Updated: Jan 24
Unfortunately winter is here and the lakes are frozen solid, Fishing opportunities are limited and for the most part the Stillwater fly fishing fanatics like myself are stuck to replenishing fly boxes and planning for spring ice off. Many of you may or may not be crazy about ice fishing as for me personally, my days of staring down ice holes are now far and few between, though I have done my fair share in times past and must admit had a lot of fun doing so. In order to try and shake the cabin fever I suffer every winter, it's just nice to get out into the great outdoors, breathe some fresh air and enjoy nature. And though I find it pales in comparison to tossing fly lines out onto the open water and hanging chironomids to unsuspecting trout, ice fishing can be a great winter pass time and though I only made it out once last year and just this once so far this year, I must say I had an absolute blast and decided it would make a good post relevant to the current Kamlooops and Interior lakes situation.
It's now been some weeks since we ventured out onto the ice, but what a day. The ultimate goal was to fill the smoker. And while my family doesn't eat a lot of fish, who doesn't love a some well prepared smoked trout?! I generally practice catch and release 99% of the time but usually twice a year, once early spring and once early winter we will take to a lake and harvest our legal daily quotas of brook and rainbow trout while getting our fix of bent rods and screaming reels. What I have learned over the years, is if you truly want to experience some fantastic ice fishing there is no better optimal timing than to get out to a lake within the first 2-3weeks of ice on. This is when the fish seem to feed ferociously at whatever is in front of them, but is also the most dangerous time of the year to venture out onto ice so use extreme caution when doing as the ice can still be very thin in some parts of a lake and are never quite equal depending on where you are. I generally won't even walk out onto a lake until I hear reports of 3-4" inches or better which usually can happen very quickly with a good cold snap. I heard reports from various people saying 2-4 inches depending on the person. I expected to arrive and find approx. 4" inches of solid ice, to my surprise I found 6" which I measured with the measuring feature on my ice scoop, though others fishing the opposite end of the lake were still reporting 3". Well as per the usual early ice on fishing generally goes, this years trip couldn't have worked out much for the better! We arrived around 9 and were on the ice and fishing by around 9:30. We hunkered down in less than 10ft of water far away from the congregation of ice huts lined up in rows along the shorelines. My initial thoughts were to get as far away from the dozens of other lures, flies, jigs and baits as possible. Less pressure means the better my chances provided I can locate some fish, the key to which being structure. Locate a drop off close to a weedbed and Bingo! The weather co-operated a generous plus 5 or 7 degrees, calm and SUNNY! An unreal early winters day for ice fishing at one point it felt like almost t-shirt weather. Too nice to sit in the ice tent that afternoon so I fished "blind" without even seeing what was going on beneath the ice as we enjoyed a lunch of hot dogs on a small propane bbq . On most outings later in the hardwater season, we would generally have to put in work to produce the results we had this day, everything aligned perfectly and the fishing was incredible. The fish tend to slow right down later into the season and become rather lethargic due to depleted and poor oxygenation under the ice. I fished this day with my own hand tied ice jig consisting of green mallard flank, light green/ olive ice dub, chartreuse green lead head some chartreuse+black marabou c/w some flashabou tipped with a very small chunk of shrimp, I call it "The Hulk" and have had great results on various lakes in times past , though my fishing companions used plain old dew worms and plain old previously frozen shrimp on bare hooks. Didn't seem to matter what was on the hook or how you twitched or jigged your presentation, Whack! Thunk! Ziiiiing!! One after another. Many fish were charging in on "the drop" which is as about as good as it gets. Each of us was into fish steady. Absolute Chaos on the ice, and some nice footballs to boot! Many brookies averaging 2+ pounds and rainbows topping out at 4ish pounds. We fished for 4-5 hours or so, each of us caught our limit of fish to take home released others and went home with smiles on our faces.
Upon coming home every fish was immediately processed skinned, de-boned and filleted and smoked in a dry brine consisting of salt, brown sugar, and steak spice then packaged into vaaccum sealed portions so it didn't all disappear right away and could be enjoyed on special occasions. I also like to give some out to friends and family who truly appreciate the rare treat and there's nothing quite like providing food to the household through a recreational pass time that is as exhilarating and fun as catching trout or char through the ice. The one thing I think I enjoy most about ice fishing is the social aspect of it all as people are not limited to the confines of a boat which seems in most cases to make it more of a social event. Ice fishing is a great pass time or excuse for a social gathering of friends and family. Bring out the fam, a BBQ some good eats, hot chocolate for the kids and share the excitement when the little one or grandpa hooks into a lunker. Anyways, that's it , we had a good time and here's to (fingers crossed) an early spring ice off! Cheers and TightLines!