Monday, December 2, 2013

Early Ice Steelhead

Ice fishing in the month of November here in Northeast Wisconsin is a rarity these days, so having the opportunity to partake in this unique experience was something I just had to do!  To make things even better, I had the chance to spend the day with a fishing legend!  Kerry Paulson, creator of the Automatic Fisherman joined me for a day on an area tributary to Lake Michigan where we hoped to tangle with a few Steelhead that have chosen to spend the winter inland.

The morning started off slower than both of us had hoped, only having one trip on an Automatic Fisherman with nothing to show for it.  After two hours in this spot and not another bite, it was time to try some different water.  Our second spot yielded similar results, with only 1 bite here and nothing landed, we were once again on the move.

Our confidence was beginning to fade as our first two spots were duds, luckily the third spot was the charm!  We barely set our sixth Automatic Fisherman and the first one popped!  Kerry and I ran over to it, only to find that we had missed another bite!  Before we could try to comprehend how we had missed yet another fish, another Automatic Fisherman went off! 

As we neared this one, we instantly noticed that the rod was doubled over and could even hear the fish peeling drag.  I grabbed the rod and held on for dear life!  The fish nearly spooled me before I could turn the fish around.  Once turned around, I could barely keep up with the fish as it came right back towards the hole!  We briefly got a look at the fish through the 2" of clear ice enough to determine that I was fighting a large Steelhead!  To make things even more interesting, we were using chiseled holes which had sharp edges.  My rod tip spent most of the time below the ice to ensure that my line wouldn't get caught on the ice and break.  After several more long runs and multiple failed attempts at landing this fish, I had finally put him on the ice!  Kerry filmed the entire fight, which made for a really neat video and a new challenge of hand landing a fish on my own!

This amazing fish made the entire trip worthwhile, as there is nothing out there that can beat the fight of a large Steelhead in shallow water through the ice!  After a few pictures this beauty was sent back down the hole to grow and make more memories for someone else down the road.  Kerry and I estimated the fish to be in the 10-11 pound class and around 30" long.

After re-tying my rod and setting the Automatic Fisherman back up, Kerry and I reminisced on that epic battle and how our moving had finally paid off.  Another hour passed without any action, so Kerry and I did the rounds to change baits on our Automatic Fishermen.  As I was walking up to one of mine, I watched the bobber rise and the rod trip!  This was really cool to see, as I was a mere 5 steps away when this happened.  I grabbed the rod and quickly realized that I had something small on the other end this time.  I simply lifted the rod and a small, recently stocked Rainbow flipped out of the hole.  I sent this little guy back down the hole to grow up, and continued re-baiting my rods.

Within 30 minutes of re-baiting our Automatic Fishermen, my same lucky hole where I had caught the first two fish yielded yet another bite!  This fish again had the rod tip pegged to the water and that familiar sound of the drag screamed out as I neared the hole.  Before even grabbing the rod, I knew I was once again dealing with another large Steelhead!

Kerry was talking with another fishermen about 100 yards away, and had not noticed me make my way over to my lucky hole again.  Rather than yell for him that I had one on, I decided to let him carry on his conversation and attempt to land the fish on my own.  After 10 minutes of line screaming runs and intense thrashing below the hole, I somehow managed to land yet another giant buck Steelhead!

This fish was even larger than the first, and also had great colors.  Once I had landed the fish I signaled for Kerry so that he could get a few pictures of this mammoth and get him back down the hole.  It was now around 1:00, so Kerry and I decided to make another small move to see if we could capitalize on more uncharted waters.  Wouldn't you know it we once again ended up having one bite but were unable to hook this fish either.

Despite having to move multiple times to locate active fish, Kerry and I had a great time on the ice and learned quite a bit about catching Great Lakes Steelhead through the ice in the tributaries.  Our best bait this day turned out to be Steelhead spawn sacs tied in pink netting.  We tried a variety of different spawn sacs in a magnitude of colors throughout the day with the pink netting yielding the majority of the bites on this day. 

The short range forecast is calling for a warmup with the possibility of rain which could cause for unsafe ice conditions so make sure to be safe if venturing out in the near future!  I am hoping to get out fishing again this upcoming weekend whether it be on the ice or open water.  If I am fortunate enough to get out, I will have another fishing update for everyone!

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