hand over hand retrieve and once close to the hole it went on one more good run. After that it was smooth sailing and up came a 30 inch northern. My first fish on a tip up in a long time, man I miss that style of fishing and won't wait so long again for the next time.  Our third flag went to Jay again, he was really pumped having never fished this way before. We had a nice big dead bait on the rig and we knew what ever hit it would be a good one. After setting the hook and a brief fight the line cut on the bottom of the ice. A total disappointment, looks like its time to replace the tip up line.

Later in the day with the action slowed right down, I noticed a mark cruising up high and coincidentally had my Pk spoon still on that rod. I ripped up 16 inches past it and it hammered the lure on the drop, tearing off on a solid run. My two fishing partners were half a kilometer away from the shack at this point, so there was no assistance on this one and after three heart racing runs it bit through the line and was gone. That's the price you pay and the risk you take with light line.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Perch, It's What's for Dinner

Away from the crowds is usually how we like to fish and this day the was no different. With the crowds bigger than ever, I'm talking a small towns worth of people out on this lake,we wanted to be at least 100 feet away if not more from the nearest anglers. We got on the ice later than usual and drove as far as we could safely, loaded up the sled and walked another few hundred feet. Sun shining, augers howling, we got to work drilling holes and setting up a home base. After spending as much time scooping ice chips and slush out of the holes as we did drilling them, we got to fishing. We each dropped a lure down and were instantly bringing up our first fish of the day, followed by another and another and another. Feisty, hungry perch. If this was a sign of how the day was to go, we were not about to complain.

First lure of the day was my PK flutter spoon in glow fire tiger, and it was on fire! There were some very aggressive fish swimming through that just could not resist it. The first ten or so hit it without thinking twice, but the next few schools were more tentative. I decided to tip my spoon with a minnow tail or head, I like to call this my confidence and the fish began to hit it again. The action was so swift that a second line was more of a detriment than an advantage. The fish would hit a dead stick but jigging and lifts seemed more productive and resetting two lines was wasting time when the schools were below.

The first pike of the day hit my spoon pretty hard and took off on a few runs, pushing my Uglystick light action rod to its limits. I could feel the rod quiver in the handle and was worried it might snap. I need to take to duct taping my reels to the rods for the ice season. I was able to bring it to the bottom of the hole a few times, eventually lining her up and on to the ice. A good fight on light tackle, it tore all over the place spooking any near by schools. Before the perch could come back through Tom lost a lure to a swift pike bite off, it's the price you pay with those toothy critters on the prowl. After that, when ever a big mark would show up on the flashers and not want our offerings, Frodo would drop down a big rattle bait to see if the fish was interested, it got a few taps but no good hammering strikes

It seems around the middle of march every year we see the first few canada geese coming back, this year was no different, despite the harsh winter. Outside of the shelter a beautiful bald eagle was spotted soaring around and scavenging fish remains on the ice. The action continued steadily all day only slowing down when a pike would cruise through our area, fifty percent of the time attacking at least one of our lures. Tom coincidentally lost five of his most productive lures. I had hooked into a really nice pike that spooled out most of my line, the fight was phenomenal and the weight felt heavier than the 37.5 incher I landed last ice season on the Red River. After regaining most of the line multiple times we got a glimpse of its body gliding along the bottom of the ice, it was hard to judge it's size looking down through almost four feet of ice. Even after three or four good runs it still had a lot of energy and some how the hook popped out. A really fun fight but I was disappointed I wasn't able to land the fish.

Perch after perch landed, the average size was 11 inches, with very few small ones caught. Our biggest of the day was 12 7/8 inches. The pike would routinely come through and you would gamble a lure to get their attention or get it out of the water fast. I was able to hook into a few more with the biggest landed being 33 inches, some quick pics and off it went to fight another day. Frodo had the juvenile walleyes dialed in landing eleven of the little guys ( he was hoping for one nice keeper) and Tom one, all released to grow some more.

The rest of the day was filled with laughs and stories, with an abundance of fish retained and released as well as Tom losing 5 lures to pike bite offs. The sounds of augers drilling in the distance was steady until around supper time.

After probably the best day on the ice for non stop action, I came home to a lot of work cleaning fish. A family meal was had frying the perch fillets and eating some pike jerky that i will post about soon.

The title "Perch ... It's What's for Dinner" comes from the pictures below. Left was the stomach contents of a twelve inch perch and right the contents of a 25 inch northern pike.

Monday, 10 March 2014

A winter adventure

It is still winter here and will be for a while, most people are sick of it and I hate to say it but I am getting there, and am really starting to miss the open water. Ice fishing is one of the few activities that gets me through winter, a winter so harsh my wife hasn't been out once. Looking for something different and to get away from the crowds, this trip we went to one of my favorite open water rivers that gets minimal winter pressure.

Oh the wind, I can count on one hand how many days this winter that have not had the wind howling one direction or another, a few occasions it has changed directions half a dozen times while we were out. As usual it was another windy day but we weren't deterred, work and life schedules dictate when we get to fish, not the weather. We were headed to a river that runs through a valley and knew there would be some walking through very deep snow to get to our desired spots, we also knew we were out for an adventure as much as we were to go fishing.

As it always is, the view driving down into the valley was spectacular, trees bare of their leaves peaking out from the snow, deep beaten paths in amongst them from the deer and coyotes. We loaded up the sled and began our journey and were instantly knee high in snow, maybe snow shoes are a good idea for next time. We made our way to the river bank and eventually onto the snowy covered ice. Within a few hundred feet we spotted some open water, months on end of freezing temperatures and down in a remote valley there was open water, all around it deer trails as they must access it to drink. It could have been a freshwater spring, a bed of boulders or
a sunken tree giving off warmth, either way it was
not lost on me the risk we were taking no matter how
safe we initially thought it was.

After spring run off on an average year this river in anywhere from one to twelve feet deep usually, we found two to three feet of ice and anywhere from one to six feet of water under it, sometimes drilling into the bottom. The first two spots we had in mind had four to seven feet of snow, there was no way we were going to dig through that so on we trekked. The scenery and peacefulness was exactly what I needed, despite the wind it was a beautiful day. After a grueling hike we made it to our next spot and started digging down to the ice, we were looking for the main channel and a deep pocket and eventually found it. Water scorpions and very small water beetles came flooding up some of the holes and were also clouding up our flasher screens. It would clear up every now and then and sometimes a mark would show up which would really get my heart racing knowing that we were on top of some fish.

We missed a few bites and taps at our lures, even just one fish caught and released would make the day worth it. I ended up shoveling myself a wind break and hunkered down to focus at one of the more promising holes. Plenty of time to clear my head and enjoy the sites and that's exactly what I did. After about an hour we decided to pack up and push further to another potential spot, we came across some slush under the ice as we went, just enough excitement to get the blood flowing when you feel the initial sinking feeling of a nice crust breaking. A few holes drilled at the next spot but we couldn't find more than two feet under the ice. A snowmobiler payed us a visit making some small talk, "Not a lot of fish around here" and "Sure picked a cold day to be out" followed by a lot of awkward silence and that was the only human we saw all afternoon, truthfully we could have gone without his visit.

With a long hike back to our vehicle we decided to go keep fishing our previously drilled holes instead of hiking further. Once back at our spot I noticed some dead trees sticking out of the ice and thought a shore fire might be nice. Two flicks of a bic and half an envelope later and we had a nice little fire going long enough to warm some hands to get back to fishing. As Jay drilled a few more holes, Frodo had a line down and got a solid bite and hook set, before I knew it up came a 19 inch sauger. Biggest any of us had ever seen and a trophy by our provinces standards, a quick measurement and a few pictures and off it went to hopefully make it to spring and potentially spawn again. That right there made all the hard work, of which Jay does a good percentage of worth it.

We fished on hoping for a few more, but all I got was a missed bite and a snagged lure. The day was cold and windy, miserable by most peoples standards, but we had a blast out on the ice and off of the couches.