After another long hiatus, I’m back! Proverbial tail tucked, if you will. And firmly so. Work and life has gotten in the way over the last couple weeks. And on top of that, I was actually hoping to have a successful ice fishing outing to write about. We’ve been out three times since my last post with nothing to show for it. Twice on Lake Mendota, in two different spots, and once up on Lake Wisconsin. I don’t think anyone wants to read about someone who never catches anything, but if I shelve this blog until I have more success, I’ll be waiting until open water in April, or turkey season in May.
The southern red star in University Bay was two trips ago- one of Matt’s friends from work said he’d gone out there and caught lots of walleye. Another friend of his (the same one who was dedicated enough to lay on his belly to look in the ice hole for fish) met us out there with a buddy of his. That guy caught a decent little pike, but Mendota’s size minimum for Northern is 40 or so inches. We didn’t catch anything that day, and we even moved all our tip ups and the shanty itself. The tip ups did manage to get line tangled around the little reels, which was fun to try and fix in the dark, in 5 degree weather with wet hands, while the line froze. I blame hyper-active minnows.
The red star on the northern side of the lake was our trip yesterday (Sunday the 17th). Matt had recently signed up with LakeLink, a web forum for anglers. The guy who runs one of our favorite bait shops and is Madison’s local fishing guru does a weekly report there. The most recent report had said that spot (on the very steep drop off near Governor’s Island) was pretty hot, even with the recent cold snap slowing things down. Matt had even gotten all excited and bought some of the jigs the site said were hitting well, and gotten a couple kinds of grubs. We had our lines in about 65 feet of water. His two tip ups were set for pike, one 25 feet under the ice, the other 25 feet from the bottom. I set one up for panfish, and one for pike. My panfish tip up was about 45 feet down, and my pike line was about 6 feet off the bottom. We also jigged, at all different depths. Matt had one, weak hit on his jig. We saw a lot of people out over the deepest part of the lake (80 feet), and we saw a local guide service’s Perch Sled being pulled out with four wheelers. We talked to one guy as we left who had caught only one perch.
The middle trip the weekend before last, on Lake Wisconsin, is barely worth mentioning. It rained literally all day. With the drought this summer, all the lakes around here are low. But Lake Wisconsin’s depth chart was off by 2-3 feet. We were on a fairly shallow part of the lake, which the chart said should have been 5 feet, and we had maybe 2 feet of water beneath us. It was a big, soggy disappointment.
From some reading, though, this has been a bad year overall for fishing. The fish are finicky, with the wild temperature swings (even for the Midwest). We’re talking 30 and 40 degree drops in a few hours overnight, about once a week since before Christmas. For example, our day out on Lake Wisconsin was about 40 degrees and rainy, the next day was about 10. And today’s high was 45, tonight’s low is 9, and tomorrow’s high is 13. And that’s not even factoring in the sweltering summer and the drought. There were massive fish kills from the heat, and low water everywhere. And while doing some correspondence with a fishing guide, I found out that he wouldn’t even guide for ice fishing, because it’s been too inconsistent for him to charge anybody for it.
Matt has been hoping to pick up a flasher, a sonar fish finder used in ice fishing. With the fish being as picky as they are, it could be helpful in finding the schools, especially if we stay over deep water. Mendota’s a deep lake, but Monona’s max is 74 feet, and Waubesa’s is 36 feet.
I don’t think we’ll be making concrete plans to do any fishing tournaments after we missed the Waubesa Fisheree. There is one next weekend on Lake Winnebago that we’d hoped to go to, but it would be hard to work out. One thing we are looking forward to, though, is the Madison Fishing Expo this weekend. I fully intend to fish the trout pond. I’ve forgotten what a hit feels like. We’re going out again on Sunday.