Having completely missed the opportunity for ice fishing last year, I was resolved to get out on the ice as soon as the weather conditions had produced enough of the “stiff stuff” to have the run of the pond in safety. Finally, nature complied with an arctic blast that produced the lowest temperatures of the century and followed with two weeks of bone-chilling below freezing cold.
Calling on a fishing partner of many years, my daughter Jacci, we were soon bundled up and had the van loaded with all of the necessary equipment.
Being careful to check the ice, I slammed the spud bar down on the surface while standing on the safety of the solid ground of the bank. Once, twice, and the spud bar broke through the ice.
With the daytime temperatures well below freezing for the past two weeks, most fishermen would have expected more ice than what we found.
The edge ice was slightly over 2 inches, and I carefully eased out to further investigate as I went. Knowing the pond was slow to accumulate good ice since it is spring-fed and well protected from the chill of the winter wind by high banks and limestone cliffs, I continued to carefully check as I progressed.
Further in toward the center of the pond, the ice had increased to well over 4 inches of sound thickness, more than adequate to support the weight of a couple of weekend anglers.
Giving Jacci the “all’s well”, I laid down the spud bar and returned to help carry out the equipment and tackle.
Scraping away at the snow, I outlined a 10-inch hole and began pounding with the spud bar. (It is at this exact time each year I resolve to buy an ice auger.) With half a dozen passes, the spud bar broke through, revealing the dark brown water held captive by the sheet of ice and snow.
Soon the hole was completely cut through and cleared of the chips of ice, and Jacci was armed with a miniature ice fishing rod tipped with a fresh waxworm, miniature sinker and tiny ice fishing bobber.
Leaving the bobber to slide freely on the line, I lowered the bait into the hole and allowed it to reach bottom. After watching the line go slack when the bait and sinker hit bottom, I set the bobber to hold the bait about 12 inches over the bottom in the 8 feet of water we were fishing.
Jacci can pretty well hold her own pan fishing in warm weather, but since this was her first time “icing” with Dad, I took the time to tell her how to slowly jig her bait up about 12 inches, then let it flutter back toward the bottom, repeating the jigging motion occasionally to entice the ice-bound bluegills to action.
On my third instructional jig, the little bobber bounced a couple of times, and I quickly handed her back the rod.
Slowly, the bobber moved from one side of the hole to the other and bounced ever so slightly before starting a slow and steady descent into the dark water.
“Nail ‘im, Jacci!”
Missing the fish, probably due to my enthusiastic “coaching”, Jacci looked up at me and smiled as she said, “Dad, go cut your own hole, and I’ll catch this fish.”
Grinning sheepishly for forgetting I was dealing with an 18-year-old veteran angler, I busily began cutting hole number two and left Jacci to manage her own assault on the bluegills. And manage, she did. By the fifth slam of the bar on the ice, I saw her pull out the first bluegill of the day.
Jacci had accumulated a half dozen bluegills of her own by the time I had finished the hole and set a rod with a minnow rig, and she didn’t even mention her streak of luck...err, uh... skill.
With the score at 6-0, I busily set about cutting hole number three for good ol’ dad. Setting up within 12 feet of Jacci’s position, I began to pound away.
Jacci looked up and said, “Dad, aren’t you going to scare the fish?”
Smiling back, I said, “Just keep an eye on your bobber.”
For the record, and to dispel an old myth about the need for extreme quiet while ice fishing, Jacci proceeded to catch two more bluegills while I was slamming the spud bar on the ice only 12 feet away.
Soon my small bobber was betraying a hungry ‘gill as I watched Jacci bring the score to 9-0. But as good fortune or dumb luck would have it, I nailed my first one to bring the score to 9-1. I was “on the board”, and the race was on!
Under the right conditions, wintertime pan fishing can rival the action seen during the warm water periods of the spring spawn. Department of Natural Resources studies of successful ice-fishermen have revealed wintertime fishing can often exceed summertime fishing in the number of fish caught per hour.
Jacci had the program down pretty near perfect as she sometimes caught up to six fish using the same waxworm. As I accused her of being stingy with the bait, she hooked and dragged through the ice the biggest bluegill of the day using only a very small piece of bait on the miniature hook.
All too soon it was time to call it a day as we began to pack up our gear and gather up our fish. We were leaving with a lot less bait, but with a much heavier load after only two hours of fishing. Counting the fish as we loaded them into the bucket, we were surprised and pleased to find we caught 78 prime bluegill in the all too short afternoon.
Claiming her undisputed victory in the father-daughter wintertime fish-off, Jacci’s eyes beamed as she asked, “Are we having fish for dinner?”
Realizing we had caught enough fish for several family fish fries, I replied to the affirmative and politely asked for a fish recount.
I will admit… Jacci did out-fish me… But, since this was her first time ice fishing, I am going to write it off as beginner’s luck. The only problem is, if she out-fishes me again, what excuse will I use next time?DNR Campsite Reservation Scam
Indiana Conservation Officers are investigating a potential scam where unsuspecting Hoosiers are being duped when booking campsites.
The public’s assistance is being sought in the investigation where a third party fraudulently advertises and rents campsites to Hoosiers, who then upon arrival, find the site they paid for not available. Instances of the scam could date back as far as July 2021.
If you have utilized a third party on social media for reserving a site for this upcoming year, you may be a victim of the scam.
State properties of interest include Trine State Recreation Area, Spring Mill State Park, Morgan-Monroe State Forest, Greene Sullivan State Forest, and McCormick’s Creek State Park.
If you believe you have been or are currently a victim of the scam, please contact our Indiana Conservation Officer Central Dispatch at 812-837-9536.
Hoosiers are reminded to only make reservations for DNR properties via the official DNR website at Camp.IN.gov or the DNR Reservation Line at 866-622-6746.
Sauger Fishing On The Ohio River
Sauger are a reliable winter fish, sauger readily bite in water temperatures below 40 degrees. As water temperatures fall, sauger congregate where streams meet and move to the tailwaters below dams for the winter. On the Ohio River, good sauger fishing starts in December and lasts through the spawn in late March.
From a boat, fish vertically with ¼- to ¾-ounce jigs tipped with curly tail grubs. Bring a variety of colors to see what gets bites. Sauger like to hug the bottom, so use the lightest jig that’s heavy enough to reach the bottom in the current. From shore, fish using a similar setup while casting over seams in the current and water breaks. If fishing is slow, adding a live minnow might get the bite going.
When fishing in tailwaters, remain alert of changing river conditions. Avoid restricted zones near the dam and beware of traffic near the lock chambers. Find public access sites on Ohio River using our Where to Fish interactive map.
Firewood Permits Shakamak SP
The public is invited to cut certain downed trees at Shakamak State Park for firewood.
Trees eligible for firewood have fallen as a result of natural causes or have been dropped by property staff. The downed trees are along roadsides or in public areas such as campsites and picnic areas.
Permit sales began Jan. 10 and end Feb. 25. The cost of one pickup-truck load is $10. All proceeds will be used for resource management and restoration efforts, including replacement of trees in campgrounds and other public areas.
A firewood permit must be obtained for each load at the park office between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday at the park office. Permits are not available on observed state holidays. Firewood cut at Shakamak State Park is for personal use only and may not be sold.
Wood may be cut and removed between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily. For more information, call 812-665-2158.
Shakamak State Park (on.IN.gov/shakamaksp) is at 6265 W State Road 48, Jasonville.
‘till next time,
Contact Aaron Kirchoff at email@example.com