Hard Deck

Ice fishing season is here…at least at Henry’s Lake.  I’m not usually one to drop names or “hot spot” where I am fishing, but Henry’s Lake is one of the most popular ice fishing destinations in this area.  People travel from all over to fish it.  Most of the fish in Henry’s lake are stunted this year, in comparison to what they have been in years past, so a few more people harvesting their limit would probably be helpful in this rare case.  Some, including Idaho Fish and Game, have attributed this to the fact that there are too many fish in the lake.  A couple of good water years led to more natural production, and that mixed with the millions of fish planted every year has led to there being too many fish in the lake.  Too many fish means not enough food for them all to attain the size that Henry’s Lake trout are famous for.  I have heard of a couple “good” fish caught this year, but they seem to be very few and far between.  Nothing takes precedence over fly fishing, but ice fishing is a fun way to spend the day when you get sick of the guides on your fly rod icing up or you feel like relaxing a little more.  Winter is a great time to fly fish.  I did a write up a couple posts ago about how much I enjoy the solitude of winter fly fishing.  I have a trip planned this week and can’t wait to get out again!  As the cold starts to settle in and more of the area lakes begin to freeze over, I will turn my attention to chasing perch.  I’m not very big on eating trout, but perch on the other hand provide a delicious meal.  In the mean time, I will continue chasing the frisky trout that call Henry’s Lake home.

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First Iced Fish of the Season

One of my favorite things about ice fishing is the different techniques that I have learned from it that I am able to apply to my fly fishing.  I have an underwater camera that I like to use for perch, but it has also taught me a great deal about trout fishing and fish behavior in general.  For example, I have learned that Cutthroat trout like to travel in packs when they “hunt”, and browns on the other hand are all about flying solo.  There is a spot that I like to fish that is littered with whitefish fry.  I have been able to observe the way the trout move in and chase down their prey.  Why would this be important to my fly fishing?  Well when I am out on the South Fork and catch one cutthroat, there is a pretty good chance that I can expect to catch a few more out of the same run.  This has often times has been the case.  It also goes to show how much big trout love to eat little fish and how much effort they are willing to put into it, even in the cold water temperatures of winter.

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Smiling Cutthroat

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Little Brookie

If ice fishing is something that you are interested in getting in to, there are only a few basic things that you will need in order to do so.  Like any form of fishing, it is only as complicated as you want to make it.  First and foremost, you will need an auger.  I prefer a six-inch hand auger.  It is lightweight and cuts through the ice well.  I move a lot while ice fishing so being able to pack light is essential.  Most fish (not all) will fit through the hole without any problems.  On a shallow lake like Henry’s, a hand auger will help keep from spooking fish in the shallow waters.  Along with an auger, you will need a scoop.  The scoop is used to clean out the slush/ice from your hole.  Next comes the rods.  Ice rods are very helpful and nice to have but I would not consider them essential to ice fishing.  I personally use ice rods (much shorter than a traditional rod) but there are some who use full sized spinning set ups.  A couple advantages of having a rod specifically made for ice fishing is that you are able to sit much closer to the hole you have drilled.  They are also built to be more sensitive to the light bites that are the norm when ice fishing.

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Love Those Brookies!

When it comes to what lures to use and what bait to use, a lot of it comes down to personal preference and what you have confidence in.  My all time favorite color for ice fishing is chartreuse.  I have always found this funny because I would never consider putting on a chartreuse fly for trout fishing during the summer.  If you do decide to give ice fishing a try, remember to keep it as safe as possible.  Most people consider 4″ of ice the “safe” amount to hold a human.  Safe is a relative term because there really isn’t any such thing as safe ice.  There is always a risk of falling through so be sure to always use your head when out on the ice.  Most importantly, have fun.  Some of my favorite memories I have made while fishing came while out ice fishing with friends and family.  If ice fishing isn’t your thing, I understand that it’s not for everyone.  I should have some more fly fishing content coming next week since finals are beginning to come to a close.  Have a safe and merry Christmas everyone!

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