Wilderness Journal

Mark Walters • OUTDOOR COLUMNIST

I have come to the conclusion that annually my favorite outdoor sport is winter camping on the ice and ice fishing for big fish. This past week may have been my last trip on the ice of the 2014/15 season.

My plan was pretty simple. Though the temperature was in the 70-degree range I was going to drive over to Lynxville (Crawford County) and live on the ice at Lock and Dam No. 9 on the Mississippi River.

My goal was to ice a northern pike over 40 inches and catch several jumbo perch. I would be living on a rapidly dwindling sheet of ice that was located between the long wall of the dam and the shoreline.

Friday, March 13

High 68, Low 28

So I park at the dam and on top of my pickup is my canoe, and in the bed of it are three Otter Sleds that are very full of fishing and camping gear. The first thing that I did was assess my situation which was done by putting on hip boots, and taking a walk and a look at the ice.

I determined that my only point of entry was to walk down the long wall and do about an 18-inch jump onto the ice. The walk was maybe 200 yards and my sleds did not drag well on cement.

On trip one, I hauled my Jiffy Pro 4, fishing gear and minnows. I was pleasantly surprised when I had between 14-20 inches of ice.

There was at least 50 boats on the water and some of the fishermen were as close as 20 yards to me. I was the only person on the ice and there is no doubt, that for the next two days, I would be the topic of discussion and entertainment for everyone on the water.

I put out two Beaverdam tip-ups that were baited with large shiners. On my Automatic Fishermen I rigged up a jig pole with a fathead minnow. I was about to begin hauling more loads and my canoe when the AutoMatic Fishermen sprang to life and I could see that I had a fish on.

I was using 4-pound test and landed a 28-inch northern. Not a trophy but a solid start.

My canoe was along for safety – kind of my rescue boat. There was no shore ice and I knew the berg that I was living on could literally break up and be headed down to Louisiana.

Another part of my plan was to fish on the channel side of my berg all night long and limit out on walleye. Judging by the complete lack of walleye being caught by my comrades in boats, that plan was not looking to good.

It becomes dark and I have had to pull my tip-ups that are on the open-water end of my berg twice because that section of ice literally broke up and went bye, bye.

I stayed up until 11:00 and lived by the light of a propane lantern and kind of took a safety step when I decided to sleep in my canoe and use my life jacket and seat cushion as pillows. I think that my dog, Fire, liked that idea as she took over my bed as soon as I put it together.

Saturday, March 14

High 61, Low 26

I was up an hour before the sun and never really slept because 26 million trains went within 40 yards of my camp and guess what, trains make a lot of noise.

I caught a very small sauger an hour before it became light and was super excited to start my heroic day of icing pigasaurus gators (northern pike) and perch.

I moved my tip-ups out to the edge of the ice and about 20 minutes later a very large crack appeared between my tip-ups and me. I quickly moved my tip-ups closer to camp. Soon after, the ice where my tip-ups had just been, was on its way to Louisiana.

On another rather interesting note I was headed towards a flag (meaning potential fish) when I noticed that Fire had fallen through the ice and could not pull herself out. This was not good.

There were many boat loads of fishermen that witnessed this situation and everyone knew it could be ugly. I could not reach her on foot, so I pushed my canoe to her, got in it and pulled my trusty pup out of the river (without the canoe, Fire was in big trouble).

Today I fished the entire day and I had high hopes,. I needed this trip. The reality of my situation is that I was in what I call a nonbite. The folks in the boats were not catching walleye and the guy on the mortally-wounded sheet of ice only caught two, very small northern pike.

The effort was made, no one perished and, as I have for 25 years, I pointed my trusty Chevy in the direction of home and she made it as she always has.

Time for sunscreen, and bug repellent!

Sunset


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