Ice-fishing is still tough going

The nice weather over the weekend was welcome relief from the extended winter we’ve been experiencing right across Sunset Country for the past couple of weeks.
I spent a few days fishing over the weekend, getting in my last kick at the ice before I head back down south this week to continue my bass tournament season in South Carolina.
The first thing I will say about ice-fishing right now is it is still tough going to get around out on the ice. We still have a ton of snow up on the north end of Lake of the Woods and all that snow has caused significant slush, which is tough for any machine to get through.
While there is still a lot of ice, many of the ice roads were blown in with snow during the last couple of storms we got hit with. This caused the roads to get narrow, with huge snow banks lining them, and now they are filling up with water, creating issues for vehicle transportation.
The water freezes as night, then when you drive over it, you risk breaking through and getting stuck. Air holes can pop up and cause issues, as well.
We were forced to take snowmobiles on our outings over the weekend and that was no cupcake, either.
Between all the slush and deep snow, it was a workout. I usually pull a sled behind my machine with my gear in it and everything gets so beat up in these conditions. I actually could smell the belt burning on my machine because it was working hard.
The fishing was okay but not awesome. Part of the problem is that I like to move around and drill a lot of holes on multiple spots when I go ice-fishing. But it’s so much work to move around and drill holes right now, I was not covering as much water as I normally do.
We caught good numbers of fish, mostly perch and walleyes, but no trophies. Our goal was to catch dinner for a couple of nights so we accomplished that, enjoyed the nice weather, and had some fun.
I’m disappointed because I’m going to miss the prime ice-fishing run that is going to happen once the snow melts off the ice in the next week or two. It is the best time of year to catch a trophy walleye or pike as they gather up in front of some of the shallow bays where they will go and spawn once the ice goes out.
It’s my favourite time of the whole season to ice-fish: longer days, warmer weather, and a bunch of big fish in the mood to eat.
If you’re planning to fish over the next couple of weeks, obviously watch the conditions and don’t take chances on the ice. If I were going, I would run two lines; the first would be a tip-up with a large dead cisco or herring rigged up on a quick-strike rig (this is the best way to catch a trophy pike any time of year).
The second would be a quarter-ounce Northland Buck-Shot Spoon tipped with a minnow head, which I would jig with, bouncing from hole to hole.
Get out there and have some fun!
I’m on the road this week to Lake Hartwell, S.C. for the next Bassmaster Elite Series event taking place next week. While I’ll miss the ice-fishing, it will be nice to get back in the boat!
Look for my pre-fish report from Hartwell in next week’s column!