Staff Writer















































                By: Howdy Davis

Just a bit rambling on ice fishing, which can be a cold, solitary thing to do but is a fine time for introspective reasoning—provided you are prone to introspection or reasoning. Ice fishing can also, with one or more companions, be a great social event that has a goal—actually catching fish!

First of all, yesterday I put my wife on a plane for Hawaii which gave me time to spend the rest of the day sitting over a hole in the ice at Steamboat Lake with warm temperatures of 29 degrees F.  That’s really mild for this country. However, by 3 pm Mariah showed up and I don’t know were the near summer temperatures went, but it was snowing so hard that we had to work at finding our way back to the wagon.

Anyhow, as I sat on the ice I had a few thoughts I thought Id like to share. First of all I’m fishing with a dear friend who is a professional fly fishing guide. He and his son (who claims me as his Grandpa—how cool is that?) Are guys who make over 300 dollars a day guiding fishermen and each year get bookings of over 60 days each year.  In the winter they are mine.

So I sat over my little fishing holes and thought about how I would do this in a survival situation.  You must remember that in fishing at any time of the year natural bait is the number one food source of the fish. That is any type of fish food that lives below the surface of the water, be it lake, pond, or stream.  The best success I,  we, were having was on nymphs and stone flies.  In my experience the next best thing is anything that the fish will recognize that may blow into the water. Worms will resemble a leech and meal worms will resemble a different stages of insects as they mature.

It is always good to take the time and call local bait shops in the area and find out what type of bait is most popular in the area you are doing a rendezvous, trekking, or whatever.  This will give you a fighting chance on catching fish.

We were fishing in a good area and had our limit in the first hour. The day before we fished from 8 am and it was sporadic up until 3 pm. We were allowed four fish each. We caught fish all day and put back anything under two pounds.  By 3p.m. we had our limit that included three fish of around five pounds. each.

That’s enough of the possibilities of what can be had fishing through the ice: now to primitive ice fishing. If you think that you might get into this situation, carry waxed meal worms along with you—they weigh next to nothing and even dead they will work.  If you pick these up from pet stores and fishing places they will keep in a cool place. I like to feed them chopped up carrots and they will last forever. If  you are going to jig for fish chop a hole in the ice at least five or six inches wide. You should  have with you your primitive fishing can.  This should include at least six hooks. Primitive hooks are hard to come by. Lacking those, you can take a #6 long shanked hook, cut off the eye, heat the end and hammer it flat, file it nice and smooth, you can even dip the flattened end into pine tar or hide glue to prevent it from cutting your leader.  I then pinch the barb off and now you have a somewhat primitive hook.  I sometimes leave the barb on.  That could be the difference between eating and starving.

For line I am not so primitive but I use Johnson and Johnson dental floss.  Bill C. says he uses the non-waxed and I use the waxed. J& J’s floss is actually silk—a material that’s been around since antiquity and has loooong been used as fishing line.

Now you must know a few knots.  I’m going to leave that up to you. They are hard to explain, but look in your fish stores and you can pick up a knot card that will show you how to tie these. It's a terrible thing to get a nice bite and pull your line up and find nothing but coiled leader where your hook used to be.

Okay, you have your equipment and you have chopped your hole, Get yourself a stick about two feet long that can be bent into a bow. Put a light-weight piece of lead on the end of your line. Put it into the hole and drop it down in order to find out how deep the water is. Now mark your line about a foot above the hole.  At this point you have several options. You can tie a length of line that has your hook and bait on it, about six to eight inches above the sinker. Put the weight on the bottom. With a few half hitches tie your line to the end of the pole. Bring the line back and wrap any excess line to the back of your pole..Prop it up on a forty five degree angle, weight the back end to hold it in place, and you are fishing. Keep an eye on it. I have at times almost had my pole pulled through the ice. I repeat, don’t turn your back on it. The most success I’ve had is just sitting and jigging. That is just bouncing your bait up and down a half inch at a time to attract the fish, then hold still and see if they will bite. Fish will take a bait into their mouth and if it doesn’t feel right they will spit it out. The instant you feel anything, set the hook. Keep in mind that you should always carry in your primitive fishing kit a few rolls of waxed linen cord. Use this for your fishing line and tie the dental floss on the end as a leader. You can also fish with just a drop line. You must concentrate. I have found myself closing my eyes and concentrating on the slightest movement. When a fish is on, I stand straight up, drop the pole, and pull the fish up by hand.

Another method is to just set the line up in the hole and tie it to a stout stick twice the length of the hole and plac e it across the hole and hope that the fish will hook themselves.  Remember not to put to much weight on the end of the line. Any initial resistance and the fish will spit the hook.

When in a food gathering situation it is best to optimize your chances of success, so now that you have the first setup, go and chop another hole.

I feel sorry for those who don’t have Ice. Take some time off and come visit and I'll introduce you to ice fishing.  Remember, the greatest thing you can do is introduce a kid  to any phase of our sport.  It is something that will affect their lives forever, and ice fishing is usually of great interest to them—especially if the fish are biting!.

Howdy Davis


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