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!

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!

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!