Try ice fishing for a guaranteed good time

By: George deVilbiss, Special to Gold Country News Service
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With the current weather pattern, few people are going out fishing, though most want to. The storms will soon clear and a great deal of fishing will bust loose on many fronts. The first reaction when the subject of ice fishing comes up is “Don’t you freeze to death while waiting for a fish to bite?” Having been on the frozen surface of a lake many times while it’s lightly snowed and it was never that cold. Other times, when the sun comes out, I’ve actually gotten down to a t-shirt. There are numerous high Sierra lakes that offer wintertime ice fishing, lakes that freeze over and allow access onto the frozen surface. At most, you can tally good stringerloads of rainbows and oftentimes, even German browns. The first trick is that you need to get an early start. I usually get on the lake within the first hour of daybreak and am usually gone by noon. By then, the bite has slowed to almost nothing. While your everyday trout fishing rod and bait setups are just fine for ice fishing, in the upper Midwest, tip-up rods are the big thing to use, but they’re certainly not necessary here. The only specialized gear you need is a way to get through the ice and something to use to keep the hole free of re-forming ice. An ice auger, something that looks like a huge brace and bit, is not all that expensive, and will bore a hole through ice in a matter of a couple minutes. I’ve even rented mine out to other anglers on the ice who didn’t have one. An ice scoop is pretty much necessary, which is nothing more than a big ladle with holes in it that is used take out the re-forming ice and keep the hole open. Unlike in the upper Midwest states where they actually drive out on the lake, here we have to walk from the vehicle, often down a snow-covered bank, and out onto the lake in order to fish. I’ve found that a cheap plastic child’s sled works extremely well for hauling the gear out. Pile it on and take the hike. So you won’t have to stand the whole time, throw in a lightweight aluminum folding chair for each person. Once the hole is bored, your tackle box will make a good rod holder. Balance it on the tackle box with just the tip over the hole. While a few anglers might jig various types of lures, most simply use bait, including salmon eggs, crawlers and, of course, Power Bait. They’re all effective. I’ve been most effective dropping the bait to the bottom and then cranking it up a couple of turns to get it just off the bottom. Rarely do wintertime ‘bows nibble. They grab it and run. Instant hook-up. You’ve got to make sure when they near the surface you play them slowly, to ensure the head comes up first. I’ve caught rainbows up to six pounds and believe me, you can’t bring them up sideways through the hole, and you can’t net them. No stringer is needed for ice fishing. Simply unhook the fish and flip them out on the ice, re-bait and get back in the water. They’ll freeze solid in minutes. With all the recent snows, all the lakes that freeze over are safe, but as spring gets closer and there is more sunshine and warmer temperatures, it becomes more iffy. One time, in April, my partner broke the ice surface and went in knee deep. What must be remembered is that the ice along the shoreline where it’s the most shallow will be the first water to warm that will thaw the ice. The middle of the lake will have the thicker ice. A couple of the more popular lakes for ice fishing are Caples Lake, Boca Reservoir, Frenchman’s and Lake Davis, but any lake that freezes over and still has road access is a good candidate for ice fishing. Give it a try. You’ll love it. Guaranteed. Any questions, comments or concerns, contact George directly at GeorgesColumn@AOL.COM.