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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The allure of ice fishing

Beep, beep, beep my alarm clock sounded. It was 5:30 am and time to get moving if I was going to make it to the lake before prime time. Prime time is that magical time when the plankton rises on your local lake. It starts the food chain and kicks the bluegills metabolism into high gear. If your going to fish the harsh Minnesota winters, it's a time you get to know well.

Armed with a lake map and a steaming hot cup of coffee, I bundle up and make my way out to the truck. Eurolarve check, flasher check, should be set to go with all the supplies needed for a day on the water. This is a new lake that I've never been to but according to my research big bluegills exist here. I spent the better part of the night before highlighting mid depth flats where I could begin my search.

Upon arrival I notice that I'm the only truck in the parking lot, success! I climb up onto the trailer and give the Polaris a pull. The smell of snowmobile fills the air. I made it in perfect time to have my holes drilled in total darkness. This is mandatory when chasing elusive bull gills on shallow flats. I strap my auger to the front and make my way out into the darkness. Butterflies fill my stomach as I head out onto the lake. Will I find the fish I'm after? Is the ice in good condition? These are the questions an ice angler asks himself at 6 am after 20oz of coffee.

The gps takes me right to the spot. One of those wide areas on your contour map, a flat in 12 feet. This flat is also adjacent to a small creek running into the lake. I start the auger, and move up and down the breaks making this section of the lake look like swiss cheese. Now I just need the bluegills to cooperate.

Today's mission wasn't about fillets for the table, but rather about finding big fish or bulls as they call them in the business. This lake had experimental regulations by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and carried a 5 bluegill limit. Here I wouldn't even kill 5 tho, because in these hallowed waters 10" fish exist and protecting the resource is of the utmost importance.

It had to be about the 30th hole I fished before I finally hit a pod of bluegills. I reached into my pocket with frozen fingers for some fresh larve. The flasher was lit up with a big group of fish suspended high in the water column. I slowly begin my decent being careful not to spook my fickle prey. A big red line rose on the flasher ascending to my jig above. I keep a little action on my rod tip to keep the fish's interest, working him up at the same time. Finally my rod skips a beat and I sweep high into the air. The rod doubles and I feel the big fish cut and dig into the water below me.

I managed 3 fish all over 8" before the pod moved and I had to return to the snowmobile for the auger. Time to drill again! On goes the chase for this hard water angler. Drilling and fishing, and drilling and fishing. Because the next hole may hold that 10" I've been dreaming about, and smiling I'll let him swim away too.

Tags: "bluegills" "Minnesota" "ice fishing" "big sunnies" "bull gills" "winter panfish" " panfish report" "finding big panfish"

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