by Mark Walters
Living the Good Life on Long Lake
Ice fishing, while winter camping, is probably my most challenging pursuit in a year’s time. Staying comfortable and catching fish are always the two main goals. This past weekend I had a great trip, which in large part was due to several “scouting missions” by my good pals from the Cumberland area, Paul Bucher and Preston Johnson.
Saturday, December 21st
High 18, low 4
Washburn Counties, Long Lake would be the destination for myself, my 20-year-old stepson, Joey Dushek as well as my pup Fire! Good luck kind of came our way on Interstate 94 when we saw a propane tank on the side of the road. Last winter I was on my way to Fox Lake and I lost two 20-pounders when my end gate came open. Today, with a bit of maneuvering, I picked up one full 20-pounder.
So we meet our buddies Bucher and Johnson and follow them onto Long Lake (3200 acres) which until today I have never seen. These guys have absolutely been hammering the walleye with a couple of nights where they caught over 30-fish including a 31-incher that is going to be living on Paul’s wall.
Today our guide would be Preston, as he wanted to check out a new spot because there were too many people at the other honey holes. Basically Preston wanted to fish the weed edge in 15-feet of water. We would find the mid 20’s with my brand spanking new Jiffy Model 4 propane auger and drill holes until we hit 15.
While we were doing this my buddy Paul decided to ignore the work load for a bit as he had tried jigging and was totally pounding 9-12 inch crappie and 7-9 inch bluegill. It was at this time it became kind of obvious that I had made a large mistake. Thinking that this was a straight tip up trip I had left my Vexilar at home (very large mistake).
Anyways, the guys were just a hammering the panfish and I concentrated on building camp, which is actually a big job. The panfish were suspending from 2-8 feet off the bottom and I sucked hind u know what when I tried to catch them.
Meanwhile, our buddy Tony “Ficosomething” Ficocello pulled into camp and we had the makings of a first rate good time on the ice. Fico and Bucher were my partners in South Dakota last September when we trounced the walleye and perch in that state (I wrestled that weekend, and again the next weekend, much pain and a limp since)!
We were kind of thinking that we going to put a hurting on the “eyes” once it became dark but that was not the case and it was a very good thing for the panfish success and a first rate experience socializing with my pals.
About 8:00 we did start getting some flags and Mr. Bucher, Johnson and Dushek did pretty well for themselves; I tied with Ficosomething, only because he did not have any tip ups out. The walleye have to be 18-inches to be kept here and by the time Paulie finished cooking our spaghetti dinner (well after midnight) I think we had five real tasty morsels flopping on the ice.
You know the gang is tired when everyone decided to pull their tip ups for the night and while this is happening a 19 and 26-incher are caught and the gang still hits the hay.
The following day it was just Joey and myself, we worked the tip ups hard and did not catch much. I was a Neanderthal this weekend and did not give up with my jig pole! About noon I got my touch and sat outside until a half hour after dark just a jigging away and catching beautiful panfsh.
As usual, Joey and I gave it everything that we had and actually broke camp with the headlights of my truck (a rather brutal job). Breaking camp in the dark can be mind-boggling. My pickup has to be packed perfectly to get everything in it and like the rest of this trip it was snowing. I did the 170-mile drive home on a snow-covered highway and there is no way I was doing any fancy maneuvers for a 20-pound propane tank unless it was to avoid a collision.
We gave it everything that we had and is always the case, were well rewarded for our efforts.
Confucius says, always bring Vexilar if you own one! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Hiawatha National Bank