Living the good Life!
Winter camping on the frozen waters of the Mississippi River, and ice fishing, is one of my favorite pastimes. I have camped on the ice all over the upper Midwest since 1990, and this trip would be the first without a golden retriever to pull a sled and be my companion in camp. Fire is at home with her ten pups and they are all doing extremely well.
Monday, January 28th
High 23, low 7
So I have these three Otter Sleds of which one is huge and all three are fully loaded with gear. I am parked on a backwater of the Mississippi near Trempealeau, at a spot I have never been to before. My plan is to pull the sleds out to a location where I can catch both panfish and northern pike.
I decide to save time and pull all three sleds together. Before I have gone 200-yards, I am lathered in sweat but too stubborn to quit. I focus on a fisherman who will become my informant. Shortly before I reach my new friend, who is catching very nice crappies, he says “hey I know you”. My new friend/informant, Larry Klinkenberg has been reading this column in The Sparta Herald for years, Larry helps me pull my gear and tells me where to set up camp.
First, I put out two tip ups for gators and a dead stick with a fathead for crappie, than I go to work setting up camp. Soon it is dark and I have caught and released two, 23-inch northern pike!
I try jigging for crappie from my shack with minimal success. At ten-ish, I hit my cot, nestle into my double sleeping bag combo and that same instant a major thunderstorm began; it literally scared my pants off me when it first hit.
Tuesday, January 29th
High 42, low 32
I was on the ice long before first light, with a plan of catching some slab crappie and hopefully a big gator. As soon as I started jigging, the crappie and gills were hungry and I was living large. I fished for three hours without stopping, and wearing no gloves when I had a flag and got into a tussle with a good-sized gator on one of my tipups. The gator kept pulling my line into weeds and testing my 30-pound-braided leader. When I finally pulled its head out of the water, my right hand was dysfunctional and the mid-30s fish slipped down the hole, got snagged on some weeds, and cut my line, I re-rigged with a 65-pound leader and reset the tip up.
At 1:00, I had a 30-inch gator on the ice and 18 very pretty panfish in my bucket. I knew I was staying another day and so I made a tough decision. Pull my jig pole and replace it with a 3rd tip up (three line limit). I wanted a big gator and had already caught six today so I knew the bite was on.
The flags were quiet for a while but the last hour of daylight they were trippin and I had big hopes. Just before dark, a screamer hit one of my minnows and was taking all of my line towards the Gulf of Mexico. The fight was on, took a long time, and in the end I pulled a big, fat pigasauras out of the Mississippi River, and was once again reminded how important it is to have goals.
I just about forgot to tell ya that the holes drilled in my shack have created a river from all the water on the top of the ice draining into them, that is how I woke up this morning and a whole bunch of my clothes got soaked as well the end of my sleeping bag.
Tonight I was basking in the glory of a great day when my cell phone went off and a friend of mine told me about the big storm that was about to hit.
I asked for details, and my friend went on her computer and read that hard rain was gonna hit at ten. Freezing rain at midnight, with 30 mile- per- hour winds, and 6-10 inch’s of snow by 9:00 the next morning.
I was faced with a difficult decision, I knew I could ruin my 14-foot Eskimo “Fat Fish” portable ice shack if I took it down in that kind of wind. I did what I had to do and broke camp in the dark.
I made it home just before midnight, forgot to shower, and said a prayer that it would stay cold until March 30th!
Love this job! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Ormson’s SuperValu