By Louie Stout
Area tackle shops reported a lot of ice fishing activity the past day or so, and with more cold and less snow, action should pick up more in the coming days.
However, that doesn’t mean everything is safe. Several lakes still had open-water areas last weekend. Although they may appear froze over, not all sections are as safe as others.
“We’re hearing anywhere from unsafe to 4 to 5 inches of ice,” said Brian Hensley of Clear H2o Tackle in Edwardsburg.
Those opinions were echoed at the Tackle Box in North Webster and D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo.
Ice fishing missions frequently greet you with soul-stirring sunrises and profoundly peaceful surroundings – and numb hands. Thankfully, the popularity of the wintery pursuit has bred excellent angling technology—things like valuable fish-finding sonar, plus outerwear and gloves that keep your extremities warm and dry.
But what happens when forced to remove your gloves to perform basic tasks such as constantly replacing baits? Tying knots and rigging baits become exponentially more difficult (and painful) when bare hands lay exposed to the elements. In short, cold hands impair fishing performance. And when you’re watching water freeze in your ice rod guides, “cold” takes on a whole new meaning.
St. Croix Report
In northern climates, long rods and long casts will soon give way to hardened surfaces and vertical presentations with short sticks as impassioned anglers try to pull a host of fish species through holes in the ice. But simple sticks they’re not. Growing numbers of ice anglers expect to take full advantage of new materials, improved ergonomics, advanced construction methods, and ice-specific componentry to give them the upper hand in their personal hardwater pursuits. More than ever, fishing tools that deliver more success and more enjoyable on-ice experiences are in demand.
Technique-specific custom ice rods like St. Croix’s hyper-performance Croix Custom Ice (CCI) Series have increased the ice-IQ of anglers across the Ice Belt, offering presentation- and species-driven lengths, powers, and actions that simply make better tools for any given task. But even as high-tech options far surpassing the overly whippy, rug-beater ice rods of old abound, anglers demand some middle ground, too.
After ice and snow cover melt on Michigan lakes this early spring, it may be more likely for people to discover dead fish or other aquatic animals. While such sights can be startling, the Department of Natural Resources reminds everyone that it is normal, since winter conditions can cause fish and other creatures such as turtles, frogs, toads and crayfish to die.
"Winterkill is the most common type of fish kill," said Gary Whelan, DNR Fisheries Division research manager. "As the season changes, it can be particularly common in shallow lakes, ponds, streams and canals. These kills are localized and typically do not affect the overall health of the fish populations or fishing quality."
By Louie Stout
Want to add a little competition to your ice fishing experience?
Clear H2o Tackle in Edwardsburg is sponsoring a northern pike ice fish derby on Eagle Lake Feb. 13.
Entry fee is $20 per person for the pike division. All entry money will be paid back in cash awards for the biggest pike, with 50 percent going to the winner, 30 percent for second and 20 percent for third.
Clear H2o in Edwardsburg will host its annual Winter Open House Dec. 13-15.
The tackle shop recently received a new shipment of ice tackle gear and several manufacturer and angling experts will be on hand to offer tips.
In addition, ice tackle and gear will be on sale throughout the weekend along with new open-water products for 2020.
There will be free food available to the public and door prizes given away. Hours are 7-7 Friday, 6-6 Saturday and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call the store at 855-515-3228.