December 14, 2006

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Brrrrrrrr!!! That was music to my ears last week when the temperatures dropped down to frigid levels, leaving the vast majority of local folks offering that musical greeting as they entered my office.

While most folks were suffering because the mercury dropped down to single digits on December 7th, I was warming up to the idea of doing some ice fishing. That one day ultimately set the ball rolling, as several cooler days had put some ice on the ponds. Yet it took that one really cold 24-hour stretch to put the finishing touches on the topping, at least thatís what it took for me to feel safe.

Of course that sense of security doesnít really arrive until after that final turn of the auger sends the bit through the ice into the water, and you get some type of measurement of how thick the ice is. For us, it was three and a half inches thick on Friday evening. December 8th is one of the earliest starts I have had to the ice fishing season.

Iíll admit, I left work early that afternoon and headed home to load up my gear. I wasted my time putting my tent in the back of the truck. Even with good ice, I was tentative to set up my shanty. Besides, I didnít leave work that early, so I knew I was only going to be there for a little bit, so why waste my time on the tent.

That proved to be a wise decision, as while the fish did bite okay, it seemed like we had to move from hole to hole to find the action. Once a guy gets warm in his tent, itís much more difficult to make oneself move to different spots.

We only fished for about 90 minutes that first afternoon, but I still had enough fish to match that time consumption on fish cleaning when I got home.

Saturday had much more time allotted for the sequel. But we got a bit of a shock when we rolled up to our first destination. This pond of choice still had a stretch of open water. About three dozen ducks hit the air as we drove up, so I assume they were the culprits. Still it gives the system a little shock to see such a site as one was mentally prepared to be out on top of said open water.

We didnít let that scary image deter us from our goal. It was on to pond #2. This waterway had no such unsightly blemishes, so we set up shop. Iíll admit we did tread lightly as we opened that first hole, but we had half a dozen more fishing spots opened up and never had much concern for our safety.

Of course we still were fishing without tents. This was as much out of laziness as do to unofficial weight limits. With temperatures in the 40s, there was no pressing urgency to escape the weather. As a matter of fact, we rather enjoyed not having the tents out.

We thanked the ducks for making us change our destination, as this pond produced a good load of small bass, both filling our fillet quota while also assisting the pond itself by removing a number of these overpopulated specimens, which is what that pond needs.

A fisherman always hates to get up from a proven spot, but one can only take so many of these little worm-snatchers before you are ready to move on to something different.

Pond #3 promised the opportunity for some bigger fish. But the waterway also revealed that bigger ponds might not quite be ready for an ice fishing tourney. The first hole took several fewer turns of the auger to create an opening. We called it three inches, but only because we didnít want to have to pick up and move to a safer spot.

What the pond was lacking in cover it made up for in action, as we completed our bucket load of fish, topping off the little bass with several nice bluegill. I had nicer fish on, on two occasions, but both escaped with my lure and some line to go with it. When you lift that little rig up to set the hook, and the fish doesnít immediately start up under your power, you know the fish has the advantage. With only two or four pound test, and a matchstick-like rod, the angler really has to get lucky to even get a look at one of those big guys through the ice. Iíve seen it done on occasion, but the rarity of reeling in that fish that barely fits through the hole, is what makes it so special.

Just as I was wishing for cold, Iím now wanting it to get hot. This warm spell will quickly spoil the ice. We can only hope that the heat and maybe a little rain will get rid of it all, so we can start from scratch the next time all you folks are ready with your Brrrrrr greetings.

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