We’ve been ice fishing for about a week now, and I’m happy to report that our trout harvest has already quadrupled our previous record, set two years ago.
I’m less happy to report that our previous record, set two years ago, was one. One rainbow trout.
Last winter we were skunked altogether, but that’s not quite as ignominious as it sounds, since a relatively warm winter provided precious few fishing days on our pond. Even so, I can report that sitting around all day, watching your tip-ups not tipping up, is demoralizing. Since that has been my general experience of ice fishing, though, I was prepared for it.
And we’ve seen a lot of that. Our friend Bob (whose wife, Suzie, caught the monster perch that elicited so much comment a few posts back) went so far as to say that, during the day, that’s what ice fishing is. The fish feed early in the morning and late in the evening. In between, there’s a lot of sitting around, watching your tip-ups not tipping up.
So, this year, we’re trying the novel strategy of trying to catch a fish when the fish are most amenable to being caught. We’re fishing overnight.
The tip-ups go out during the day, and we keep a close eye on them, but most days nothing happens until sunset, when we often get a flag or two. And maybe, if we’re lucky, a fish (they often get away with the bait). We keep watching them until we go to bed, but I don’t think trout feed much after dark.
The best part is the morning. Sunrise on Hamblin Pond, and a tipped-up tip-up. So far, we’ve had at least one flag every morning we’ve left tip-ups out. Although killing and gutting a trout before coffee isn’t my first choice, I’d rather kill and gut a tour before coffee and have a trout than not kill and gut a trout before coffee and not have a trout.
Morning and evening, that’s when you catch trout.
So how do you explain the guys who were fishing just down the pond from us?
There were four of them, men who grew up on the Cape and had been ice fishing all their lives. As we were setting up our tip-ups, about mid-day, we watched one of them pull what looked like a huge fish up through the ice.
“I gotta see that fish,” I said to Kevin, and we went over to say hello and check out the fish.
Now, it’s possible that visiting your ice-fishing neighbors to get a good close look at their catch is bad form. If it is, I don’t want to know about it.
Luckily, they didn’t seem to mind.
“Nice fish!” I said, as we got close enough to see that it was, indeed, a beautiful brown trout, fat with roe.
The guy who caught it grinned and held it up for inspection. “It’s going in the hold over there,” he said, and headed over to where his friends and his gear were. We went along, and watched as he slipped the fish into a kind of live well they’d cut in the ice, where it joined two others.
I couldn’t decide which I was more impressed by, the fact that they’d caught three trout mid-day, or the clever well they were keeping them in.
Our ice is about seven or eight inches thick, and they hollowed out a hole, about two feet by one foot, five or six inches deep – as deep as they could cut it without breaking through to the water. Then they punched a hole in the floor so the water filled the hole. Voila! Live well!
I was so taken with it that I asked them if I could take a picture, and went back to the house for my camera. When I got back, I ended up talking to them for quite a while about fishing, and growing mushrooms, and raising turkeys, and first-hand food in general.
And – get this – they gave me the brown trout! The big one! With the roe! They all seemed to like fishing more than actually eating fish. I said thank you and took her home.
The fish and the roe (which I brined) are in the refrigerator, waiting to become tomorrow’s dinner. And the tip-ups are out, so there may be another before morning.