by Michael “LOBY” Lobenstein
(Visit www.lobybaits.com for more tips)
Hello again folks. This month’s article is on the transition that many ice fishers across the region wait for with great anticipation. “First ice” is indeed a special time of year. As the last fallen leaves meet the earths surface a seemingly overnight transition of seasons occurs. Lakes once buzzing with jet skis and motor boats give way to a frozen “glistening” sheet of ice. A magical event it seems that only us hardened northerners can fully appreciate.
With this occurrence comes the signal to ice fishers that their long awaited season is nearly here.
This first ice can be a dangerous period and with that said a word of caution is extended to all who participate in this hardy winter sport. As the cold settles in and ice quickly builds, there is a time when that certain someone feels that the time is right for the initial trek onto the frozen surface of the lake. One chosen for the first ice fishing outing of the season.
This decision is one not to be made lightly and requires a degree of caution on the fisher [s] part. A rope, ice picks, cleats and a spud bar along with a flotation device are staples for this first excursion onto the frozen lake’s surface. “Experience” is a must for this first venture onto the “glistening” sheet of frozen tundra.
Having done so many times over the years, ice fishing in Wisconsin, has never lost it’s luster. “Flashbacks” to childhood memories of frozen ponds and all the things that go with the winter Wisconsin fishing season remind us how special the first ice fishing outing is.
With proper safety gear in tow, the first step onto the ice is one of some nervousness and anxiety. The ice under foot is crystal clear and appears to be a sheet of glass. Splinters of ice scatter in multiple directions as you strike the ice with your steel spud bar and your body weight fully impacts the ice. The steel spud bar is a multi purpose tool which acts as a walking cane, an ice tester and helps chip your fishing hole once you reach your destination.
Each step as you progress towards your intended destination is a cautious one and well should be. However, a feeling of being “one with nature” embraces your senses and the appreciation for this splenderous event begins to dominate your soul with anticipation of the beginning of this year’s Wisconsin ice fishing season.
Glancing down to the ice surface you notice a beautiful crimson colored leaf, frozen in place and entombed for the season’s duration. The thud, thud, thud of your spud bar reveals at least two inches of solid ice, more than enough to support your weight safely.
The heightened senses you now possess begin to pick up the crispness of the air, the silence of this incredible event, broken only by the beckoning call of a curious Blue Jay or the unmistakable “caw- caw” of a black crow off in the distance.
With confidence growing and maintaining the caution one must have when venturing on to first ice, your feet glide effortlessly. One foot in front of the other at a measured pace, testing what seems to be hardened, quality ice. Seeing your targeted fishing spot whips you into anticipation of the event you are now partaking in and exuberance fills the air with the realization that the Wisconsin ice fishing season is here.
You now have reached your intended destination, one filled with memories of seasons gone by as all the friendships and magical outings race through your mind. The feeling of alertness and anticipation blend together. You consciously try to bring your heart rate back to normal, which is not an easy thing to do.
The time has come to start the ice fishing season and your adventure across the glorious frozen ice has left you with anticipation of a bountiful catch.
Visions of hungry fish waiting for your first ice offering fill your thoughts. Precision taps of the spud in a circular pattern reverberate across the lake further heightening the anticipation that the time is near.
With a precisely placed “last hit” the hole opens and you have revealed the watery world that lay below, exposing it to your tools of the sport and your mastery of plucking pan fish from this frozen paradise.
You stop and take a deep breath and look around, taking in the beautiful surroundings and the serenity that is yours to enjoy. Picking up your ice rod and placing an offering on to the hook and dropping it down the hole signifies the choice for first ice has been a wise one.
Keeping safety in your head at all times is still of utmost importance. You now can concentrate on the task at hand. As expected, your offering is quickly taken by a waiting fish and with the flick of the wrist you have iced your first pannier of the season.
The appreciation of the first ice excursion is now complete…..not another fish need be caught as the mission was to test mother nature’s frozen act of magic, but the cooperative fish will keep you in your chosen spot with anticipation of a bountiful catch and a “first ice pan fish” dinner now consumes your thoughts.
As you wrap up your outing, your senses again take in the scenery and experience of the start of this Wisconsin fishing season. The return trip off the ice will also be a cautious one, one that is now another memory of first ice. Indeed, a very special experience that only a true lover of the sport can appreciate.
I have been ice fishing for over 40 years and the appreciation and anticipation grow stronger each year. If ever that childlike anticipation is not present, I will hang up my cleats and stow away the rods and call my ice fishing career officially over, but I do not see that happening anytime soon. See you on the ice!