Ice Hunting

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Woke up to some freezing temps, and a layer of snow in Connecticut. Being early in the winter season, not all bodies of water are locked up yet, and some are thicker than others. I decided to take measurements into my own hands, and head out to see if I could find my own “honey pot.”

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Of course I brought my partner with me, who was very excited to experience her first real snow. First stop, a small lake on Gulf Road, across from Soapstone Mountain access lot.

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To measure the ice, I dig a hole with my auger ever ten steps, then scoop out the slush. I place my tip-up spool at the bottom of the ice, and measure up. The spool begins on the 15″ mark, so I just count from there.  Unfortunately, freezing rain put about an inch of water over the ice and it was incredibly uneven. Didn’t have much luck here.

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So we moved onto Hurd’s Lake which was shrouded in an incredible and blinding fog. Again, it was layered in rainwater, so I stayed fairly close to the edge. If you look at the picture, it actually looks like open water, but it wasn’t. There was a good 4-inches of ice locked up beneath the slushy top. Again, though, no luck here.

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Finally, just by nature of wanted to catch a fish after skunking at all those different lakes, I just headed to my old favorite honey pot, Dennis Pond. The pond itself was covered in snow, without any sign of human tracks on it. Made a trail of holes 10 feet apart out toward the middle, and two rows of two holes across. Ice was easily 3.5-inches in all the spots I tested.

I began jigging with 2-lb test line and little red wigglers.

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Brook was excited by all the snow and ice and just being outside in general, so naturally, she completely went berserk, getting a huge case of the zoomies. She ran around like a wild animal all over the ice, much to my disdain, because the ice was untested. She ended up with her two hind legs in a hole and I had to put her in time out in the car to thaw out the rest of the time.

But in the mean time, I did manage to pull out a chain pickerel from one of the holes, successfully ending my skunk streak.

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Had to pack up the rods and reels and head home after the sun went down and my feet turned into popsicles. Hoping to find another honey pot in the future, still searching!

Dennis Pond

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Ice season is here and we are up North for the holidays!

Finally, after a long year of waiting, the ground is covered in snow, and the lakes thick with a layer of ice!

Well… not that thick. Sadly, the last week was freezing cold (twenties and below), but this upcoming week the winter weather has taken a turn for the warmer. The ice is slipping away beneath our feet (all 3.5 inches of it).

At least we were able to get in some lines before the melting began. We stopped by an old favorite, Dennis Pond, to do some jigging.

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Passed a couple of wild turkeys on the way. Always nice to see the local wildlife.

20171217_151102Scenery was breathtaking as usual. Drilled about 6 holes (one every 10-feet, laterally and outward). Got to about 10-ft depth, but the ice was not exactly the safest. At about 3.5 inches at most going toward the center, we did not venture too far out. Water temperature was about 34-degrees F at the surface beneath the ice.

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We used standard jigging techniques, with little red wigglers as bait, and small spoons for lure.

Caught a few little chain pickerel which are always a fun catch. It was pretty cold out though, as you may be able to tell by Dan’s ski coat and 7 pairs of pants.

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Things were getting slushy, quick, though. Our feet were wet and frozen, but between the snowy scenery and continuous action on our ice rods, we stuck around and  sucked it up.

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Patience is a virtue, however! I was finally able to pull a decent sized large mouth.

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Dan was on fire with the pickerel game too.

Overall, a fun day on the ice. Excited to get back to it once temperatures go down next week. Dennis pond is a perfect ice fishing pond!

Gulf Stream/Scantic River Junction

Home for a few days before starting Ranger School, I managed to convince my brother to join me and my dad on a small excursion in my home town. Often we had passed by this stream on the way to work or school growing up, never having stopped it by.

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A lot of kayakers who mount up in Somersville Pond floated this way and under the roadway bridge. Since this area is right off the road, below the bridge, it was a little difficult to get down to. There was sort of a path, but it was largely overgrown and a wrong step could have landed you off the side and into the water. Given Connecticut’s massive tick population, bug spray was a must.

As usual within this area, we brought up quite a few yellow perch.

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I was using a small treble hook and a combination of either earth worms or mealworms, both which could be purchased from the local Somersville gas station.

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My brother managed to snag his first largemouth bass! Albeit, a dink, but a bass nonetheless. My mom wanted to come along, but having the two dogs with her, she was not in a position to bushwack down to the stream. So after only a little while of fishing here, my family was already urging me to head back to Somersville Pond. I had at least six or seven “last casts” or “one more casts” but not without a prize!

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On my very last cast, with a small treble hook and a mealworm, I managed to snag this trophy sized White Sucker fish. The hook fell off its fleshy lips as I was finessing it in, so I actually ended up with one foot in the stream, and hand wrangled the fatty ashore.

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Never seen a sucker this size, and I wish I had called DEEP to get the trophy certificate, but oh well. I let him go to swim another day.

After that, we headed back up to Somersville Pond and relaxed with the dogs there for the rest of the day.

Caught a few more perch, including my little brother’s first. Was really glad to be able to take him out fishing and show him the ropes.

You can just make it out on the photo on the right, but over the dam, we saw an absolutely massive alligator snapping turtle floating around. It was at least 4 feet long.

Love the multispecies fishing that the great North East offers, and can’t wait for my next trip up there.

Somersville Pond

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My sister was visiting back home in CT for a few weeks, from Australia, so I decided to come home and surprise my family. A cool aspect of getting into fishing was it even gave me and my dad another thing to bond over. Now Dad’s all “into” it too haha. So we looked up some local holes, and turns out here was one pretty close at a dam near an old mill site. Fairly small with a nice little pavilion as well as a small dock you could walk out onto.  I used my dad’s dated equipment, so it was about a 5ft long old school spin reel. Nothing fancy.

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I used the usual, old reliable technique of a treble hook or rooster tail with a fat night crawler attached. My Dad, just like when we were ice fishing, wouldn’t use any of the advice I gave him, and instead attached a hook to a circle bobber and had a little medley of baits floating an unknown distance above the bottom. We started off slow, and were basically competing on who could catch the most pumpkin seeds because MAN those little guys were greedy today.

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Some of them were so pretty though!

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In the meantime, my Mom, sister and brother came along and hung out with us on the dock, as well as took the boys for a walk. A quick reminder of what they look like:

The first fish I hooked was a beautiful, good sized perch! They don’t really have these around in South Georgia, where I’m living now, so it was really pleasant because these fish are just stunning.

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Here’s another angle and a selfie with my favorite hat…

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Even in the face of my success though dad just wouldn’t give up his weird bobber-bait-salad method. I pulled in a couple more perch after!

Dad got a lot of excitement when his goofy rig got a tug. Here he is with a HOG!

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Little pumpkinseed. Haha. Anyways, eventually I even reeled in a few black bullhead. Another cool species that isn’t local where I live.

Bullheads are actually a type of catfish, sort of similar to flatheads, ,but the bullheads head is way fatter. They share the shallow, rounded tail “fork” though, whereas blues and channels have a deeply forked tail. An issue I ran into however, was both one of the perch and both of the bullheads seriously swallowed the hook. We made a dire mistake of not equipping with long nose pliers while out here (we had only my dad’s stuff, I didn’t bring my kit) and so getting those hooks out was a pain in the ass. I also felt bad and truly hoped I didn’t fatally harm any of the fish in the process. A big lesson learned there, because I do truly value the life of all creatures.

Eventually I was able to convince my dad to use my slow pitch jig technique, against much of his opposition. And surprise! He pulled out a bullhead of his own.

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Little guy, but it’s better than sunfish, right? In the words of my Grandpa, however, “I saw your shitty bullhead!” My Grandpa is the worlds biggest Facebook troll, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

Overall, Somersville pond was a ton of fun. It’s packed full of fish, the area is clean and beautiful, and it was so quiet. There were a couple kayakers out there, but not too many people. A boat would have been nice because this dock/side was really the only easily accessible area on the shore, and the kayakers got to move down the whole pond. Really good time, definitely want to get out there again!

Dennis Pond

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Again, this is a late post and also took place around Christmas 2016. However, I’m excited to share our more successful ice fishing trip to Dennis Pond in Stafford, CT! But first, here’s how Christmas went for us:

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Good times were had by all. Anyways…

My dad had long seen the pictures Dan and I post of decent sized panfish so decided to come along and join us this time. The pond was fairly small sized, though there was another group with tip-ups set up on the other side. The ice was a little thin on the outskirts but once again, drilling ever 10 feet gave us the 3.5 inches of confidence we needed to continue.

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We used the same equipment as at Hurds, but this time the addition of some small shiners. We drilled a good amount of holes from the shallower side, toward the middle and in a lateral row from there. Then we began jigging the holes. Once again about 10-15 minutes per hole before moving onto the next. My dad was nervous to walk on the ice, and also has a habit of contradicting every technique I have learned about fishing… which in this case, instead of a spike or two, or a single shiner on a tiny rooster tail or a treble hook, he decided to stick on a trout worm, a piece of corn, a grub etc all on each prong of the treble… Giving the fish the full platter! I can’t say whether or not this is a valid way to go about it (not experienced enough), but I’ll reveal if it worked out a little later!

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First catch of the day was this little bass by me! Ice fishing has a lot of finesse in the reel in and finish because the 3lb test line is so fragile. It’s a lot of fun to fight a fish with such light equipment.

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Dan wanted to pose with my catch, hehe. No luck for the men, yet. We jigged, we chatter, we drank some brews– really enjoyable time. After a while, Dan ended up getting a big tug! And out popped this beautiful creature:

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A stunning black crappie. The vibrant color pattern was amazing against the white-out background of the ice. Needless to say, Dan was really pleased with himself! Now, it was time for Dad to catch up and get one for his own…. right?  In the mean time, I’m drilling more holes, sweat dripping down my back, trying to one up Dan’s awesome catch. I kept getting nibbles and nibbles and nothing was grabbing…So then I was desperate… jigging, jigging, that same spot, still getting nibbles… And Dan decides to come see what’s up:

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I was still bursting with adrenaline and with Dan stomping over I tried to shout to him “Wait, Stop! Don’t come over! You’ll scare away the fish!” but he couldn’t hear me, kept saying “WHAT!” and he kept on coming… closer… closer….and next thing I know, Dan is literally head over heels in the air. BOOM! He goes crashing into the ice, which by the grace of God himself, did not break through. 3.5 inches, 225lb x gravity… That’s actually some strong ice!

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Though he definitely succeeded in scaring away all the fish, I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off. He was alright! No injuries, somehow didn’t end up beneath the ice. I rated the fall a 7/10…. extremely funny, but too loud. That ended this day, though Dad turned up short.

Dad and I decided to return the next day to test our lucky again.  Just going about the usual business and SUDDENLY I felt the biggest pull of my life… I pulled and pulled and pulled and a HOG of a bass emerged head first from my hole. Being a noob, and overexcited I yanked the line… And guess what? 3lb test line is not going to survive against a flopping over 3lb fish out of water. The line snapped, and that was the story of the one that got away. All wasn’t lost though cause I ended up with something!

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This awesome chain pickerel I pulled up on a shiner ended up being the last catch of the day. These guys have actual pointy little teeth, and they definitely put up a fight! Sadly, Dad’s bait medley was not successful overall, but Dan and I managed to turn up some unique and beautiful fish. Ice fishing was an incredible skill to learn and I really can’t wait until the next winter season. At this point Christmas leave was coming to a close, Dan returned to Korea and I started my new life in Georgia.

Hurds Lake

Forgive me for the lateness of this post– it actually took place over Christmas 2016, but I figure its still worth sharing the adventure. So over Christmas, Dan and I decided to go to CT to visit my parents and family dogs: Jade (Husky), Charles (Shih Tzu), and Rocky (Chihuahua).

Had to include a picture of these guys; they’re too cute. Anyways, be as it was winter time, for the first time Dan and I decided to take up Ice fishing. We scoured the internet for information on what we would need and set off to Cabelas. Hardest part about trying anything new, by far, is looking like an idiot the first time. While we were there, we were lucky enough to meet a gentleman named Rotha (just a friendly customer!) who decided to take us under his wing and give us the low down on what we truly needed, and good spots to go. So we grabbed the equipment based on his suggestions and headed to a place called Hurds Lake in the small town of Somers.

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Oh man, to be back in the midst of good ole fashion rustic American beauty. The lake was mid-sized, and walkable from shore to shore. Surrounded by nothing but forest, it was really breathtaking. Note, its recommended at least 3.5 inches of ice to be considered safe for people to walk on. So as we set out, we drilled a hole with the auger every 10 feet or so to be safe. People actually die by falling through the ice, so it’s no joke. First thing we noticed is a strange loud noises as well echoing throughout the scene. As it turns out, the sound of ice cracking/settling is really unique! Here is a random youtube video where you can hear it. I had no idea what it was until I looked it up!

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We set off digging our holes with our 6-in diameter handheld auger. It basically screwed a hole into the ice. It was a lot easier for Dan to use the auger, being 6’2, because the trick is to spin the handle while applying downward pressure. I, at 5’0, was sweating my ass off. We also wore chains/crampons with our shoes to prevent falling. Winter clothing (parka, insulation layer, base layer, gloves, hoods/hats) were also necessary because it was COLD!

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From there, we used our metal scoop to scoop out all the ice shavings from the hole to prevent it from refreezing or trapping our catches. We had our buckets both to sit on, and to carry our equipment in (including bait). We used a technique called “jigging,” which, similar to the regular fishing technique, you drop a line in with a jig attached (in this case, a really, really small one) to the ground, reel in to a few inches above the bottom, and simple bounce the bait up and down in your hand. The grip is a little different for ice fishing because you want your index finger actually touching the rod portion above the reel for better sensitivity.

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Let me quickly explain the rod. So for ice fishing, generally the lighter weight the better. The rods used for jigging are really small, so we went with an ultralite version. I can’t remember the exact brand, but I will post it up here when I get the chance. Additionally, from Rotha’s advice, we used a 3lb test line. Seems REALLY light, but with ice fishing, the reel in is a lot of finesse and the 3lb line will absolutely alert you when there’s a bite. We used a neon orange color that we could see inside the holes.

 

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There’s a closer snapshot of what it looked like. Jigging itself can be fairly tedious. We spent approximately 10-15 minutes jigging a hole before moving onto the next one, and traveled from close to shore all the way to the center and beyond. We didn’t exactly have the most luck, but as beginners, its expected. For bait, we used spikes and mousees.

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After long last, we pulled out this little perch. Pretty little thing! We called it a day after letting him go, and headed back home. It was a really cool experience learning how to ice fish, and even better that no matter how small, we did in fact snag a fish!

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We felt pretty good about ourselves at the end of the day (though we were total icicles), and couldn’t wait to get out and try it again. Learning a new skill is always so much fun. I would encourage any angler to go out and try ice fishing, and if you’re in the eastern US next winter, let us know, and we’d gladly go out with you and let you use some of our stuff!