The Year Winter Changed Me

This has been the year I finally embraced winter and truly started to enjoy it. What changed my mindset was experiencing real ice fishing for the first time. Before this year, I had never actually walked on a frozen lake, much less heard the ice sing underneath me. There is something deeply satisfying about having your feet planted on the ice and creating a small hole to see what fish are eager to bite beneath the surface.

Ice Fishing

I think of ice fishing as a strange duality: mankind’s stubborn defiance of nature and complete unity with it. To some extent, one refuses to let nature take its course by creating holes through the ice (a clear sign from nature to keep out). Yet we do it anyway. We challenge the subfreezing temperatures for the chance to prove we can master the elements. But at the same time, we have to be one with nature to know where the ice is safe, where to make a hole, what depths to find the fish at, and what baits to use. This duality is what makes ice fishing so addicting.

Bluegill

Another part of winter I have trouble resisting is the beauty of the sound. Snow-topped ice has the intrinsic ability to muffle all sound, muting the mundane, white noise of the city. Leaving just the sound of geese flying above you and ice creaking below you, in these rare occasions you can break out each separate noise and find its source. First, a flock of Canadian Geese; shortly after, a much more precious and less commonly heard song, the song of the White-fronted Goose. It echoes through the air and then is quickly muffled by snow.

Largemouth Bass

The sound of calling geese is a welcome change from the normal noise of car horns and people. The slow-biting fish don’t seem like much of a challenge when you can lose yourself in the meditative sounds around you. With enough patience, a reward is bound to follow. As the bird calls sound through the air, inevitably, the rod tip will bounce once. It’s usually a quick test bite to see if the offering is acceptable. Shortly after, a second tug on the line. This time, I’m ready and focused. The line twitches and the little ice rod is raised in the air, setting the hook.

Rainbow Trout

The fight begins. I have to keep the fish out of the structure I’m fishing, keep the line from nicking the edges of the hole, all the while keeping a very loose drag on light line. Fish fight in odd ways under the ice. Rather than making long runs like they do in summer, they tend to make quick, circular dashes. Occasionally, the larger fish will take a decent amount of drag, but more often than not, it is simply a matter of working the fish around in circles until it comes up through the hole in the ice.

Black Crappie

I swear the white snow makes each fish’s colors more vibrant. A simple Bluegill looks like a dramatic masterpiece against that amplifying background. My favorite sight is when a Redear Sunfish finds my bait before a greedy Bluegill. The lake I chose to ice fish here has notoriously low numbers of Redear Sunfish, so the competition is high and they haven’t rebounded like the Bluegill. For some reason, the winter has sparked a large concentration of Redears to frequent the structure I like to ice fish. So far this winter, I’ve caught more of them than I ever have historically in a whole year. To me, these are the prize catch on a cold, winter day. Their colors go unmatched in the winter scene; the trout can’t compare.

Redear Sunfish

Southern Indiana’s winter is fickle. Before long, the temperatures rise and the ice and snow melt away, letting the city sounds return. But for a short week, this little lake is turned into a winter paradise.

White Crappie

I enjoyed the last day of safe ice with a bittersweet feeling in my heart. Half of me was excited to see winter giving up its grip, but the other half was sad to see it go. I know each season has its own beauties, but winter has finally shown its true potential to me. As the ice saw its last sunset, I couldn’t help but marvel at the scene before me. The trees are perfectly silhouetted against a fiery sky, while the snow, ever peaceful, starts melting. The sound of ice creaking and popping is clear in the air.

Garvin Park Sunset

This was the end of ice season. Not even I was foolish enough to venture on the ice again. A quick warm front and rain made any remaining ice rotten. A week passed and the ice was entirely gone. The season may have been short, but it will happily be remembered for years to come. This will go down as the year I started to love winter.

Tight lines,

– Isaac

Advertisements

Last Fishing Trip of 2015

The year is winding to an end and the temperatures are ever slowly dropping. This is typically the time of year where my fishing companions stop going out with me and my fishing adventures tend to get shorter and shorter. Luckily the weather hasn’t really dipped under freezing yet, keeping the fish very active and easy to catch.

With half an hour to spare, I set out on my last fishing trip of the year, the temperature was sitting right at 40 degrees and wind was only blowing at 2 MPH making conditions fairly enjoyable. I set out to fish Evansville State Hospital Park to fish my favorite holes in hopes of catching as many species as I could. I only had a half hour to spend, so I focused on the spots that have historically been the most productive for me: the drainage ditch pipe between the two lakes and the rocks around the edge of the dock.

I started out at the drainage ditch, and as expected, there was a nice bass sitting in it. These bass see a good amount of pressure so I stuck with a natural bluegill pattern and since the drainage ditch is so shallow I fished a squarebill crankbait. On the first cast, this beauty engulfed the lure.

Last bass of the year

Sadly, this appeared to be the only fish sitting in the pipe so I moved over to the dock. The water isn’t too deep and there are a large amount of rocks surrounding the dock so I kept fishing the squarebill. With the temperatures being higher than usual I expected the crappie to be suspended in the water column still. This lake has a notoriously small crappie population, so anytime I catch one it is a special day. But this was one of those special days where the crappie were biting, landing me this little guy on a squarebill.

squarebill crappie last of the year

Nothing compared to the size crappie you would expect to find in most places, but a welcome sight to see any day. With time running short, I still wanted to try out the ice fishing rod I was given for Christmas so I moved to the end of the dock hoping for a bluegill. I tied on one of my Lazy Man Woolly Bugger Jigs and started jigging away! Luckily it didn’t take long for a hungry fish to grab hold of it. I was rewarded with a little bluegill, and with that fish I called it a day.

1229151023

I was happy to say the last trip of the year was a success and for only having a half hour I was happy to have caught 3 species of fish. 2015 had some amazing fishing adventures and I can’t wait to see where 2016 brings. Tight lines and a happy New Year!