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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 3-5-2014

by Mark Walters

Another Winter Camping Challenge

Hello friends, 

Back in the mid 90’s I was doing quite well fishing walleye through the ice while winter camping on Little Bay de Noc. Large numbers of fish were not caught but large walleye were.

After two winters of working the ice near Gladstone, Michigan several of my friends and family from my deer camp joined me and we had about five winters of excellent fishing on the top end of Lake Michigan.

When the fish catching dried up we began exploring Wisconsin waters and have been making annual trips to several different places on the Mississippi with three very common themes. A cold spell always hits, we catch very few fish, and the number of people in the group is dwindling.

This year, my brother Mike Walters my stepsons Travis and Joey Dushek my 13-year-old daughter Selina, our pup Fire, and myself would round out one very hardy group of adventurers.

Saturday, February 22nd
High 17, low minus 11

Spring Lake is a manmade sanctuary that is part of the Mississippi River in Buffalo County and can be an excellent place to fish for a variety of species. I had a local giving me reports for the last 40-days and that is why I chose this location for our adventure.

All of our gear would be pulled by foot in Otter Sleds, two large sleeper shacks were setup and we would place 15 tip ups with the hope of catching a 40-inch gator. Two years ago, I caught a 39 with these guys and it truly was a pig.

Naturally, it snowed two days ago and now a high-pressure system and cold spell has hit which in the world of fishing is almost as bad as it gets.

High points for the day were. The only fish that was caught was by Joey and it was a 19-inch northern pike. Teaching Selina how to run my Jiffy Pro 4, which is my propane auger and supper in the shack. The Pro 4 is bottoming out at the power head, which means extensions are quite likely going to be needed this winter. Supper was homemade chicken soup, which was my first attempt and I made 4 gallons. Unfortunately, my laying hens quit laying eggs. Fortunately, they made some quality soup and my young birds just started laying.

Sunday, February 23rd
High 11, low minus 13

All you can do is hope that the fish start biting once you are setup on the ice and staying for three days. This morning, Travis caught a 23-inch northern pike and then a very fat 26, which gave him the lead in our gator contest where everyone throws in five bucks. Joey and Selina had to leave at mid afternoon for work and school the following day, and that is when the contest would end.

Mike, Travis, and myself had contemplated going home a day early but when Travis caught the two fish we decided to stay and freeze another day, I almost forgot to add that it was extremely windy which made life on the ice even more interesting.

I helped raise three boys Kevin, Travis and Joey. I taught all three of them how to cook on trips just like this and today Travis, who I believe has incredible self taught skills in the making of brats and marinating meat, cooked an incredible meal of venison steak on the ice.

An hour before they had to leave, Selina had a flag go up and after a good tussle she landed a 28-inch gator that put a really big smile on her face and won her $20.00.

Travis, Mike, and I had high hopes for the last three hours of daylight and only had one real flag and that was mine. After a really fun fight, I landed a 32-gator and that would win me $10.00 bucks from my comrades on the ice.

The next day we did not have a bite. We tackled the big job of breaking and hauling camp and I have to admit that I am really looking forward to the first 40-degree day.

Ice camping like this is almost unheard of. Like Travis told me, he does not know of anyone that does it or see anyone doing it.

About all I have to say about that is, that I know the day will come that I will not live on the ice. Until that day comes I am going to enjoy “almost” every minute that I do.

Do something fun! Sunset