New Year, New Week

The first week of 2013 has come and gone, but not without leaving its mark.  Some of the coldest temperatures we have had all year came through this week.  The temps dropped well into the negatives.  The coldest I saw was  -20, and the highs seldom reached out of the single digits.  Ice fishing in such cold weather is not for the faint of heart, but it can be very rewarding.  I had the opportunity to fish with Chris and his boys a couple times this week.  We tried a few different places around the area and none of them were disappointing.  Lot’s of fish were caught and a good time was had by everyone.

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Love Those Cutties!

One of the best outings of the week was on New Year’s day.  We hit one of my favorite spots that doesn’t normally freeze until a little bit later in the year.  We didn’t get there until the afternoon but that didn’t seem to slow down the fishing at all.  Within 30 seconds of dropping the ice jigs down, it was fish on!  It stayed this way most of the evening until we left.  The highlight of the day was when Chris and his son were able to catch a beauty of a brown trout.  I had never seen such a nice and beautifully colored brown come out of the ice before and I was pretty stoked about it, even if I wasn’t the one catching the fish.  Chris does a great job of passing on his love of fishing to his children.

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Chris and his son with a Beautiful Brown Trout

A little bit later in the day I also hooked into what felt like a pretty good fish.  One of the things I love about ice fishing is feeling the hit when jigging and knowing that you have set into a good fish.  The fish ran me all over the place and I eventually worked him up and out of the whole with some help from Chris.  It wasn’t a monster by any means, but it was a dandy cutthroat and was sporting some beautiful colors at that.

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My Best Cutthroat of the Day

The next day, Chris and I decided to venture a little further south in hopes of catching some big ‘bows.  When we left Idaho Falls, the temperature was well into the negatives so we knew it was going to be a cold day.  On the drive in , the lowest the thermometer read was -20.  I made sure to snap a picture because it was the coldest weather that I had ever gone fishing in before.  We made it to the parking lot and the temperature had gone up a whopping 2 degrees to only -18.  Undeterred, we went and set up the ice house and heater so that everyone could be nice and warm.  The first three hours of fishing were very slow.  Chris had a few light bumps and I had not even had as much as a nibble.  We moved around a few times until we eventually started to find some fish.  Chris caught the first nice fish of the day, a solid slab of a ‘bow.  That fish had restored our faith and we stuck it out a couple more hours and we even caught a few more fish.

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Brrrrr

My best fish of the trip came about an hour after we had set up shop in our new and more productive location.  I was jigging the ice fly when I felt that familiar tap.  I set the hook and nothing was there.  I was disappointed I had missed the fish but quickly noticed one of my other rods was getting hit.  I ran over to it, with my jigging rod still in hand.  As I reached down to pick the rod up and set the hook, my jigging rod started getting hit again so I set the hook.  The fish immediately came right up to the hole and I could tell it was a nice fish.  As soon as it saw me or the sunlight, I’m not sure which it was, it decided to take off and fight like a fish its size should.  My drag got a good workout and it was a blast.  Chris reached down and helped plop the fish out of the whole and we were able to land it.  It turned out to be one of my best fish this season (ice fishing).  We never did pick up any more big fish after that, but we did manage a handful of planters.  As we worked our way back to Chris’s van, it felt like it was finally starting to warm up and I even shed a layer because I was getting too hot from pulling the sled.  To my disbelief, the van said it was still only -3 outside.  On the way home we made a quick stop at one other location but it wasn’t even worth the time.  We saw a few fish on the underwater camera but they were just chubs and they weren’t even big enough to eat my small ice fly.

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Subzero Temps and Chunky ‘Bows

I fished almost every day this week and was not disappointed at all.  I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be another awesome year of fishing here in Idaho.

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!

President’s Day Perch Success

After the great success on Friday and Saturday, I was excited to have a whole day to devote to perch fishing at one of my favorite reservoirs.  My friends Gabe and Kyle met me at the reservoir and we were on the ice and fishing by 7:30.  Within the first couple of minutes we were already getting fish to bite.  I ended up with the first perch of the day, a fatty around 12″.  Gabe started catching fish soon after as well and even hooked into his first large mouth bass.  Kyle forget something in the truck so he started a few minutes after us but as soon as he dropped his line he started getting into the fish as well.  The morning bite went like this for half an hour or so and then things started to slow down a little.  We continued to pick up a fish here and there and decided to go grab some lunch around noon.  We were back on the water by 2:00 and back in to the fish again almost immediately.  The fishing wasn’t fast and furious but it was good enough to keep us all entertained.  We continued to pick up perch and even a few bass here and there.  I also managed to pick up a couple of trout, both around 2.5 lbs and great fighters.  One of the trout hit the rod so hard it nearly fell down the hole.  Around 4:30 the bite really started to pick up again and we couldn’t keep them off the lines.  We had a couple of cameras down and could see that the school was traveling through on a regular basis.  At times it took the school over a minute to pass through.  This went on until it was too dark to see.  All together we ended up with over 40 perch, averaging 11″-12″ (1.25 lbs), a dozen bass, all around 12″, and a couple of nice trout.  We all kept a few perch for a meal and threw the rest back to get bigger and make a few more perch.  This was one of the best days of ice fishing I’ve ever had and was a great way to finish President’s day weekend.  Between Friday, Saturday, and Monday I caught more nice perch than I ever have before in such a small period of time.  It is great to see a healthy reservoir producing such great perch.

My Haul For The Day