When the discussion came up a few days before, about the possibility of hitting the “Hard Water”, well let`s just say it was pretty much a one-and-done answer…… Of course! Ice Fishing….this fine Wintertime activity, that I was introduced to by my best friend Curt thirty years ago, has remained one of our favorite things to do even in our mid-fifties. So we made plans to hit the ice after I did a little scouting for safe “hard water” –
I called Curt up the night before and said, “Yep….. looks pretty thick in the lake yet. Come on up to the house at 10am tomorrow morning and we`ll give `er hell” –
Ahhhhhhh…….I thought it seemed thick. Boy……was I ever “off” on this scouting excursion!
We pulled up to the lake and both got out of the truck. I grabbed my auger and as we walked out, Curt said, “Well….it seems “ok”…….not really sure it`s as thick as you think” – With that, “I replied, Ahhhhhh it`s a good four or five inches” – Him, “Drill a couple holes” – I don`t think I made eight cuts and whooooosh, I was through! – “Wow….. it isn`t that thick at all” I stated. Curt said, “Don`t stand too close to one another or we both might be taking a dip!” – I bent down and stuck my middle finger in the icy water along the edge of the hole I had just cut. “From the tip of my finger to the middle joint, is how thick it is Curt” –
Curt shaking his head said, “Yea…..we`re on probably two and a half inches of ice ya dummy!” Now me trying to “make lemonade out of lemons” replied, “Well I don`t think it`s too deep if we fall through Curt…..maybe four feet deep or so” – With that he dropped a weight on a line to test my “depth calculations” – “Ummmmmmm more like twelve feet deep Ken!” – Curt said this was the thinnest ice he had ever been on.
Me trying to lighten up the situation said, “Ahhhhhhhhhh the hell with it, let`s cut a bunch of holes and fish buddy-boy!” –
And that`s exactly what we did. I eagerly cut way too many holes as usual, while Curt set up the tip-ups.
I started jigging as he sat up the last few tip-ups and shortly thereafter, I yelled, “Got one Curt!” as wrangled up the first crappie of the day.
Curt started jigging shortly thereafter and warned again, “Look at the water coming through these holes already. Do not stand too close or as I said, we will be getting a wet ass!”
Minutes later, we had our first flag of the day! Curt yelled, “Go ahead! Take it!” and with that, I hustled along the ice to the tip-up. The fish had ran off just about all of the line, as I bent down to grab the tip-up. As I felt the limp line suddenly shoot to my left, I snapped back and set the hook! Fish on! In a few moments, I landed a nice, Large-mouth Bass on the ice! Snapped a picture and released him to fight another day.
Then Curt jigged up his first crappie of the day right after that.
We had really solid action for a few hours, landing a some perch, and few more crappies. I had the “hot hand” for the tip-ups that day as I wrangled up a few really nice size “Greenbacks” through the ice.
Then in the late afternoon, it started getting a lot colder and snowing/sleeting really hard and we were about ready to call it a day. One of the flags popped pretty close to the shore-line. Curt said, “Go ahead and take it!” – When I got to the hole, the tip-up was pulled off to the side and all of the line was off the spool! I quickly bent down and carefully raised the tip-up off of the ice……..and the line went slack. By now, Curt was standing near me and I said, “Damn it…… it`s slack…. I think he dropped it”- As I held the line, I felt an ever so light tug…….. then the fish started running wildly in circles! I quickly jerked the line and set the hook! Fish on and a good one at that! As I retrieved the line, again it went limp……..”I might`ve lost him” I said.
But I was wrong! As the heavy fish dove straight down towards the dark, murky bottom at this point! As I slowly worked the line in closer to the hole, we suddenly saw the football shape flash right under us through the ice! Wow! What a beautiful 21.75 inch Bucketmouth I landed on the ice! What a way to end the day!
While we may not be as agile and are a lot more cautious on the ice, compared to when we were in our twenties, Curt and I always manage to have a good time. And that`s what good Friends are all about.
Thanks for reading about our Adventure on the Ice. G`nite~
Ahhhhhh Autumn is here. The leaves are turning color, the nights are getting cooler and the Muskies are fired up! Nothing quite as enjoyable as taking the `Yak out on a nice, crisp, cloudy Fall day and having a go at the “fish of 10,000 casts.
And that was exactly my plan today.
The forecast called for a rather hot and balmy day this past Thursday, but the weather was suppose to drastically take a nose-dive on Friday night….. and it certainly did. Usually I generally shy away from wetting a line for a few days right after a cold-front moves in, but this time of year, I take advantage of any window of opportunity when I can to fish. Simply because it`s the middle of October and there are only a matter of several weeks before it`s time to pack the `Yak away for the year.
So I loaded up my gear and headed out to Mountain Lake around 1pm eager to try my new “Believer” lure that my friend Pat Gallagher introduced me to the previous week.
As I drove around the lake, I noticed a familiar white SUV in the area I normally parked. As I pulled in the lot, I recognized my good friend Andrew Hunter Yutko with a few other guys loading up their kayaks. Two of the three I knew from Instagram as I follow their excursions. I asked, “So everyone`s leaving?” – Andrew said, “Yea we`ve been here since 6am, had a couple “follows” and these guys caught one”….We`re going to head over to Oxford” – I replied, “Ohhhh……ok. Hey!….that was a Muskie that just breached out there…did you see that?” – Andrew looks at his buddy and says, “Ahhhhhhh let`s stay here maybe Ken will be good luck!” – Then he introduced me to his friend Javier and we all started setting up to launch.
As I pushed off in the water, I took notice of the way the wind was blowing. My strategy is usually to paddle up-wind and drift back along spots that I want to target. Whereas Andrew has pedals in his kayaks so he can maneuver more readily in windy conditions.
I began working the outer edge of a weed-bed that had a drop-off with my Believer Lure. Andrew and Javier were about two hundred yards away working another edge of weeds. I retrieved the jointed lure slowly, working the drop-off, then finishing up with my version of a “figure 8” in a kayak. Making a clean “figure 8” is kind of tough especially when you can only sit in the `Yak. So my pattern was a combination between a “figure 8” and a sort of “U-sweep” which I did on almost every retrieve.
And I don`t think I was fishing even quite an hour…….then it happened.
As I retrieved my lure and started my “8” literally a foot from the `Yak, this magnificent Esox followed my lure! And as I made the “8” sweeping pattern BAM!!! Muskie on! The muskie struck so close the `Yak that I never even had to turn the handle on the reel! Quickly I grabbed the net and swooped up the beast of a fish! As I wrestled with the mighty Esox, I yelled to the guys, “I could use a little help please!” with that, they quickly jolted over to me. They quickly pinned me in with their kayaks for stability as I unhooked the beautiful Muskie. Up to that point, I had never ever caught a Muskie on the “Figure 8” and it was absolutely thrilling!
Andrew took a bunch of pictures and measured the Muskie, then I quickly released the 39.5 inch monster back into the murky depths.
While we fished for several hours thereafter, no more Muskies made it in the `Yaks. And that`s pretty much the norm when you`re after the “fish of 10,000 casts. But I have to admit, while I almost always fish by myself, but it sure was nice to have couple of extra hands out there today. And If it wasn`t for fishing, I would never have had the pleasure of calling Andrew and Javier…….just that. Good Friends.
Howdy! If you get a chance, when you`re at a Quick Chek, Krauszer`s or maybe 7-Eleven store, pick up a copy of this month`s June edition of The Fisherman magazine. I believe you will find the story by yours truly, quite compelling and rather challenging on page 28.
I`d like to give a big thank you to Jim Hutchinson NJ/DE Managing Editor for considering and publishing my Pike story. I also had the pleasure of meeting Jim in person in April at the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife Outdoor Writer`s Workshop. Just a heckuva nice guy.
Here are a few pictures of the flies, Pike and of course, Piper our Pomeranian. If you do not live in Jersey and can`t pick up the magazine, you can go on-line to read it digitally at the link below;