The morning was mild, extremely mild for an early morning in mid-January. We left the house as daylight was working to conquer the darkness. The temperature hovered just below the freezing mark. My regular hunting and fishing partner, Tom “The Osseo Jinx” Twesme, was sitting in the passenger seat of the pick-up as we headed for a near-by lake.
As we drove onto the ice, it was just bright enough for us to see two vehicles near where we were going to set up. As we got closer to the other vehicles, we could identify Duane Frey and his fishing partner, Keith. We were still 50 yards away from them, and could see Duane running toward a tip-down. He pulled a nice sized crappie onto the ice. In addition to that crappie, there were three others near the minnow bucket.
Tom and Duane exchanged greetings as I pulled the auger out of the pick-up and started it. I was drilling six holes as Tom cleaned them and started to rig tip-downs. We set four tip-downs and saved two additional holes for jigging. Tom was getting the second rig set when the pole in the first hole tipped toward the ice. After a few quick steps, Tom eased the first crappie of the day onto the ice.
For the next two hours, the action was fast enough to keep us busy. As Duane said, “It doesn’t take much to keep us busy.” Duane and Keith had been spending a lot of time on the ice, and assured us that the action would slow down around 10 a.m. They said the action would remain quite slow until mid-afternoon. That forecast was right on, and we found the crappies to be ignoring our offerings during that time period.
That day we found most of the crappies were holding about three feet above the bottom. A few were holding just under the ice, and grabbed our offerings as the light split shot took the crappie minnow down slowly.
The rigs that we use are quite simple. We wind some braided line on each tip down, and tie a tiny swivel to the heavier braided line. We use the braided line so we can see the line on the ice, even when the wind blows. We tie some very light line (2 lb. or 4 lb.) to the other end of the swivel. A tiny treble hook is tied to the light line. Duane believes that a bright red treble hook provides the best action. My preference is to use a gold hook.
We sat on the ice until just before noon, loaded our gear in the pick-up and headed for lunch. Following lunch we chose to fish another lake. Tom was jigging a tiny jigging spoon tipped with a waxie. He uses a spring bobber on his jigging rod that allows him to see even the slightest bite. The wind had picked up, so we sat side-by-side on the seats of our portable ice fishing tent, with the tent set up to act as a windbreak.
The spring bobber moved, and Tom softly set the hook. Following the hook-set, the battle was on. The fish took out line and seemed to know how to avoid the hole in the ice. It seemed that Tom was winning the battle when the line broke.
We fished until it started to get dark and the action slowed again. Following dinner we filleted 30 crappies, including some very nice ones.
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The nice snowfall we had this week should help our grouse population. The grouse will be able to roost under the snow to stay warm and avoid predators. One recent evening we saw a number of turkeys roosting in some pine trees alongside the road. It certainly is enjoyable to watch the variety of wildlife in our area.
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The 36th annual Rhinelander Lions Club Fisheree and Winter Festival is scheduled for Feb. 11-12 on Boom Lake. If you have not been on Boom Lake during this event, you might want to check it out. I always describe this event as the largest cookout in northern Wisconsin.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column appearing in the Star Journal.