A passion for ice fishing

Last week I wrote to you about winter camping on Lake Onalaska with my 17-yearold daughter, Selina, and our golden retrievers Fire and her pup Ruby.

My goal on last week’s trip as well as this one was to enjoy winter, which is my favorite season of the year, and try to catch a 40-inch northern pike.

Monday, Feb. 19

High 37, Low 23

The pups and I made it to camp at 1:00 this afternoon. I had a simple and exciting challenge that was after putting out three tip-ups to get my camp ready for what was predicted to and would be a major ice storm.

As I have mentioned many times, my cabin on the lake is a 13-by-8-foot Eskimo “Fat Shack.” It is insulated but with a steady rain would become soaked, so I put a 16-by-20-foot tarp on it and secured it well and was actually looking forward to the storm.

An important piece of this puzzle is that from early January until about a week ago Lake Onalaska was putting out a lot of northern pike over 32 inches, lots of big bass, and perch in the 8-14-inch range.

As luck would have it that bite would slow down dramatically for the six days that I spent on the ice.

The best fishing was the first three days and in that time I saw about 20 northern pike between 34 and 37 inches that were caught by some very good tip-up fishermen. Because I had plenty of free time I talked with these fishermen a lot and some of them were near my camp on three separate days.

What bothered me was that I did not see one of these big pike released and I had to ask myself how long can this fishery sustain this type of harvest?

The storm was super cool and I was later told that quite possibly every school in Wisconsin was closed. All night long I listened to wind, rain and then ice.

Tuesday, Feb. 20

High 28, Low 11

After the storm the big chill came and this morning the flags were flying. I hate to say this but I had one fish spool me (take all my line). I caught a 30- and a 27-inch northern pike though, and I was in a great mood.

A bit of a problem that has come up is the following. Five years ago you may remember I crushed my left hand in a wood splitter. I broke three fingers and messed up my hand. Last winter I caught that same hand in a 330-body grip trap.

Other than the healing time for both injuries neither has bothered me since. About a week ago my left hand started hurting real bad and I am hoping that this will pass.

I have really big outdoor plans in my head for when Selina goes to college. My goals are to push myself year-round in dangerous situations and spend as many nights a year living in the outdoors as possible.

These adventures on Lake Onalaska were my sixth and seventh on the ice this winter and though the drives home are so exhausting, it is impossible to describe. I love every minute that I am on the ice, and will forever dream of hand lining big northern pike.

Follow your dreams, push yourself!


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